- April 27, 2006, By Nsenga Byrd Thompson, Associate Editor
In industry dominated by mega-suppliers, many small and mid-size companies are scrambling to compete. But 3 Sigma Corp. believes it has found a niche market to service that will make it competitive with its larger counterparts.
From humble beginnings as a manufacturer of price-marking stickers and later of tapes for feminine hygiene products, 3 Sigma gradually moved into converting paper, film, and foil roll label stock. In 1997 the company changed ownership and consolidated its operations into a 37,000-sq-ft facility in Troy, OH. Competing successfully with several of the country’s leading mid-size roll-stock providers in hot melt and emulsion applications, the company now is expanding its water-based adhesive coating capabilities and adding solvent coating to the mix. President Gregory Iammarino believes this will narrow the playing field for 3 Sigma and help the company acquire customers that he believes larger companies are less likely to service.
“We’re going to fill a niche in the marketplace,” says Iammarino, “3 Sigma is a mid-size, responsive, fast-moving, customer-accommodative company. As we see larger companies get even bigger, they sometimes get less responsive to their smaller accounts.
“These smaller accounts in the marketplace are looking for somebody to be a full-line supplier and to give them some attention. That’s our bread-and-butter customer,” he says.
Serving several markets including food, business forms, and direct mail, 3 Sigma runs three shifts, five days a week. Coating capabilities include five hot melt coating lines from Acumeter and three emulsion lines from Egan Machinery.
Most recently, the company expanded with three additional coating lines originally manufactured by Ross-Waldron (now Ross Air Systems, a div. of Somerset Technologies), which add solvent-based adhesive capabilities to the mix. Two of the three units can coat both solvent- and water-based adhesive; the third coater is 100% emulsion.
3 Sigma opted for refurbished equipment because of the value it represented. Explains Iammarino, “We found out about an opportunity to acquire some additional equipment for the plant. After we did a little research, we entered into a deal that provided a compelling value for the company and will allow us to enter new markets.”
The finishing department includes sheeting, guillotining, and slitting capabilities (down to half-inch widths) with equipment from Arrow Converting and Dusenbery Worldwide. Substrates include polyester film from DuPont and paper supplied by International Paper.
To accommodate the three coating lines, 3 Sigma added 45,000 sq ft to its facility and has budgeted to add ten new employees to the current count of 63 by the end of 2006. With these new capabilities—especially solvent-based adhesive coating—the company can be more readily available to its expanding customer base and break into new markets, particularly automotive.
“We are going to go to our existing customer base, which is the label converter,” says Iammarino. “In traveling the country, we have found that a lot of the roll label converters are manufacturing labels for the automotive industry. We’re going to offer customization, quick delivery, and more responsive service. That’s how we intend to build the business initially.
“If you look at your car, there are a number of labels on it. When you open the hood, there are labels on the radiator, the battery, under the hood explaining things, and they have to withstand harsh environments. We’re going to try to get more of our product under the hood of the automobile. Wherever there is a need for a label, solvent adhesives will allow us to do that, because they can withstand temperature and humidity extremes.”
3 Sigma plans to be ISO 9001:2000 certified by the end of 2006, which will help the company participate further in the automotive industry.
Looking ahead, Iammarino also predicts the addition of solvent adhesive capabilities will allow 3 Sigma to supply medical markets as well. “We’re probably going to branch out into medical, but I would say that is three years away. The big challenge in the medical market is getting the contact approvals. You also have to spend time testing your adhesives and getting the FDA approvals.”
But not all of the coating lines’ benefits are attributable to the capabilities of solvent-based adhesive. Because two of the three lines can run either solvent- or water-based, 3 Sigma can expand its water-based adhesive business as well.
“Two of the units are precision roll coaters, and the third can do Mayer rod or gravure printing/coating,” says Iammarino. “We’ve typically been a Mayer rod coating facility. Now we will have the ability to print the backside of liner with a gravure cylinder, and we will be able to control our coat weights more precisely with the roll coaters.”
3 Sigma is confident its expanded coating capabilities will give it a competitive edge, but just as notable, the company believes its exemplary approach to service is what customers will remember, an asset that 3 Sigma has possessed for quite some time.
“We want to continue the role we play in the marketplace now,” Iammarino explains. “Typically, our customers call us when they can’t get a quick response from their larger suppliers. We want to be perceived in the marketplace as the problem solver of the roll label industry. User friendly. It’s how we’ve positioned this company.
“Customers tell us, ‘I’ve called [one of the larger companies], and they don’t seem interested in my particular appli-cation.’ Now they call 3 Sigma, and they’ll get a response. Within three days we’ll send out hand samples, or they’ll probably have a trial roll within five to ten days. If you call one of the mega-suppliers, you may not get a call back for three days. We’re just a lot more responsive than the bigger guys.”
Iammarino says a large part of that responsiveness is due to the fact that its customers are directed to individuals within 3 Sigma that truly can offer solutions. “When customers call 3 Sigma, they get a decision-maker on the phone. They’re either going to get a very competent and knowledgeable customer service representative or someone in our technical group who can answer the majority of their concerns. If the situation calls for it, they are going to get a senior manager like myself, Larry Slaven, vice president–general manager, or Terry Cudney, marketing manager. We think there is a need for that in the solvent coating business.”
3 Sigma strives to be a trusted and recognized name in the industry, without losing sight of its customers. With its budding capabilities and flair for service, Iammarino is confident 3 Sigma will reach its highest expectations.
3 Sigma Corp.
1985 West Stanfield Rd.
Troy, OH 45373
Ross Air Systems—rossairsystems.com
Black Clawson Converting Machinery/Egan—bc-egan.com