The Conversion Specialists
For the past 25 years, Catbridge Machinery has brought precision engineering and expert machine building to a new level. Using an innovative, customer-centric approach to design and engineering, Catbridge has emerged as the leader in state-of-the-art web converting solutions.
What makes Catbridge Machinery different is their commitment to customized solutions to meet the customer’s needs. Their team of highly specialized engineers brings decades of experience to the process, leveraging the latest in computer-assisted design and manufacturing technologies to develop solutions that distinguish Catbridge as the go-to source for highly technical web converting machinery.
Catbridge Machinery manufactures, sells and supports their machinery from their newly designed headquarters in Montville, New Jersey. Though much of their business is domestic, Catbridge has customers throughout North America, South America, Europe, Australia and Asia.
Catbridge’s customers represent a variety of industries from paper and packaging to pressure sensitive applications, automotive or industrial tapes, medical innovations, solar and aerospace. Catbridge Machinery has converting machinery and support for any need, and the capacity to build equipment in accordance with UL, CUL and CE certifications.
Michael Pappas, President of Catbridge and his partner William Christman, Vice President, bring unmatched passion and decades of experience to the industry. Pappas and Christman have known each other since high school and began working together in 1990 after graduating from college. “We were working for a company at the time that mainly did machine rebuilding, and we learned our way around the industry from the ground level. We had a very small operation, and both of us did basically every task you can do in a shop,” Christman said.
Together, they undertook every aspect of the business from cleaning the shop to machine design, engineering, manufacturing and sales. Eventually, Pappas and Christman evolved from machine rebuilding to developing new equipment and technologies.
“By the mid-1990s, we really saw that transition from rebuilding to primarily doing new equipment, and about five years after that, around 2000, we negotiated a deal with the original owner to buy him out over time, and that’s when we really started to expand the company. We wanted to go out and see what we could do,” Christman explained.
Catbridge Machinery harnessed the technological advancements from the microprocessor and computer industries for use in industrial applications. “A lot of it was originally automotive, but then we were taking that same technology, and we were employing that in our equipment. It was becoming much more available and much more cost-effective,” explained Christman.
“The technology part is the thing that has always thrilled me. The most interesting thing is when you see something new. We’re kind of like technology junkies; I am at home, and I am at work too,” said Christman.
Tanya Pier, Sales and Marketing Coordinator, agreed. “The passion they have for what they do is infectious. I think it rubs off on the rest of us.”
When a new product or technology becomes available, Catbridge engineers immediately find ways to incorporate new capabilities to improve speed, capacity and throughput. “It’s a curse and a blessing at the same time, because we’re constantly trying to improve,” said Christman.
“Now, we’re looking much more into the future as products come out, at how we can implement them but maintain our product line for a significant period,” he said. The goal is to get the best out of the technology for their customers as well as continue to hone their own internal operations.
Catbridge Machinery provides service and support, offering a complete line of components and replacement parts for the converting industry, supporting their customers for the lifetime of the equipment.
“One of the amazing features that has become available to any machine builder, but we really implement it better than most people do, is the ability to remotely support equipment. We can connect to the equipment over the internet and remotely diagnose and troubleshoot any situation that can occur,” said Christman.
Building internal standards and processes has been a major focus for Catbridge Machinery as they have grown over the last decade. These standards were designed to be adaptable to address safety requirements for their customers regardless of market or sector.
“One of the big things in industrial manufacturing in the last five years is what they call integrated safety. Years ago, machines would be designed with guarding in place to keep people away from things. Now, we have the ability to control everything with high-end sensors, laser scanners, light curtains and presence-sensing devices and camera systems that are all safety-rated devices,” said Christman.
If a section of a machine requires service, gone are the days when the entire operation had to be shut down. “In the past, we’d have to lock out, tag out the entire machine to make a change on one part of it. Now, we can keep areas of the equipment running while unloading or reloading,” Christman noted.
Catbridge Machinery’s greatest strength is the ability to create unique products and applications. “We take things that haven’t been done before, as a customer comes to us with a new product, and they want a solution on how to create it or convert it or get it from one stage to the next. That is really where we perform at a much higher level than any of our competitors,” said Christman.
While Catbridge Machinery is recognized for their ability to customize equipment to meet customers’ needs on highly-complex projects, they also offer a deep bench of solutions with their line of standard equipment, enabling Catbridge to compete in all segments of the industry.
“The advantage for us is when we do standard equipment, we would do the design one time, and we could sell that same piece of equipment for the next three to five years without making any significant engineering changes to it,” explained Christman.
“That’s great because so much of what we do is engineering intensive. It will increase our sales twenty to thirty percent by having this standard line of equipment in place without having to increase our engineering base.” This is critical when skilled professionals are hard to come by.
Quality at Catbridge Machinery’s operations is certainly attributable to the company’s ninety employees. Roughly a quarter of the business’ talented people are qualified professionals from the field, while the remaining three-quarters are selected because they have demonstrated that they are capable of learning the necessary skills and then given the opportunity to excel through training.
“We’re able to take people in a very short period of time, three to six months, and bring them up to speed where they are fully functional. Most of the training comes from within, and we put processes and programs in place to help with that whether it’s mentoring or actual training administered on the computer,” Christman said.
Catbridge Machinery has worked closely with the state government, as well as business and manufacturing organizations to improve available training programs and local education systems to address the skilled labor shortage.
“They’re bringing it back, but it’s going to be a bit of time before that’s in place, so what we’ve really had to do is train from within. We try to find people that are bright, that are motivated and are willing to learn, and we’ve had really good success,” said Christman.
In April 2017, Catbridge Machinery was devastated by a fire. “You would never know that happened. Obviously, I can go back financially and see some of the impacts it had, but we’ve been able to recover from it quite well. I’m actually astonished by how well we recovered. Everybody here has kicked in,” Christman noted.
The new, ultramodern facility is near completion and will continue to integrate design and manufacturing under one roof with double the production capacity of the former plant. Projects can be developed from initial concept and manufacture to final testing seamlessly. The new facility continues to allow for the thirty-five percent employee growth the company has experienced over the last several years.
New material requirements planning (MRP) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have been introduced to help track manufacturing. “We’re probably twenty to thirty percent quicker on most pieces of equipment right now,” said Christman. Once Catbridge Machinery has settled in their new facility, another goal is to expand their international presence to increase the market share and the impact they can have for their customers.