Butch Schomber

Butch Schomber PictureOutside the Box

Butch Schomber Receives
2018 IADD Cutting Edge Award

For his significant achievements in finding solutions for some of the converting industry’s toughest challenges, Charles “Butch” Schomber, Global Innovation Manager of RotoMetrics, received the International Association of Diecutting and Diemaking’s 2018 Cutting Edge Award.

Schomber was selected because of his passionate and generous sharing of technical expertise and creation of innovative, industry-changing products and solutions. He has been a major influence on various technical applications, while assisting some of the largest converters and OEMs globally to solve high-level issues in the label and specialty converting segments. Over the years he has been responsible for researching and developing a number of unique products, most recently the revolutionary RotoRepel™ molecularly bonded non-stick technology, which is used as a coating for cutting tools and press components.

“He is a great example of how relationships can make each of us better and how one person can make the IADD and industry better,” said Shaun Larson of Jonco Die Co. Inc., President of the IADD.

In his service to the Association through the IADD TechTeam, Schomber consistently tackles questions about difficult-to-cut materials and reminds the leadership of the need to explore cutting methods outside of those typically found in the folding carton or corrugated markets. His willingness to share his considerable technical knowledge at educational seminars and through Odyssey Expo programs provides a valuable learning opportunity for all participants and has aided the IADD in becoming the industry’s definitive resource.

Schomber got his industry start over 40 years ago while visiting a customer who manufactured flexographic presses and cutting dies. After working for another diemaker for a dozen years and then starting a solid die manufacturing company that supplied rotary cutting dies and other industry-related products, he found himself teaming up with RotoMetrics and progressing in various roles.

Schomber advises converters who have tough challenges to “Utilize all of your resources. Surround yourselves with material experts, machine developers, process engineers, diemakers and anyone who may have input. Seek out the partners who want to help you succeed, not just sell you something. Look for new opportunities; things that you may have passed up years ago may now be possible. Change can equal growth. Sometimes you need to look ‘outside the box’ to find the path to follow.”

It’s quite fitting that it is Schomber’s ability to look outside the box which netted him this year’s IADD Cutting Edge Award. The Cutting Edge caught up with Schomber at the recent IADD Annual Meeting:

How did you get started in the industry?
While in college I worked for an aluminum supplier. One of our customers was a flexographic press and cutting die manufacturer, which at the time meant nothing to me. One afternoon I was making a delivery of material to be used for print cylinders and other press rolls. While there, I noticed a machine being built and I asked, “What is that?” They explained its use, and I was hooked. Here I am, 40 years later, and still loving my career. The little sticky label industry has become a whole new world. I never know what the next call will be about—opportunities for a medical or automotive part, components to be used for aerospace, pharma or electronics—each call can be different.

Describe your career path.
As mentioned earlier, my career started in 1978 when I was trained to operate a flexographic printing press and served as technical support for Allied Gear and Machine. My position evolved into cutting die support and sales of both tools and presses.

After 12 years, I moved on to help the growth of a small family-owned diemaker located in Kirkwood, MO, USA. We built that company from six employees to over 50, and they continue to supply the industry with rewind tables and cutting tools today.

Because of life changes, I found myself a single parent and departed that company to spend time as a father and figure things out. A couple of years later, with my children now older, I teamed up with a few friends and started a new solid die manufacturing company that supplied rotary cutting dies and other industry related products.

RotoMetrics and I then met in the late nineties and I moved my attention back to St. Louis, MO, USA and joined them as a Regional Sales Manager covering the upper Midwest. After 12 years in this role of technical sales, I was given the opportunity to focus on non-label type converting markets. It was a new focus for us, and we did very well at expanding and supporting this new opportunity.

As this role developed, I led the Specialty Converting Sales Team and served as Technical Support Team Leader for the next few years.

Now, after 20 years of being a part of great team and organization, I am proud to be serving in the role of “Global Innovation Manager” for RotoMetrics. I work with customers all over the world developing new products and solutions for new challenges.

Who were/are your role models and why?
The most important influence in my career was the gentleman who first taught me how to serve a customer. His name was Harry Haas. He taught me an important lesson—always ask the critical questions, what are you trying to accomplish and why?

There are many others in this industry that you may know. To name a few:

Randy Norman, Preco, Inc., has always been willing to help with an endless supply of knowledge and experience. Steve Lee of RotoMetrics; rotary tooling was his specialty. He is a mentor and friend. Shaun Larson, Jonco Die Co. Inc., who is always professional and always willing to answer my questions. Melvin Stanley, one of the founders of RotoMetrics; he had a passion for the industry.

Stephanie Schomber, my wife. She has taught me to be a better person and works hard keeping me reeled in when I get distracted. I am who I am because of her patience and level head.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the industry?
The easy answer is keeping up and being invited early in part design and development. Every day someone wants to make a new part. For example, a medical team has a new component that they have developed or a room full of engineers designs a new widget, if diemakers and converters could be involved at the beginning, we could add input that would assist in manufacturing. Many times drawings are submitted that could use a little tweaking. Add a radius here or increase this space by 0.01" (0.25mm); these small suggestions would allow for price, labor and cost reduction.

What do you feel are your greatest accomplishments?
• Earning the rank of Eagle Scout.
• Marrying the most beautiful, understanding and forgiving wife possible!
• Raising five wonderful children whom I am very proud of, and being the grandfather of two fantastic grandchildren.
• Earning the trust of an industry and having made countless friends in my work life. I am blessed with a career that I love and enjoy.
• Playing a role in the development of products that have influenced an industr.y
• Winning the 2018 Global Innovation Award for RotoRepel™, a nonstick coating for cutting tools and press components.
• Being awarded the 2018 Cutting Edge Award by this group as an industry influencer.

What advice would you give to someone who is just considering entering the industry?
I share with young people at trade fairs that this is one of the most exciting, fast-paced and growing industries out there. We need to get back to trade training. Support your local diecutting/printing trade school. We need operators, and they need fulfilling jobs and careers.

What is your vision for the future of our industry?
I don’t see it slowing down; as the world continues to grow, the need for labels, wound care, automotive parts and aerospace components will only expand. As the electronic industry continues to grow, more filters and components will be needed.

You seem to be a very passionate about the flexo/converting industry. After 40 years, how do you maintain your genuine excitement for this industry?
It’s simple: answer the phone! New game, new player, new challenge! What’s not to get excited about? I just wish it would slow down; I am getting old.

You’ve assisted some of the largest converters and OEMs globally to solve high-level issues. To what would you attribute your success in this area?
With over 40 years of working closely with converters, both in the label market and the specialty converting segment of the industry, I have built solid relationships with not only leading press manufacturers and material suppliers, but converters as well. I believe that the trust earned by helping converters overcome challenges and being a part of the solution plays a huge role.

Many years ago a mentor taught me that honesty and integrity will always be the most important part of success. Treat people as equals, be an interested part of the solution and don’t sell. Help customers solve their issues honestly and openly. When listening to their challenges, give advice or instruction based on facts, and don’t over promise. I have been very lucky in that regard.

At the end of the day, if I can help someone solve an issue to improve their business or develop a new product, I feel excited and can’t wait for each new opportunity. I truly enjoy going to work every day. As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress giving birth to evolution.”

What kind of relationships have you developed?
That is a very interesting question in that I know and work with many people monthly, weekly and sometimes daily that I have never met face to face. I consider them friends, I remember their marriages, their children being born and now I am working with the next generation. The amount of trust that has been shared with me over the years means a lot to me.

It is also very exciting when I meet or talk to a new contact who has gotten my name from someone inside their organization. Someone who may now be in a new role, or perhaps acts as a consultant within the industry. As we all know, this industry is not that large; everyone knows someone who knows someone. I am very proud to say that I have made numerous friends who cover a wide spectrum. This includes machine operating craftsman to engineers and medical product experts. I am very lucky to have so many industry friends, mentors and those willing to teach me.

Are there trends that you see in the industry?
From a 10,000 foot view, we all know that printing technology is going through amazing changes. Fast, quick turnaround, personalization of labeling products, all lends itself to digital opportunities. For example, we previously bought a soda, now we buy a soda with our name on it!

In diecutting, quicker, faster, less expensive will always be a driver. More and more products are being developed and new methods of manufacturing these continue to expand. Flat, rotary, laser, waterjet are all evolving and getting better. The medical and electronic markets continue to drive the need for smaller parts. Part tolerances are getting tighter, which challenges all of us continue to grow.

I do not believe that speed, accuracy and personalization will fade away; it will continue to grow our future.

What drives you to do this, and do you have any advice for converters with tough problems?
My drive comes from enjoying what I do. Every day I am invited to become part of a team to develop new and exciting opportunities. We develop solutions to challenges that could help design or manufacture tomorrow’s new project. From pharmaceutical delivery methods to aerospace parts, we never know what will come next.

My advice for converters who have tough challenges would be to utilize ALL of your resources. Surround yourselves with material experts, machine developers, process engineers, diemakers and anyone who may have input. Seek out the partners who want to help you succeed and not just sell you something. Look for new opportunities; things that you may have passed up years ago may now be possible. Change can equal growth. Sometimes you need to look “outside the box” to find the path to follow.

In the past couple years, you have been responsible for researching and developing some industry changing products, in particular the revolutionary RotoRepel™ molecularly bonded nonstick technology. What can you tell us about the process you follow to find solutions for problems that have plagued converters for decades?
The first step is to listen. People will tell you what they struggle with. Take the time to sit down and talk about it. Identify the real issue. This may not be as easy as it sounds but you need to take the time to do it.

Part ejection and slug removal or replacements are examples of challenges faced by converters, whether it was for automotive, pharma, electronic components or medical devices. As converters looked to expand into these markets, the cost for the labor to do these things by hand became an obstacle. By working closely with converters and suppliers, tools such as the pin eject die offered a solution to waste ejection. I, along with a team of engineers and converters, developed and improved this technology now offered by RotoMetrics. It is being used every day to produce parts easier, quicker and more affordable than ever.

The use of vacuum to remove parts or reposition parts is not new; my team listened, we worked closely with machine builders and converters to improve and develop tools to improve productivity. The vacuum assist anvil has recently been introduced; this new product will quickly and affordably increase slug collection reducing press down time, increase manufacturing speeds and reduce manual work stations.

In the examples of RotoRepel™ and RotoRepel™ RX, adhesives have always been a challenge. Adhesive builds up on cutting tools, transfers to other rolls or parts of the machine and contaminates finished product and rolls. Adhesive has been an everyday struggle forever. Methods to overcome or assist in solving this challenge have improved over the years. As with anything, as products were introduced, new challenges were introduced. Coatings chipped off contaminating product, or perhaps were not approved for medical applications. Dies would need to be recoated regularly to overcome wear, not only forcing converters to shut down their presses, but also causing significant waste.

RotoRepel™ was in development for years. My goal was to offer a product that would not chip and would not wear off before the die went dull. It had to be an offering that would not add to lead time and be cost competitive. It would also need to be an FDA acceptable product.

This is what the converters were asking for—quite a challenge. But I refer back to my favorite quote, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress giving birth to evolution.”

Thinking outside the box led me to discovering a process which resulted in RotoRepel™.

After years of trying new products, tweaking application processes, failing and starting over, RotoMetrics is very proud of RotoRepel™ as a nonstick offering, it is available as a FDA approved version, RotoRepel™ RX. A special thanks to all my converter friends who tested, trialed, collected data and reported feedback. They stuck with me and shared the trust that we would and could get there. Imagination and perseverance won. Our customers never gave up. RotoMetrics listened to our customers needs, and along with them we introduced RotoRepel™ and RotoRepel™ RX as a solution.

How did you get involved in IADD?
After stalking them for many years, I reached out to IADD CEO Cindy Crouse and explained that I was a rotary diecutter and would like to be a part of your group. I feel that we should and could get more rotary converters involved. She was very kind and gave me a chance.

What has your IADD participation meant to you?
Quite a bit. The passion shared within this group is unbelievable. Everyone I have met loves what they do and are always willing to share information. I am also very proud to be part of the IADD TechTeam. To be included with such a group is humbling.

See past Cutting Edge Award recipients—and other IADD honorees—here