With three expansions, two acquisitions and nearly 100 employees across the nation, growth has been the major theme for Schilling Graphics Inc. as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Although the Galion-based company, 275 Gelsanliter Road, became incorporated as Schilling Advertising on Feb. 12, 1966, its roots go back to 1962 when Dave Schilling made screen printings for Christmas cards with local high school students.
Schilling would later take his business from the basement of his Galion home to the 10,000-square-feet facility on Gelsanliter Road. From there it became one of the leading producers of screens for process printing, pre-press and commercial printing.
“[Dave] was great to work with,” said Patti Murray of Galion, an employee who worked at the local business for more than 30 years. “I basically grew up here.”
Schilling Advertising became Schilling Graphics in the 1980s. Dave had started transitioning management of the company to his son, Doug Schilling, in 1988. The company saw its first expansion by adding an additional 10,000 square feet to the original building in the same year. Chief Operating Officer Pat Sabo remembered, when he started the previous year, how the company had fewer than 10 employees.
“It’s your type of small business where people had multiple jobs,” he said.
Ownership of Schilling Graphics changed hands a couple times as as a subsidiary for three corporations including Cerdec Corp. of Washington, Pa., and Ferro Corp. of Orrville. It regained independence in 2003. The company became more focused on producing screens for automotive and architectural glass after it acquired Concept 4 in Owatonna, Minn., in 2000.
Six employees now work at the Minnesota site and about 65 percent of the work done at Schilling Graphics is glass-related, Sabo said.
Automotive clients include the Crestline plant of Pittsburgh Glass Works LLC, and Viracon Inc. in Owatonna. The business also serves other industries including medical, bottling and electronic.
Schilling acquired Carter Screen Inc. in Livonia, Mich., of 2004, but its graphic services were shut down after updates were made to the Galion and Owatonna facilities.
But like other businesses, Schilling Graphics was affected by the 2008 economic recession and laid off about seven employees.
“It’s had its ups and downs because of the economy,” Sabo said. “Because we’re tied to the automotive industry.”
Schilling Graphics now employs 73 people at the Galion location bringing back more than the seven jobs lost. The company now has two shifts with employees working either from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 2:30 to 11 p.m.
“We went through a pretty good growth spurt,” Sabo said, because the company was able to pick up business from their competition that did not survive the Great Recession.
In 2010, Schilling Graphics purchased two operations in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., where it now employs seven people. Around that time, the Galion facility saw its expansion as 12,000 square feet of space was added to accommodate its digital imaging process, a time saver compared with the conventional style that’s done by hand, Sabo said.
All customer orders go directly to the Galion location, which are then delegated to other sites, he said.
Schilling creates the screen’s design, using a dark room to print them out on a film, which are kept in storage whenever customers order them. The actual screen involves a mesh, or a soft translucent material, stretched out on an aluminum frame, which gets clean in a custom machine. Layers of emulsion, or a water-based paint, are then applied — customers determine the number of layers, or thickness. The screens then go through the digital or conventional imaging process, where UV light transposes the design on the screen, the image or print, remains after an employee washes away the unexposed emulsion. The screen undergoes numerous internal processes and inspections. After a thorough final inspection for quality, the screen is then shipped to the customer.
Sabo said about 40 percent of their week involves turning orders around within 48 hours. While a majority of their competitors are mom and pop shops that are usually closer to the customer, Schilling relies on its truck fleet to compensate the fact that it may be six or seven hours away from the client, he said.
Schilling Graphics kicked off its 50th celebration with its latest expansion at the former the former Charlie’s Market building on Harding Way East, said Miranda Jones, marketing/administrative assistant. The company will also treat their employees to a Galion Graders game this season (Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers games for the Owatonna and Rancho Cucamonga employees, respectively) and have a formal celebration in October.
Sabo said the company is looking at several initiatives for the future including entering the screen market in Mexico and screen printing for wearable technology such as the Apple iWatch. ANd they’re always eyeing the opportunity to supply for the top three automakers: Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler in Detroit, he added.
A name change for the company may also be in order to avoid some common misconceptions — the most prominent one that it designs T-shirts, Sabo said. Overall, he said it doesn’t get boring during the day-to-day operations.
“Everyday is a different challenge… you learn something new,” Sabo said.
Reach Klein at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.