Written by Paulline Muller (Manufacturing in Focus – September 2021)
Adhesive Applications is to adhesives what the ancient Greeks’ King Midas was to gold. Because, no matter where one turns in the twenty-first century, a large percentage of the world’s manufactured commodities are held together by myriad adhesive compounds. I spoke with this visionary team to learn more about just how they do it.
Adhesive Applications is the industry leader behind a tremendous number of North America’s bonding solutions. There is hardly an industry that Adhesive Applications does not serve, with expertise in aerospace, appliances, automotive, building and construction, doors and windows, electronics, graphics, medical, and HVAC. For 50 years, through economic downturns and fantastic market highs alike, the company has thrived, innovating, collaborating with, and serving Americans through tough and great times.
The company’s success is closely tied to the high level of collaboration its teams are encouraged to maintain – both within the organization and with clients. “We’re really rejoicing in the ability to just walk down the hall and have a conversation with every part of the organization [again],” says Petra Schaefer, President.
Based in Easthampton, Massachusetts, the company concluded a thorough overhaul of its headquarters earlier this year. An addition of more than 55,000 square feet to its existing footprint meant that all departments, including converting and shipping, can now operate from one facility. “This [expansion] has allowed us to greatly improve our efficiency and processes for our customers,” says Schaefer. “Having the whole management team engaged and involved in meetings allows for decisions to be made quickly. We excel at being nimble and quick to market,” she adds.
Powered by people
“Even our new office is collaborative,” agrees Judette Savino, Vice President Sales and Marketing. We have a new whiteboard table [where] we have quick meetings. And we do this constantly. Throughout the day you’ll see people standing there talking through an idea before everybody goes back to their desk.” Naturally, this type of collaboration takes place within the safety of COVID-19 distancing regulations and is juxtaposed with cleverly appointed office cubicles that offer both privacy and space.
The company’s specialty lies in being solidly committed to custom product development backed by science and innovation at a price that suits its clients’ budgets. Adhesive Applications particularly focuses on companies in need of a sophisticated, yet affordable single-source adhesives partner, one that is adaptable and diverse in its capabilities with a well-developed research and development team. Adhesive Applications’ breadth of expertise means that the team can meet customers’ diverse bonding, laminating, mounting, gasketing, splicing, and sealing needs, with products developed and manufactured to exacting, high-performance specifications.
Serving key sectors
Experts from a multitude of fields trust Adhesive Applications to develop proprietary solutions to their unique challenges in its state-of-the-art laboratory, making the company the go-to advisor for some of North America’s biggest names. “Because if you don’t have trust, you don’t have anything,” says Schaefer. “Now we’re seeing, because of COVID and so many other factors, the drive to get things done faster and respond more quickly is more and more critical to everyone’s success. We see and understand that.”
At Adhesive Applications, customer care is another cornerstone of great service, and the team meets daily to improve its level of service even further. Staff are encouraged to look at the bigger market picture as well as future market demands. Interestingly, while customers come from wide and far for its custom solutions, some of Adhesive Applications’ best sellers remain its longstanding foam, silicone, and acrylic tape selections popular in a wide range of markets for their equally diverse performance specs.
As markets adapt to the pressures of improved personal and environmental health, the company has seen a defined surge in business from the medical field as well as the electric vehicle sector. The latter follows the drive for putting more sustainably powered cars on the road in a new, more wellness-oriented world. In terms of surviving COVID-19, the company’s innovation made a large contribution to point-of-care testing (POCT) through developing adhesives in microfluidic testing tools. This is a tremendously important field within diagnostics, especially in these times, as POCT microfluidic testing tools abate the need for laboratory testing, saving both patients and medical care providers time and money. “It’s a great industry to be in because it is ever-changing,” says Savino.
Rooted in quality
To ensure optimum quality, the company’s adhesives adhere to strict rules such as those set by The International Organization for Standardization. At present, Adhesive Applications holds ISO 10993 and 10993-1 certifications that comprehensively govern testing procedures around cell toxicity and issues concerning skin sensitization and dermatitis triggers. “Our approach to developing products is unique in the industry as we let the application drive the product selection. Through a company-proprietary, objective evaluation process, we carefully assess the attributes and requirements of every product application,” says Erik Vinh, Digital Marketing Manager.
The company’s history is one of tenacity. It was started by Petra’s father, Michael Schaefer, who emigrated from Germany in 1986. Originally, he acquired three separate businesses. When the tape manufacturing outfit started outperforming the rest, Schaefer decided to place his focus there and, in 1970, founded Adhesive Applications, leveraging the synergies that had developed between the original companies over time. In 2002, the company expanded again, giving clients more variety and better versatility as well as more powerful research and development capabilities. And, while the firm continues to grow, it prides itself on serving its loyal clientele better than ever.
That’s because the company’s staff of over 70 is as knowledgeable and loyal as its median tenure is long; some members of staff have been here for thirty years or more. “We do not have the staffing issues that we hear about to the degree that we see throughout the industry and throughout the world right now,” shares Schaefer. To ensure that its staffing status quo remains this way, the firm researched its pay equity situation some time ago to guarantee that everyone was earning a fair and sufficient salary. Management also used the opportunity to share the company’s financial well-being with employees.
In addition to being a fair and generous employer, several of the company’s management team are women. “[In this way we could show our people] what we’re focused on and what we need to do to get there. Now I think we’re attracting very hardworking people… Almost everybody goes above and beyond in some way, shape, or form to deliver to a customer. And that’s huge,” Schaefer says. The company’s management team is as hands-on as all its other teams and it is therefore not uncommon to see leaders working just as hard as the rest of the company’s people out in the field. “It’s a very collaborative group. Everybody at every level works with each other,” she adds.
Adhesive Applications’ signature knack for adaptability remains one of the company’s strongest attributes. As illustrated through its robust response to COVID-19, staying on top of technological advances in the field will continue to strengthen its bonds with clients. While continuing to monitor market changes closely, the Adhesive Applications team will also stick to what it knows works – solid science, rigorous testing, and quality relationships.