Helping make the world a safer place. That may seem a lofty goal for a label printer, but it is the long-standing operational mantra of Labelmaster, Chicago, Illinois. Greg Kishbaugh of Flexo Market News reports:
Labelmaster specializes in labels for the transport of dangerous goods, substances that when mishandled or with inappropriate guidelines pose a risk to health, safety, property or the environment.
When the average consumer considers dangerous goods, they invariable think of explosives, radioactive materials, flammable liquids, dangerous or volatile chemicals, strong acids, compressed gases, poisons and aerosols. What they may not know is the abundance of everyday items that not only fall onto this list but also make up its majority. Items such as teeth whiteners, cosmetics, perfume, nail polish and cell phones.
Labelmaster's management team welcomes the increased capacity capable with the new Nilpeter press, (left to right) Greg Selan, Mike Kaufman, Robin Conner, Alberto Pina and Greg Marks.
The average consumer would also be surprised to learn that, according to U.S. government statistics from 2014, there are 1.4 million DG shipments per day, with 94 percent of those transported by highway.
The importance of Labelmaster’s work is reflected in a story the company often relays at company functions. In 1947, in the port city of Texas City, Texas, a ship carrying ammonium nitrate exploded, killing nearly 600 people and destroying more than 500 nearby homes. It remains the deadliest hazardous material accident in U.S. history and it underscores the great responsibility inherent in the company’s work.
“We occasionally share the Texas City story … to remind ourselves that what we do really matters,” said Dwight Curtis, Vice Chairman and former President. “If the right steps aren’t followed, problems can ensue. And sometimes those problems can have tragic consequences.”
Founded by Harry Fund in 1967, Labelmaster’s first products were labels for transportation companies. When the U.S. Department of Transportation released new regulations regarding transporting hazardous materials, Fund realized a need for labels that offered instructions on care and safe shipping. In response, the company introduced placards for trucks signifying there were hazardous materials onboard.
In 1970, the company introduced Spacemaster® 100, a flip placard system familiar to all motorists that allows trucks and tankers to display various signage indicating the vehicle is transporting dangerous goods. The system has become an invaluable tool for first responders, alerting them to the contents on the truck when arriving on the scene of accidents.
One of the company’s key technological breakthroughs came about in the mid 1990s when a multi-national delivery service approached the company asking for guidance. The delivery service was having difficulty shipping dangerous goods and the company found itself in the position of having to refuse any hazmat packages. To combat this problem, Labelmaster developed and introduced MasterForm, a computerized form filler and checker.
Labelmaster currently counts more than 70 Fortune 100 among its customer base and serves more than 500 industries in total. Last year, the company printed 125 million individual labels and 8.1 million individual placards.
Without question, the biggest obstacle for companies involved in the production and transport of Dangerous Goods is the mountain of regulations for which they must adhere.
“Keeping customers informed about changing regulations is the most challenging part of our jobs,” said Mike Kaufman, Vice President, Production and Technology with Labelmaster. “We spend every bit as much, if not more, time talking with our customers about compliance issues than we do about our products.”
“The value of compliance is of immeasurable importance,” said Mike Brown, Senior Marketing Manager. “one goal is to help our customers’ businesses grow as we help them meet and exceed what is expected of them in terms of regulations.”
Kaufman worked at Labelmaster from 1995 to 2000 and then returned to the company in 2013. The pace of change since he’d been gone is daunting, but he feels it’s been the most rewarding element of his new position in the company. “The pace of change is amazing,” he said. “The world is much quicker paced, which means we must react accordingly and we cannot make any mistakes.
“As technology advances,” said Kaufman, “so do customer demands. We must be prepared to offer quicker turnaround times without sacrificing in quality.”
The ability to continue to meet customer expectations and satisfy needs led the company to recently install a brand-new FA press from Nilpeter. The press offers a host of features such as clean-hand technology; vertical auto-lock system; driven chill rollers; multi-operator interface; custom-built configuration; new CLEANINKING design; multi-substrate printing; sleeve-based printing; and value-adding units ready.
The cornerstone of Nilpeter’s press is its embrace of a changing workforce and the ways in which technology can help flexo printing change and grow. “Presses with the fastest changeovers and minimal waste are to be expected, our current machine innovations are clean hand technology solutions for a generation [that] has been raised on disruptive technologies,” the company states.
“Our press operators were quick to embrace the new technology,” said Kaufman. “Our average operator has been with the company about 20 years and have been very happy not only with the press speed but with its ease of use and quick set up times. The press runs so much faster than previous presses we had to install an ink pumping station to keep up.”
“The new press has allowed us to dramatically increased capacity,” said Brown. “It allows our capacity to meet our needs.”
“There are always issues to resolve when installing a new press,” said Kaufman. “Always. And this is really where Nilpeter set itself apart. The company was so quick to respond to our questions and addressing any issues that came up. And the training the company provided made certain our operators were given the proper tools to make the installation a success.”