- July 01, 2002, Edward Boyle, Contributing Editor
Pinnacle Label carves out a successful label niche in warehouse distribution and pick-and-ship applications, imaged on high-performance label printers.
Ches Cochran is one of those people who spots a need and enjoys the challenge of meeting it. Working for another company in the early 1990s, he and several coworkers gained valuable experience in providing “mission-critical” custom and stock cut-sheet labels for EDP (electronic data processing) applications to meet the needs of companies requiring ultra-high performance from their shipping and data processing labels.
“We realized there was a certain demand in the marketplace for patterned adhesive technology,” says Cochran, “and other companies with similar capabilities really weren't focused on bringing it to market. We said, ‘We're going to take this technology to market in a way that's never been done before.’”
Cochran and his crew set up shop in 1995 in what today is a 30,000-sq-ft facility in Lackawanna, NY, six miles south of Buffalo on the eastern shore of Lake Erie. And that was the beginning of Pinnacle Label.
Traditionally, says Cochran, EDP labels have been produced in “commodity” fashion, with suppliers converting master rolls of pressure-sensitive material into die-cut labels for delivery to the customer.
“As good as other manufacturers' products may be, they are limited by the fact they're taking pre-manufactured label material, rolling it out, die-cutting it, and sheeting it,” notes Todd Wojciechowski, regional sales manager and manufacturing “guru” at the Lackawanna manufacturing facility.
“By contrast, we're going out and buying 40-inch rolls of various face and liner stocks from suppliers such as Georgia-Pacific and Domtar. Then we silicone-coat the stock ourselves and marry the two materials with adhesive at 300 feet a minute on press. This gives us much more control over the quality of the finished product.”
Wojciechowski says Pinnacle maintains control over all production aspects to assure quality and speedy delivery. The Lackawanna facility uses five Didde forms presses — all modified by Pinnacle — that can produce sheet sizes ranging up to 17 by 22 in. All of Pinnacle's presses have the capability to pattern-adhesive in any size or shape, depending on the application. Its silicone coaters can coat widths up to 20 in. (Coaters and adhesives are proprietary.)
But Wojciechowski says perhaps the most critical part of producing the finished label sheet may be the process of selecting, rather than converting, the liner and face stocks. He notes a common concern for suppliers that convert pre-existing stock into cut-sheet laser labels is the inherent curl in the rolls of pressure-sensitive material they convert.
Wojciechowski points out that “curl” is affected by numerous factors, including climate. But he says face and liner stocks containing different moisture levels are the principal culprits. Pinnacle overcomes this problem by silicone-coating and ultraviolet-curing its own liner stocks, allowing it to match the moisture content of the face stock. This process enables Pinnacle to produce a flat label sheet for optimum throughput in laser printers.
“What really makes us unique in the industry is we silicone-coat our own liner stocks in a fashion that allows us to achieve moisture content balance between the face and liner for complete sheet flatness,” says Wojciechowski.
Cochran says Pinnacle competes with higher-volume label manufacturers by being “very niche-focused, low-cost manufacturers. Our technology allows us to deliver customized label products that traditional manufacturers can't produce, and universal products for the stock world that can run through laser and ink jet printers, as well as digital and offset presses.”
In fact, Pinnacle Label has received national recognition for its Clean-Edge Technology® process of manufacturing cut-sheet labels that eliminates jamming and adhesive contamination issues. Clean-Edge Technology is Pinnacle's process that recesses the adhesive 1/16 in. from the edge of the label and liner, allowing the adhesive to migrate during the printing process without reaching the print unit.
“Since laser units operate under high temperature and pressure, this provides a zone for the adhesive to expand without oozing onto printer rollers,” notes Wojciechowski. “Our customers report virtually no adhesive-related occurrences of jamming or unscheduled maintenance of printers.”
And that ability to virtually guarantee problem-free performance has been “mission critical” to the company's success. Cochran notes that a high-volume laser label user such as KB Toys, which might buy four million sheets of labels at a time and run as many as 75,000 sheets a night at its six distribution centers, essentially would be shut down by labels that ooze adhesive and jam in the printer or don't adhere properly. He notes, “99 times out of 100, people will come to us and say, ‘I've got a mission-critical document in warehouse and distribution. If the product doesn't run perfectly, it's going to shut down my warehouse, and we're running 50,000 sheets a night, so we can't have a jam.’ That's really where our niche is.”
The Customer's Choice
In addition to controlling the moisture content of the liner stock, the liner coating operation lets Pinnacle regulate the exact amount of silicone applied to the liner, Wojciechowski reports. This allows customers to specify different release levels for varied applications. For instance, a heavier coating of silicone permits large-size labels to release more easily from the liner with little or no curl in the label. A lighter coat of silicone creates a tighter release for small labels and prevents pre-dispensing of labels in the customer's laser printer.
Having the flexibility to pattern the adhesive during manufacturing allows Pinnacle to build custom features into the finished product. Ezy Peel corners, for example, let end users peel labels from the sheet more efficiently. Wojciechow-ski explains this is particularly important for large-quantity pick-and-ship applications, such as distribution centers where workers pick up thousands of order forms daily, pack the requested merchandise, and ship the orders.
“We'll win the contract based on our ability to design a form that meets their requirements, with internal die-cuts and adhesive patterns,” says Cochran. “We may be small, but we're going to give our customers a Cadillac product that runs flawlessly and at a very competitive price.”
1971 Abbott Rd.; Lackawanna, NY 14218; 800-875-7000; pinnaclelabel.com
Georgia-Pacific, Atlanta, GA; 404/652-4000; gp.com
Domtar Packaging, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; 403/496-7610; 800/818-4117
Didde Corp., Overland Pk., KS; 913/339-9191; didde.com