Subtle and Significant
Mark-Maker continues a strong tradition of quality and innovation to be successful in the Steel Rule Cutting Dies and Flexographic Printing Plates business.
What’s in a name?
When people ask me what Mark-Maker does, I tell them that we produce tooling for the packaging industry. My wife says that I work at a company that provides box makers with the stuff they need to make marks and designs on them. That is how she makes sense of the name, but she is only partially correct.
To truly understand Mark-Maker, one must go back to the beginning. Back in the ‘70’s, founder Bob Stout made printing plates himself in his garage on a small press. He hand delivered the plates to the corrugated and web-printing companies that he serviced at that time. The combination of Bob Stout’s determination, mixed with his creativity, gave Mark-maker its roots.
Bob, an ex-marine guy, ran a tight ship by day, but at night, you might have found him sketching, carving or painting to express his artistic side. Back in those days, the Mark-Maker logo had an “X” in the middle, as in a signature . . . a “man’s mark” . . . to autograph his work. Bob Stout was “making his mark” through both his private and business endeavors.
In the early days, Mark-Maker was a small family business with a few employees. However, soon the business outgrew the Stout’s garage and a building was purchased to support the growing demand for flexographic plates. Manufacturing and sales employees were added and Mark-Maker was on its way.
A noteworthy expansion occurred at Mark-Maker in 1978 when Bob Stout hired Bob Pettijohn to take Mark-Maker into the world of Steel Rule Die sales and production. This was a perfect opportunity for Mark-Maker as dies and printing plates fit together in the packaging industry. Because the rotary die cutter had been invented, both were used to produce cartons in the same pass.
As the sales manager, Bob Pettijohn expanded the geographical market for corrugated packaging and web printing. Pettijohn’s experience in the corrugated industry and his strong desire to satisfy the customer, were keys to success. Bob Stout passed the reigns to Bob Pettijohn in 1994 and Pettijohn became president of Mark-Maker.
Under Pettijohn’s direction, Mark-Maker has grown significantly. The number of employees has increased to more than 60 today, Mark-Maker has two facilities in Wyoming, MI and a satellite facility in Glendale Heights, IL. The three plants serve a wide variety of customers with flexographic printing plates and steel rule cutting dies.
Mark-Maker has continued its desire to satisfy customers with the personal touch that a smaller company can be so good at. Employees at Mark-Maker are dedicated, hard-working and skilled. The average number of years that an employee has been with the company is 17 years. Many also volunteer their time and energy through church and community. Groups of employees set up food and gift drives during thanksgiving and Christmas on their own accord. This shows the character and integrity of the group we are happy to work with.
Employees hired into the Mark-Maker team bring expertise from prior experience which range from silk screening, graphic arts, web printing,electronics, corrugated, sales, programmers, former business owners, transportation, inventory control and more. They are a well-rounded group that brings valuable ideas for goal setting and problem solving from many perspectives to help Mark-Maker flourish.
Mark-Maker is made up of various production departments. In the pre-press department, artists work on graphic files for quality press results. The plate department manufactures printing plates and mounts them on the specific substrate required. The cad department manages the files which they send over to the die shop for manufacturing. Quality control is the last stop before the product is shipped. Most departments operate two shifts to satisfy customer demand.
Sales and customer service at Mark-Maker is run with the customers’ needs in mind. Staff is experienced in problem solving and can make suggestions which enhance the finished product as well as the manufacturing process. We service local packaging industry customers as well as the West Coast, Canada and everywhere in between.
Automation is also one of the keys to Mark-Maker’s success. Our die shop is equipped with the latest lasers, rule processors, CNC router and water jet equipment that helps produce a quality product. The plate manufacturing facility boasts the latest software, computer to plate ability, and exposure units which accommodate the large format industry.
A team of experienced supervisors guide us into the world of new equipment available. They research the industry to find the latest and greatest and decide which one will best suit our specific needs for our specific customers. Typically, they research equipment needs through organizations like IADD, Tappi, and FTA by regularly attending seminars, conventions, and reading trade journals. We also rely on the valuable suppliers in our industry. They too, alert us to industry changes and improvements.
We are experiencing growth following the difficult years of the economic down turn. The past 2 years have been some of our best years and it is due to many reasons. Fine employees, a serious commitment to new technology, and a desire to unlock new markets have all contributed to making it through those difficult years. Purchasing a plant in the Chicago area has been a new venture that is opening new opportunities.
As we position ourselves for the future, we are committed to continue to educate ourselves about new developments in the industry and to remain responsive to the needs of the customer. Constant communication with our customers is valuable to keep us abreast of changes they might experience as they incorporate new equipment and update technology. We make sure that we apply the necessary updates to our plants to reflect the request of the customer. Our goal is to go forward in excellence.
We have come a long way from the single family business in a small garage in Wyoming, Michigan. The name “Mark-Maker” began as a simple autograph. Now it is a complex combination of departments and products. Some of the family names go forward through to the future, but more importantly-- the commitment to customer satisfaction goes forward through the persistence, creativity, and integrity of the group of people working together that call themselves: Mark-Maker.
(Reposting from an article written in 2012 )