Paul Lembo and Martin Hirschmann inside New Era’s headquarters in Paterson, New Jersey

© Martin Hirschmann

New Era Converting Machinery – Organic growth in different markets

Recently, PRO Flexconvert had the unique opportunity to visit the company headquarters of New Era Converting Machinery in Paterson, New Jersey. We sat down with Paul Lembo, Executive VP at New Era, for an exclusive interview.

We meet here in Paterson, in direct vicinity to New York City, which is on the other side of the Hudson River. Mr Lembo, please introduce us to New Era Converting Machinery and its history!

Paul Lembo: The story of our company starts with the family of our President, Bob Pasquale, and my father, Frank Lembo. The two families grew up in the Paterson area together, and in the early 1990s, they got together to form New Era. Since its inception in 1992, New Era had specialised in designing and building machinery and equipment for precision coatings, laminating, embossing, and calendering.

I joined the business in 2001 when I got out of college. New Era currently has three owners – with Bob Pasquale holding 50% and my father and myself holding the other 50%.

How is your company structured today?

P. Lembo: We are a little over 100 people. We do all mechanical engineering and electrical engineering tasks on our own. We have roughly 20 mechanical engineers and the same number on the electrical side to support our equipment. They do all the panel layouts, the programming, factory acceptance testing – and finally, the startups.

In addition to building all of the equipment here in Paterson in one of our two facilities, we do turnkey installations of that equipment anywhere in the world.

How would you describe the philosophy of your business – and also the corporate culture that you are trying to establish for your employees?

P. Lembo: Overall, we’ve always been very customer-driven. Our goal is to make sure that, at the end of the day, we do not only sell a nice piece of equipment, but we end up with a satisfied and happy client. In my opinion, we tend to go above and beyond in terms of after-sales support and service. We always try to build a relationship and be in it for the long haul with our customers.

Very recently, we received the news that Bob Pasquale was voted into the presidency of the ARC, Association of Roll-to-Roll Converters. What does that mean to you? And why is this association work also important for New Era as a business?

P. Lembo: First of all, it’s a great accomplishment for Bob. He’s always been very involved with formerly AIMCAL and now ARC. He’s been going to their conferences and has been a part of their Board for as long as I can remember. We were already part of AIMCAL when they were still a very small organisation. We were a big supporter of them from the early days as we felt that it was a great teaching organisation. We have sent many of our employees to their various conferences over the years. They have given talks on a wide variety of different topics that are very meaningful to the industry – and that’s where we really found the value with ARC.

Right now, one of the trending topics in the converting industry is batteries and energy storage. We understand that New Era is also very active in this business?

P. Lembo: There’s obviously a lot of potential in this area! The battery market has exploded in the last few years, and we’ve been fortunate enough to get quite a bit of business related to it. The reason why I say “related” is that we haven’t been your traditional battery equipment manufacturer in that we work in all different segments of batteries. We manufacture machinery for making anode and cathode materials. We also do machinery for separator materials. Moreover, we are making a lot of machines for different periphery materials like impact absorption and insulative substrates that go into batteries. So, for us, there are a lot of different avenues in this area – and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.

That said, we remain focused on our core markets as well. We don’t want to abandon any of our existing clients or any of those other markets which have been very busy recently. For instance, New Era is very active in the aerospace industry, as well as in construction materials such as roofing, moisture barriers, and a variety of other products.

How would you characterise the current situation on the American converting market, maybe also in comparison to other markets like Europe or Asia?

P. Lembo: The American converting market has been very busy for the past five or six years. We did not see any slowdown during COVID. In fact, we grew quite a bit and were extremely busy, and we had some of our best years over the last few years. The American market has been very stable, very busy in a variety of different spaces, not just the energy space. We’ve also seen that the Canadian market has been very busy.

Going back 10 or 15 years, less than 5% of our business was in Europe. Over the last three or four years, I would say that 30% to 40% of our business has been in Europe. On the flip side, four or five years ago, probably 40% of our business was in Asia, and that market has slowed down for us considerably. That’s not to say that that market isn’t very busy, but we’ve been making a lot less equipment for Asia and a lot more equipment for Europe, Canada and the United States.

In terms of technology, do you see any trends that are in high demand right now?

P. Lembo: The controls are the main area with big technological changes. You’re seeing a lot of changes in the safety of the equipment and the devices used to make those machines safe. You’re seeing improvements in the drives and the controls for the equipment. You’re seeing changes in how people want to gather data about their equipment and also the products that they’re making.

Is AI already a big topic in your work?

P. Lembo: Yes, it is. I can’t say that we’ve really implemented much AI at this point, but it’s certainly a topic and everybody’s wondering what place it’s going to have in our industry.

What is your vision for the next years at New Era?

P. Lembo: I see New Era continuing to grow. All of our growth to date has been organic growth and I continue to see us doing that. I think our company is well positioned in a variety of really big growth sectors. We already spoke about the battery industry, and we’re in a good place there. Aerospace has been great to us as well, and Construction particularly here in the US. We do a lot of work in flat roof membranes and it is anticipated that the need for large warehouse facilities will continue to grow as well.

Moreover, we want to continue to do the right thing by our clients, continue to help our employees grow the business and bring the younger generation up so that there is a bright future for New Era – with organic growth.
New Era Converting Machinery

Caption: Paul Lembo and Martin Hirschmann inside New Era’s headquarters in Paterson, New Jersey

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