Investing in Success

When PFFC first met Coating Excellence Intl. in 2000, it was an up-and-coming startup just settling into its new 50,000-sq-ft facility in Wrightstown, WI. Then associate editor Claudia Hine writes:

With a combined 50 years of experience in the converting industry, William R. Arndt and Michael R. Nowak decided to start their own coating business, incorporating in November 1996 as Coating Excellence Intl. The partners envisioned a small innovative company that would be responsive to customers, quick to market, and good to employees.

She concluded with this prediction: Both Arndt and Nowak know it will be a challenge to grow the business while maintaining a “small company” environment. But these two entrepreneurs seem to thrive on challenge, so the odds are with them.

Who knew the odds were this good! Looking back at the ambitious but still developing coating operation — which began with just 15 employees — it's amazing what Nowak and Arndt have achieved. Named Wisconsin's Manufacturer of the Year in 2003 by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce business association, this Midwest converter has earned its title of “coating excellence” — but it's not just coating anymore. With projected sales of $90 million for 2004 and more than 200 employees, CEI's manufacturing capabilities now include extrusion coating and laminating; adhesive laminating; 10-color flexo printing; duplex and drum-slitting and rewinding, and the capacity to produce computerized graphic art in-house.

Included in CEI's growth plans is a $26 million, 180,000-sq-ft addition to its current facility to accommodate the added production. The expansion will create at least 70 new manufacturing jobs for the area, and the company says it will give first preference to soldiers returning from the war in Iraq. Construction and hiring began in spring and should be completed by year's end.

Doing it Right

In PFFC's first visit, Nowak stressed that for CEI to compete, the company had to be committed to “doing things right,” starting with investing in state-of-the-art equipment. At that time, it was the Davis-Standard Egan 100-in. high-speed extrusion coating line, automatic die system, and CMR 2000 control system.

Since that visit, CEI expanded its operations into printing in January 2000 with the installation of its first Windmoeller & Hoelscher Astraflex eight-color, central impression, flexo press. In response to customer requirements, the company added its second Astraflex press 2001. Why the Astraflex? As Nowak explains, “It allows us to get things done.”

The third and fourth Astraflex came soon after, and the fifth was installed March of this year. A W&H Primaflex is expected in December.

Nowak equipped all six presses with Advanced Vision Technology's PrintVisionNT video-based inspection systems. CEI has said the PrintVision watches the entire printed web, detects defects, and alerts its operators quickly when something goes wrong.

CEI also has invested in its third Davis-Standard extruder, scheduled for installation in September, and two new rewinders from Webco and Deacro.

To streamline the operation and manage its increasing growth, CEI recently announced it has selected Concord/Microsoft Business Solutions' Axapta for Converting software, which allows CEI's customers real-time information on their orders and inventories. “The Microsoft platform was a major selling point,” says Nowak, “Plus the fact that Concord understands our industry and the shop floor data collection needs of a converting operation.”

All Eyes on CEI

With a top honor as Wisconsin's Manufacturer of the Year, it's no surprise CEI is garnering attention in high places. In April, the company hosted VP Dick Cheney, and the country's second-in-command toured the facility and offered formal remarks to workers, invited guests, and the media. Cheney chose to visit CEI in part because of its continued strong growth in today's economy and its recent effort to bring back manufacturing work that had been lost to firms oversees.

“CEI has been doing some of the packaging for Sweet 'N Low, and now through our expansion efforts, we will be bringing it all back to the US,” commented Nowak to the Wisconsin press back in April.

Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans recently announced Nowak will serve as a key member of the Bush Administration's Manufacturing Council, which will serve as a strong voice for policies that will help US manufacturers succeed worldwide.

With world-class equipment and the US government firmly behind them, CEI is steadfast in thinking about tomorrow. Nowak confidently projects sales for CEI of $200 million by 2010. As PFFC predicted in 2000, this converter thrives on challenge, so the odds are with them.

CONVERTER INFO

Coating Excellence Intl.

975 Broadway, Wrightstown, WI 54180; 920/996-1953; coating-excellence.com

SUPPLIER INFO

Windmoeller & Hoelscher; whcorp.com

Advanced Vision Technology; avt-inc.com

Davis-Standard; davis-standard.com

Webco Engineering; webcoeng.com

Deacro Industries; deacro.com

Concord Business Solutions; concord-solutions.com

Getting a Handle on Rolls

With the dedication CEI has shown in providing its facility with world-class equipment, the company also has made investments in operator safety, with a key piece being Tilt Lock's Tip Lift material handling equipment. CEI was the first to use this version of roll handling equipment three years ago. The lift is suspended from a crane system on all of the company's rewinders.

Jim Schmidt, CEI's production manager, says after investigating several leading suppliers, the decision to add the Tip Lift for roll handling on its rewinders has been an investment not only in production efficiency, but more importantly, operator safety. “The safety benefits have been critical,” says Schmidt. “With Tilt Lock, we're not getting repetitive injuries.”

Bringing in the equipment proved to be a simple 1-2-3 process. “Installation was a snap,” raves Schmidt. “So easy, we were able to install the unit ourselves.”

Schmidt also appreciates the increased efficiency the system allows. “It has helped us reduce cycle times, and with the Tilt Lock's roll handler, downtime has been minimal,” he says.
Supplier Information:
Tilt Lock;. tiltlock.com


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