Take a look inside Nameplates for Industry, a screen-printing shop that has served the North American industrial-graphics market for more than 20 years.
By Lori Leaman
NFI also extends the same flexibility and openness to its competitors. As part of the company's open shop policy, competitors and vendors are invited to visit NFI, tour the facility, meet the staff, and share ideas. The open shop policy has benefited NFI by bringing in new ideas and techniques to improve the workflow and grow its business.
NFI prides itself on offering a wide assortment of products to the graphics and industrial markets. Such products include nameplates, decals, computer logos, metal and rigid plastic nameplates, serial numbers and barcodes, faceplates and keypad overlays, membrane switches/touch panels, and self-laminating labels. Other offerings include variable-data applications and UL/CSL-recognized products and roll labels (Figure 8). NFI also produces graphics that are used as instrumentation in aircraft and military equipment, as well as graphic overlays and braille-embossed serial-number tags for devices used by the blind.
NFI also offers urethane doming services. When doming, NFI uses specially modified, custom dispensing equipment to apply a photopolymer coating onto printed images. Finished products and customers' brand identities are then safeguarded by a self-healing, 3-D surface that also draws attention.
Clients often call on NFI to handle jobs of an odd nature or with turnaround times that other screen printers might find impossible. But NFI welcomes challenging requests. In some cases, NFI accepts responsibilities beyond printing and finishing by taking on the task of engineering the job. In one example, Sony asked NFI to produce the graphics for its Picture Station kiosks. The company that handled the construction of the kiosks for Sony delivered a kiosk to NFI so that the staff could take measurements, gather other information pertinent to the job, and generate detailed plans. Other customers who have the resources to complete the engineering portion of a job often send drawings or blueprints to NFI. The blueprints, even if they represent a simple label, show all aspects of a job, which is helpful because the demand for accuracy is high.
NFI has won several awards for its products and processes. In 1991, the company received the SBA Southeastern Massachusetts Small Business of the Year Award. Three years later, NFI was awarded the SGIA Business Management Award in the Industrial, Electronics, or Container category. NFI achieved ISO certification in 1997. The company received more than 20 SGIA Golden Squeegee Awards in the Nameplate, Decal, or Instrumentation categories from 1991 to 2004. SGIA also presented NFI with Safety Recognition awards from 1999 to 2004.
NFI's practice of using identical presses in production has proven to be an effective and successful solution, but this year, the company intends to mix it up a bit with the addition of a multicolor press from Systematic Automation. NFI hopes that using a multicolor press will reduce the amount of labor required to finish products.
Other goals include continual improvement of cycle times. Part of that initiative is already underway. The company has implemented THE System, a business-management software suite from CRC Information Systems. Rudnick says the program provides his staff with instantaneous information—as he puts it, more information than they will ever need—for numerous job functions. Information sharing has helped improve lead times, which were 8-10 weeks in the early days when products were shipped from the UK. Rudnick says that over the years, NFI has been able to shrink its lead time to 8-10 days. However, he says customers still demand quicker turnaround.
Finally, NFI plans to revisit its roots a bit by establishing more strategic alliances with foreign businesses. The company has found that in the screen-printing industry, sometimes the saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," holds a lot of weight.
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