To keep up with its growth, Jessup has undergone recent expansions both to its Lake Bluff and McHenry, IL facilities. And to keep up with customer demand for its products, the company recently partnered with New Era Converting Machinery, Inc. on the purchase and installation of a new, world-class coating and laminating line.
Now fully operational, the New Era line was installed at Jessup’s Lake Bluff facility in late 2020. But due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the purchase, construction, FAT and onsite installation of the new line was anything but ordinary. Rob Jessup, president and CEO of Jessup Manufacturing, and John Looser, vice president-Sales Engineer of New Era Converting Machinery, recently discussed how their two companies collaborated during extraordinary times to not only build and install the line, but to do it ahead of schedule and under budget.
The Jessup/New Era partnership started ordinarily enough, as many business partnerships do, with an inquiry and an RFP in 2018. Jessup was experiencing capacity constraints and needed to expand its manufacturing operations and increase production in order to include new specialty products. In addition, the company had been outsourcing some of its manufacturing and wanted to bring it in-house.
Rick Brizek, vice president of Operations who led the team that selected New Era, said that after an exhaustive search, New Era was their choice. “We were impressed with their commitment to quality. Our site visit was quite impressive…as were their engineering staff and top management. From our first meeting to interviewing their references to when we signed our contracts, New Era made us feel confident in our decision,” he says.
Jessup mentioned that during the initial visit to New Era, two key things really stood out. “They were the only supplier we talked with who asked probative questions, really listened to our needs, and offered great advice and creative solutions – everyone else simply wanted to sell us their existing machinery,” he says. “Also, we were really impressed with their internal commitment to workforce development. They are developing a pipeline of talented engineers who will be able to service not just our existing needs, but our future needs as well.”
Not long after the purchase of the New Era coating and laminating line, Covid-19 came along. It appeared that the constraints imposed on companies because of the virus would negatively affect the schedule for the manufacturing of the new machinery and equipment.
“Travel and quarantine challenges were huge due to Covid-19 in 2020,” says Looser. “Like everyone else, our usual business procedures were completely upended; we stopped in-person plant visits, and cut way back on the number of workers who were coming into our plant every day. We needed to find alternate ways of keeping our projects on schedule.”
This is where both companies got creative. “We leveraged video technology to collaborate and keep the project on track,” says Jessup. “Weekly calls were held to review everything, and the new coating and laminating line was built on that. In the end, the line was shipped and installed under budget – the communication between both companies was outstanding and probably enhanced due to the need to connect virtually.”
Looser says he was impressed by the commitment from Jessup to have top management attend virtually every weekly meeting. “They made a serious commitment to the success of the project, which only helps us get things right,” he says. He echoed Jessup’s comment on how photos and videos were used regularly and extensively to ensure good communication. In addition, New Era helped Jessup with the integration of other auxiliaries as well, even though they weren’t New Era products.
“The value New Era provided us extended to helping us succeed with the integration of the heater, chiller, and dual inline corona treaters, products that were not their own,” says Steve Blackowicz, Jessup’s vice president of Sales. “Their project management during the manufacturing of the equipment was tremendous, and it’s pretty amazing that the line was delivered and installed ahead of schedule, and under budget, during the most challenging year any of us has ever seen.”
The New Era coating and laminating line is helping Jessup to commercialize new specialty products that they previously couldn’t run on their old equipment. “We also have successfully transitioned many existing constructions to the new line, and we have experienced improved productivity and quality, which ultimately increases value for our existing customer base,” says Jessup.
In addition to commercializing the New Era coating and laminating line in 2021, Jessup built a new warehouse and distribution facility in McHenry, IL, and is also completing a new corporate headquarters that they will move in to later this year. For its future machinery and equipment needs, the company continues to expand its in-house converting capabilities with more slitting and laser cutting, and is already in discussions with New Era about its next adhesive coating line.
“For us, it’s all about meeting the growing and expanding needs of our customers,” says Jessup. “This new line from New Era gives us a strong competitive advantage and allows us to deliver a level of product innovation that gives our customers true differentiation in their markets.”
As for working together with New Era, “It’s the people,” says Jessup. “A lot of companies can make good machinery, but it’s the people that make the difference, and that is most definitely the case with New Era.”
Looser said of working with Jessup, “They are a fun company to do business with. When you like the people and respect their expertise, it makes things go smoothly. You want to do business with people you like and that was the case here.”