TS Converting Equipment manufactures the range of Elite Cameron slitter rewinder, coating, and laminating machines. Nick Coombes visited the company’s headquarters in the UK to learn more about this specialist company.
Tim Self, the TS in the company name, began life as an apprentice engineer at the age of 16 and worked his way around the world installing machines, before moving into sales and establishing his own business in 1984. “The original Cameron brand of slitter rewinders had existed in the US since 1905, mainly in the textile trade. They were subsequently developed for other web-fed industries and by the 1970s were mostly converting products like carbonless papers,” he explained. By the late ‘70s the business had moved into flexible packaging and then more niche areas like print, medical, non-woven, self-adhesive and laminate work, and TS Converting started to sell Europeanised designs under licence around this time, with the two companies finally merging in 1990.
Today, the company’s headquarters and manufacturing base in Taunton, south-west England, employs around 35 full time staff plus sub-contractors and generates around £10m in sales each year, with some 50% being exported to the USA. “America is an important market for us, and we have sales and service teams based there to support our well-established user base. In fact, we’re considering our options to assemble there if demand continues on its present growth cycle,” he added. In addition to its more traditional web technology, it also manufactures a highly popular range of Compact Foilers for sheet fed offset applications.
Under Tim Self’s guidance, the company has pursued a policy of tailor-made excellence, specialising in the design and manufacture of bespoke solutions. “By getting close to our customers we can fully understand their requirements – it’s what sets us apart from our competitors,” he stated and explained how this approach had kept the business very stable throughout the current global pandemic, with 50% of all orders being repeat business. This attention to detail is equally significant when it comes to choosing and specifying ancillary technology, as Vetaphone found to its benefit.
“If you’re claiming to offer something special to your customers you need to be confident that any technology you outsource meets your own critical standards. For us, if it’s surface treatment, it has to be Vetaphone, and this goes back over many years now. They think about and react to customers the same way we do, and the cooperative partnership is built on trust and reliability,” he said. Unlike the narrow web sector, where corona units are sold in volume and of similar specification, much of TS Converting’s business is wide web and niche, so a good understanding between the two companies’ technicians is essential.
Over the years, TS Converting has predominantly used Vetaphone corona technology on its Hot Melt Coating and Laminating machines and this has established a strong working bond between the two to the extent that when Vetaphone started to plan its unique test lab facility in Denmark, it was TS Converting that it turned to for unwind and rewind modules that needed very accurate web tension control to conduct tests under lab conditions.
“The opportunity to return the support of one of our long-term suppliers by supplying bespoke technology for the test lab was too good to miss! We knew exactly what they needed in terms of maximum flexibility and could tailor make hybrid equipment to do the job. And the added benefit is that the test lab acts as a great showcase for the Elite Cameron brand whenever anyone visits the facility,” he added. Key to its successful operation is the PLC software that enables Vetaphone to integrate and monitor results at specific speeds and change settings on the run. The lab facility is capable of handling a variety of substrates, including some very thick materials.
This close involvement with customers to maximise the effect of technology chimes well with Kevin McKell, VP of Technical Sales at Vetaphone and a long-time associate of Tim Self, who commented: “We have always said that R&D and innovation are intrinsic elements of our DNA here – so to work with an OEM that has the same business ethos is not only rewarding, but also invaluable as a two-way experience. The more niche the application, the more excited our design and manufacturing people become, so TS Converting makes an ideal partner.”
Tim Self predicts that his company’s sales of coating and laminating technology will overtake that of slitter rewinders for the first time in 2021 and sees the growth in demand for UV hotmelt with high-performance adhesives as an important trend. A combination of higher production speeds and tight quality control in the industry would indicate a bright future for both TS Converting and Vetaphone, as adhesion becomes a more critical part of the equation.