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Muscling Forward

Bema Inc.’s recent purchase of a W&H MIRAFLEX press continues its strong commitment to equipment investments for enhanced printing and converting flexibility.

January 2011 By Sue Busch
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"A job-shop on steroids"—that's Bema Incorporated President Glen Galloway's catch-phrase for the 51-year-old, Elmhurst, Ill.-based film printing/converting firm he has owned since 1999. When Galloway took Bema's helm, he set out to bring this catch-phrase to fruition by elevating the firm's long-time job-shop operations philosophy, instituted by founder Sam Shaw, to a super-sized level of implementation. His plan to achieve was characterized by a more targeted focus on continual customer service improvement and, most recently, four consecutive years of significant technology and infrastructure investments.

Under Galloway's leadership, Bema has cultivated a strong vertical integration of its operations—which now include a digital prepress technology center, plus 10-color flexographic printing, adhesive lamination, slitting, bag-making, and pouch-making capabilities—all housed at its Elmhurst facility. Galloway believes this capabilities structure is a notable competitive differentiator for the smaller, 48-employee firm, and Bema's customer base would appear to agree; Bema's small-company operations philosophy and large-company capabilities blueprint has proved a powerful combination, helping the firm triple sales in the past four years and cement a presence in the food, pet, and industrial markets.

This strategic approach also enables Bema to consistently meet complex, custom film production requirements. A typical day on the production floor could include printing, laminating, and/or converting a host of film substrates, including polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC)-PET, biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP), and nylon, as well as a number of specialty films. A typical printing or converting job could require adherence to the American Institute of Baking (AIB) Superior Certification or other strict food safety and quality certifications—a common requirement for Bema's nut, meat, and tortilla packaging customers. It could also require the accommodation of a variety of final converted product requirements—such as the one-stop-shopping capability to deliver roll-stock, bags, and/or pouches (a frequent specification for Bema's pour customers).

"We can respond, react, and change faster than the companies that we serve, and the larger companies that we compete against," Galloway sums up, citing Bema's ability to typically turn jobs around in half the industry's standard lead-time of four to six weeks. The key to this competitive advantage, he notes, is to pursue equipment investments for the purpose of added flexibility, rather than to simply bolster capacity.

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