From its 1912 origins, the Maxson Automatic Machinery Company continues its rich tradition as an Industry innovator in the design and manufacture of rotary cutting and sheet handling equipment.
Collaborating with the Erie Machine Shops of Erie, Pennsylvania, Maxson formed the Erie Lay-Boy Company based in Westerly RI. Based on Maxson’s designs, Erie Lay-Boys were built in Pennsylvania then shipped to the customer’s site to be installed. Aided by his son Julian, Maxson’s Erie Lay-Boy outfitted rotary cutters with conveying and stacking systems throughout the Paper Industry. By 1920, Louis (“Lou”) L. Matthews was assisting with the engineering designs and installations of the Erie Automatic Lay-Boys.
In 1921, Maxson Automatic Machinery Company registered “MAMCO” as the company’s trademark. To this day, customers use MAMCO and Maxson interchangeably to identify the Company.
During the 1920s, C. B. created two concepts that would revolutionize sheeter design. In July 1925, the US Patent Office awarded Maxson the first of a series of patents for a sheet feeding and stacking method and machine that permitted sheets to be conveyed in a shingled, or overlapped, fashion. This overlapping delivery system allowed rotary cutters to run at two to three times the previous speed when sheets were conveyed from cutter to piler separated by a gap. As a result of this development, for over a generation, the Erie Overlapping Delivery was an integral part of most high production sheeters.
Following up on the overlapping delivery system, Maxson received patents beginning in December 1926 for a counting and marking machine. This design mechanically monitored the number of sheets cut and at a preset count, inserted a tag into the stack of paper. The benefit of the design was a dependable, accurate method of marking reams of sheets in the skid, thereby eliminating costly hand counting. C. B. Maxson originally invented today’s tag inserter.
In 1932, Maxson Automatic Machinery Company was incorporated, ushering in the present day legal form of the company. The corporate officers were Charles Maxson, President, Julian Maxson, Vice President, Louis Matthews, Secretary and Joseph Clancy, Treasurer. These officers were also the principals of the company.
In 1939, C. B. Maxson passed away. Maxson's legacy, in addition to his founding role of the company that bears his name, is his engineering ingenuity that resulted in 18 patents involving sheet conveying and piling systems. Julian W. Maxson succeeded his father as President.
Near this time, because of demands caused by World War II, Maxson encountered difficulties in securing manufactured parts. Born of necessity, the transformation from an engineering company to an equipment manufacturer began as Maxson began machining and assembly of its designs in Westerly RI.
During the 1940s, Maxson continued to develop and improve upon methods of conveying sheeted product into well jogged stacks. In this time, Lou Matthews amassed more than a dozen patents that advanced the sheeting process. These innovations enhanced productivity (creating the ability to continually run a sheeter while off loading full skids), improved runnability on lightweight and sensitive materials (by introducing a driven overlap carriage that avoided marking the cut packet and pioneering the use of air to control sheet flow through the delivery system) and insured product quality (offering the first full web inspection and reject tape system).
With the end of World War II and the rebuilding of Europe, Maxson's offshore sales surged and in 1946, the company built a new engineering and manufacturing facility in Westerly that would ultimately double in size.
In 1950, Lou Matthews' son joined Maxson. A freshly minted mechanical engineer from the University of Rhode Island, Merton L. ("Mert") Matthews quickly headed up Maxson's design group. By the end of the decade, he had been awarded three patents relating to designs that increased the productivity of delivery and stacking systems.
In 1959, Julian Maxson died and was succeeded by his wife, Kathleen. As Vice President, Lou Matthews assumed responsibility for the Company's operations aided by his long time partner, Joe Clancy.
Because of Maxson's reputation for innovation, service and value, other machinery manufacturers sought to partner with Maxson in offering sheeting lines to various industries. In board mills, Langston and Maxson formed a successful association selling mill duty dual knife rotary cutters and high production, continuous delivery lay boys. In the phenolic, melamine and impregnated glass cloth industries, Egan and Maxson worked together to provide inline sheeting systems for up to 20 foot long sheets. As a result of this diversification into new markets, Maxson prospered.
By the mid 1960's, Maxson had been using the motto, "There's always a touch of tomorrow in the MAMCO machines of today" for more than twenty years and doubled the size of its manufacturing facilities. Around the same time, the market began to favor sourcing a complete line from a single manufacturer, rather than integrating various makes of components to form a sheeter. This trend prompted Maxson to develop its own cutter.
Because of Maxson's long experience integrating their delivery and stacking systems with other cutter manufacturers, Maxson engineers were able to address inadequacies in existing stationary bed knife design when developing their cutter. In 1967, Maxson installed its first cutter in the market place. Maxson's advanced stationary bed knife cutter combined with its superior delivery and lay boy were well received.
The year 1970 brought stewardship changes as the childless Kathleen A. Maxson passed on. In an agreement arranged prior to Julian Maxson's death, control of Maxson passed to Lou Matthews and Joe Clancy.
Louis L. Matthews' tenure as President lasted no more than a fortnight, as he succumbed to a heart attack. Spanning over 50 years of service, Lou Matthews had patented 15 designs improving the cutting, delivery and stacking of sheeted stock. As the third employee of what became Maxson Automatic Machinery, he had participated in the evolution of an engineering firm to a manufacturer of full sheeting lines.
In a decision that would chart the Company's future, Maxson concentrated on sheeting equipment for the converters of paper, board, and specialty products. This diverse market required tailored designs for each industry, demanded user friendly sheeters that were easily maintained and provided a quick return on investment. These needs played to Maxson's strengths of engineering excellence and commitment to customer satisfaction. From envelopes, to folding cartons, to photographic films, to laminates for counter tops, Maxson distinguished itself from other manufacturers by offering sheeters that were detailed to meet the specific needs of the customer.
Maxson MSH Sheeter, Robertson Paper Box, Montville CT USA (1973)
This approach proved successful, as Maxson broadened its product lines and flourished. In 1974, Maxson built its first dual knife rotary cutter – a 300 fpm (90 mpm) line capable of sheeting up to 13 webs of 110# kraft paper in lengths up to 14 feet long. Unable to expand further at its site, in 1977 Maxson built a new facility for its sales, engineering and assembly operations. Located within a mile of the new plant, the former facility was dedicated exclusively to machining and fabrication work.
Maxson's Airport Road facility (1977)
The first half of the 1980s brought the most challenging times since the 1930s' Great Depression. With 21% inflation rates, high unemployment, and unfavorable foreign exchange the sheeter market collapsed, weakening equipment manufacturers. As most of Maxson's US competitors were forced into bankruptcy or asset mergers, Maxson deepened its commitment to the Converting Industry. During this period, Maxson began offering retrofit kits to upgrade existing equipment, designed a new class of sheeter targeted for entry level converters, providing highly customized sheeting lines for specialty applications like films and foils and introducing shaftless roll stands as a product offering.
Maxson MSH Sheeter
G. B. Goldman Paper, Philadelphia PA (1983)
In 1987, Maxson expanded its Airport Road facility more than tripling its floor space. The machining and fabrication operations were consolidated under one roof and assembly area was added. The previous year, Joseph Clancy died and Merton L. Matthews became Maxson's sixth President. Within 10 years, complete Company ownership would be transferred to the Matthews family.
The last decade of the 20th century witnessed the heaviest investment in technology and talent in Maxson's history. The Company enlarged its product line to include high speed dual knife rotary sheeters and expanded into offshore markets.
The technology of the 1980s was giving way to advances of the 1990s. Nowhere was that more apparent than in electronics. Where DC drives and relay logic once existed, Maxson introduced maintenance free AC drive technology, compact, dependable programmable logic controllers, and self diagnostic operator interfaces. Maxson launched a new stationary bed knife sheeter for the converting and printing markets that maintained ± 0.015" (± 0.381 mm) sheet length accuracy.
In 1991, an addition created new, larger spaces for the Engineering Department, outfitted with computer aided design (CAD) systems and the Sales & Marketing Department, equipped with sophisticated database programs for sales management and desktop publishing capabilities.
In 1992, Maxson sold its first high speed dual knife rotary sheeter, offering the market a compact, versatile machine that could convert either small or large orders of both paper and board grades. In quick succession, Maxson introduced to its DFK Sheeter low inertia cutting cylinders to provide high speeds on short lengths, in line cut to registration capabilities, and continual run systems that maximized production.
At the same time, Maxson aggressively pursued the export business. To meet the concerns of after sales service, Maxson partnered with component suppliers that offered global support, used metric bearings and fasteners throughout the machine design, outfitted operator controls in the Customer's native tongue, and enlarged the Customer Service Department staff to provide 24 hour a day support. In response, offshore sales swelled to a third of order intake.
To insure competitive pricing and prompt delivery schedules, in 1995 Maxson undertook a multimillion dollar capital program to modernize its machining and fabrication capacity. Over the next three years, Maxson devoted resources to computer numeric controlled (CNC) machine tools, state of the art welding equipment, computer aided manufacturing (CAM) programming, advanced painting and finishing facilities and a comprehensive job shop computer program that provided real time project status and cost information. As productivity increased, business reached historically high levels.
Despite the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, Maxson needed additional floor space to support its business. In 1998, Maxson broke ground for the largest addition of its history, doubling the size of the Airport Road plant. Although most of the space was dedicated to assembly bays and provisions for dedicated domestic and export shipments, the Engineering, Customer Service and Information Management Departments were relocated to larger offices too.
There was also a change in Company leadership. After 50 years with Maxson, Mert Matthews retired. During his career, he was granted a half dozen patents. His more recent international patents included a cutter blade adjustment that simplified knife changes, a tandem speed slowdown design that permitted higher speeds without overlapping sheets, and the Maxson Airfoil System that increased speeds by over 200 fpm (60 mpm) at the point of overlap. His stationary bed knife and dual knife rotary cutter plans continued the Maxson engineering philosophy of providing a clean, open, friendly design. During his tenure the Company expanded its facilities eightfold.
In July 2000, Joseph F. Matthews succeeded his father as President. In 1980, Joe earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Rhode Island. He joined Maxson in 1983 and was assigned the responsibility of sales and marketing. He was elected Company Secretary in 1985. In 1992 he became the Vice President of Maxson responsible for Company profit and loss. Active in the Technical Association of the Pulp & Paper Industry (TAPPI), Joe served as the Sheeting Committee Chair (1988 – 1989) and as the Finishing & Converting Division Chair (1995). In 1997, he received that Division's Leadership Award.
The new millennium brought new opportunities to Maxson. There were further consolidations among sheeter manufacturers through insolvency and asset liquidation. Maxson introduced its next generation of in line dual rotary sheeters for specialty products, while realizing greater sales in its traditional converting markets.
To better serve its overseas markets, Maxson created a sales and service subsidiary in Europe and a supply depot in the Middle East. Partnerships with sales agencies in South America, the European Community, the Near East and Pacific Rim countries have further secured Maxson as a reliable global supplier of sheeting equipment. Where appropriate, Maxson began training nationals of various sales agencies to service the locally installed base.
Maxson's ongoing success in meeting its customers' expectations is grounded in its legacy of the past – a tradition of innovative design, delivering excellent value and providing quick, responsive service.