Amherst Label’s annual Valentine program issues removable labels for last-minute lovers to show their affection. The instructions say, “Stick them around your house… or get creative.” Getting the right adhesive was important.
Adhering to schedules and substrates
You could say Jim Cutler is Amherst Label’s weather forecaster.
In addition to his role as facilities manager in charge of plowing, the rooftop solar array, and maintaining the property, as purchasing manager, Jim gauges when suppliers will be able to deliver on-time and when a Nor’easter could derail production schedules.
On one recent snowy February morning, Jim answers his phone and tells the caller, “Nothing is coming in today. Everyone has sent us notifications that they are closed. If anything comes in today, it will be a miracle.”
Not to worry—Jim had predicted these weather-related delays and built in extra lead times.
More than meets the eye
Label manufacture involves printing and more. End users see the label’s face but there is more to label construction than a pretty face. According to Jim Cutler, “The adhesive, liner, face material and inks all have to work together to make the project a success.”
Adhesive is what sticks—everyone knows this. But not everyone knows as much about adhesives as Jim Cutler.
Cutler says, “Adhesive is one part of the construction we create,” and adds, “But picking the adhesive can be a sticky proposition.” (Pun intended.)
“Picking the correct adhesive for your application is critical. If you choose wrong, a label can look great but fail right when you don’t want it to—when the product is in use.”
For his selection process, Jim needs answers. The number one concern is “What are you trying to stick this to?” Followed by, “Do you intend to try to remove it from that surface?”
Next come temperature questions. Will the labeled products end up in a warehouse? Freezer? Harsh environments? Wet environments? Jim explains, “We have to understand exactly what our customers are going to do with their labels in order to recommend the best adhesive, liner and face material. We have a line of standard adhesives, good general purpose adhesives. From there, we can move up to the next grade if necessary.”
Jim works with hundreds of vendors, including two dozen primary stock suppliers. All of his adhesive sources are located in the US, from Chicago to North Carolina to Massachusetts.
In Amherst Label’s screen print department, a variety of products are printed and carefully selected adhesives are applied in-house. For Flexo and Digital, stocks are purchased pre-coated with specific adhesives. Getting the best adhesive while keeping costs to a minimum is important.
Jim Cutler has noticed great advances in chemistry in the past two decades. He remembers when hot melt adhesives and acrylic adhesives were all solvent-based. Now, all the products he buys are water-based: friendlier to manufacture and safer for the environment. Adhesives perform better in a wider variety of situations. “With changes in manufacturing techniques and chemistry, we can do much more,” says Jim. “Today’s adhesives stick to more products, and we can get things to not stick where they are not supposed to.”
From -160 to 1000 degrees fahrenheit
Technical advances have led to increased demands. Customers can require adhesives to perform in extreme cold and/or extreme heat. Cryogenic environments involving dry ice and liquid nitrogen demand adhesion at -160 degrees. And specialty electronics applications require adhesion at 1000 degrees! Sourcing for unique applications is one of Jim’s strengths.
“The newest products are ultra-repositionable. Decals on windows used to be static cling but we are using more and more repositionables,” says Jim. Amherst Label is a leader in the NewsNotes, Post-it® style removable coupon ads on newspapers, which also require removable, repositionable adhesives. Peel-off labels on credit cards are another custom Amherst Label product.
Responding to customer requirements is what sets Amherst Label apart from the competition. If, for example, a supplier offers an adhesive with a 40-lb liner but the customer needs sheeted labels on a heavier stock, Jim routinely requests modifications from the manufacturer. “Other duties as required,” is one of Jim’s standing jokes about the range of his responsibilities. But his expertise in technical purchasing is what makes him Amherst Label’s MVP.