Archive for Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Basehor business supplies stitched emblems across U.S.

June 6, 2007

The creation of an embroidered company logo or nametag for a shirt or hat is quite a process.

And, Central States Emblems in Basehor has been perfecting that process for more than 20 years.

Tom Mills Jr., vice president of the family business, which makes and ships emblems to uniform rental industries, said it all started with a couple of blank nametags and a simple zigzag stitch on a sewing machine.

"Mom started it in one of the bedrooms of our house," he said. "She started sewing name emblems by hand. That was in 1985."

Faultless Linen in Kansas City became CSE's first customer, and word of mouth allowed the company to grow nationwide from there. Now, with about 38 employees in two approximately 7,000-square-foot buildings, CSE can crank out and ship more than 10,000 emblems a day.

The process from blank fabric and thread to finished and shipped product is quick but precise. Mills said 80 percent of orders placed before 10:30 a.m. are shipped out the same day by 4:30 p.m.

Customers can place an order by phone, fax or online. Each current customer has his or her own personal online catalog that contains anything they've ever ordered from CSE.

After the order is placed with a customer service representative, the embroidery workers get started stitching the name or logo on a large piece of fabric or directly onto a garment. About 166 computer-operated embroidery heads run up to 16 hours a day to meet demand, Mills said.

"We run these machines anywhere from 550 to 1,100 stitches per minute," he said. "It all varies on what you put on it. Corporate logos that have a lot of detail -- we'll slow it down."

Next, workers called clickers take over. Metal die cuts of different shapes and sizes rest on shelves next to the clickers' stations, which are placed on a large metal plate and pressed into the fabric to punch out the correct shape and size of the emblem. While many of the emblems take on the standard rectangle shape, Mills said there are hundreds of different shapes.

"As years go on, it seems to get more nonstandard," he said. "People are getting more creative. They want their own thing."

The shaped emblems are now ready for what is called "merrowing." Workers trained on merrow machines quickly run the emblems, one by one, through the machines, which puts a colored border around them. Excess threads are also snipped by hand.

Now complete, the emblems head to the shipping table to be inspected for quality and count. The average 45 UPS packages that are sent out daily can contain orders as small as one piece to as large as 100,000 pieces.

Kansas City customers may also receive a personal visit from a member of the Mills family, who drive to Kansas City on a daily basis to deliver orders and save on shipping costs.

Customer satisfaction is also high, which allows CSE to count on its repeat customer base.

"We make errors just like anybody else, but we correct those errors," Mills said. "And those are few and far between."

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