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Envelope Manufacturers

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Tension's Packaging & Automation division develops large-scale pharmacy automation systems, like this Linear Dispensing Unit thatdispenses pharmaceuticals.

Well over 185 billion envelopes are produced each year in the United States. More than 85 percent of these enter the mail stream to be delivered by the Postal Service. The envelope industry has about 26,000 employees.

Source: The EMA Guide to Envelopes, Envelope Manufacturers Association

Envelopes Provided Privacy and Security to Messages

Envelopes have been used throughout recorded history. As early as 2000 B.C. the Babylonians baked clay wrappers around documents for protection . In many cases, the hardened clay, called "cuneiform," was used for delivering messages . When delivered, the receiver had to break these "envelopes" with a hammer. The weight of the Babylonians' cumbersome clay envelopes soon forced the invention of envelopes made of lighter materials such as skins, leaves, and bark.

The modern envelope was created in 17th century Europe as a means to ensure that communications between merchants and nobles were kept confidential. Letter writers folded their documents and then sealed them with a spot of wax. Modern envelopes still provide privacy and security to messages. Envelopes also carry messages printed on them that can tell receivers a bit about what is inside, as well as information about who sent it and where it was sent from.

Reductions in Postage Prices Made Letter Writing More Affordable

Postage at that time was so costly that only the wealthiest could afford to use an envelope. Often, the recipient had to pay the postage. The envelope we know today were introduced in England after the introduction of postage stamps – placing the responsibility for postage on the sender. Meaningful postage rate reductions in the United States came in the 1850s, increasing the demand for envelopes and the volume of mail.

Envelopes were Hand Made

Envelopes in America were first produced by hand. Store clerks used a template blank and shoemaker’s knife to cut out a pile of envelopes. The envelopes were then gummed, except for the seal flap. When the finished envelope was sold, the user would apply sealing wax or a wafer seal to secure the envelope. Today, making envelopes by hand is an art form and people still use such envelopes for special occasions.

Mechanization Transforms the Industry

As envelopes came into more common usage in the 1850s, hand-folded envelopes gave way to machine-made envelopes. The first patent recorded for an envelope folding machine was issued to Jesse K. Park and Cornelius s. Watson in 1849. Their machine was based on the concept of a water or steam-powered cylinder (known as the plunger) that punched a sharp die through several hundred sheets of paper. Less than 10 years later the gummed envelope machine was developed. A good machine operator could make 150 envelopes in an hour. [Deeper Learning: Envelopes In The Machine Age]

In 1863, George Reay received a patent for an improvement on early machines. For years, this machine was the only successful envelope folder available. The next major advance was introduced by Ferdinand Smithe in the early 1900’s. His machine became the new industry standard and instituted mass production of envelopes. Beginning as one of the smallest of eight manufacturers, he became the major, and then the only, manufacturer of envelope machines in the United States.

Automation Responds to the Need for Different Kinds of Envelopes

The envelope folding machine remains the backbone of the industry, although its speed, capability and quality have improved dramatically. The machine applies the seal gum to the flap and folds the envelope. Attachments cut and patch windows, apply print and other functions.

The envelope industry is largely comprised of individual and family owned companies, many of which have been in business for over 75 years. They have learned to adapt to changing business requirements and most have been successful in adopting new technologies.

Industry Standards were developed in Cooperation with the Postal Service and Others

There are many kinds of envelopes, each designed to meet customer needs. The industry developed a set of basic sizes, so more efficient equipment could be designed and so customers could know what they were getting.

However, many envelopes are custom made to exacting specifications. These include requirements for being handled through the Postal Service’s high speed processing machines, and ensuring that addresses printed on envelopes can be read by electronic scanners. Envelopes also need to meet the requirements of mailers who are inserting documents into the envelopes at very high speeds. This requires constant testing and close cooperation with the Postal Service and mailing industry equipment providers, the printing industry and others. The Envelope Manufacturers Association was founded in 1911 to help the industry manage the development of these requirements.

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Maynard H. Benjamin, President & CEO, Envelope Manufacturers Association

Currently the industry is doing very well.

Thank you.

Shipments last year were up 9%.

Year-over-year value is slowly coming back after the recession, and orders are improving too.

So, our view is that the industry continues to go up and down with the economy.

As the economy improves, the fortunes of the industry improve.

We're doing what I would call more smaller orders through the plants today.

That's different, before when we ran longer orders than we did previously.

I think it's a relation to the Internet, smaller mailing lists, but more mailings than we've done before.

More speciality mailings, more mailings that have color on them or mailings that I have specific designs on the envelope.

And that's different than what we've ever done before.

We consider ourselves for the paper based communication value chain.

Which means we're part and parcel to the industry.

97% of the raw materials on an envelope are paper-based.

So the envelope is recyclable, and recoverable in the waste streams.

60% of what we produces recovered through the downstream processes that we have.

We are in 38 nations.

60% of the envelopes and packaging produced across the globe were produced by and EMA member.

So if you're getting in on your doorstep in your mailbox in 38 nations we've probably produced mostof it that's there.

We're seeing a lot of change across the globe.

A recent study by Accenture said that postal volume has fallen since 2006 by about 32% and that seems to jive with some of the statistics that we have across the globe.

We're becoming more of a blended comunity, more envelopes, more packaging, more services than ever before.

So what we're not producing in envelope volume we are producing in the breadth of products that we have.

I see the mailing industry as in a constant state of evolution today.

Mail and the Internet work closely together.

That has changed our long approach to the industry very significantly.

So today what we're doing he is working very closely with Internet providers, with mailers, and we're creating products that literally comunicate with the Web.

They know where they are.

Them envelope knows where it is.

It knows when it's in your mailbox.

And it works with other channels of communication to, in essence, get the sale, or make sure the transaction is where it is supposed to be.

Most people today still prefer to have a physical mailpiece in their hands.

70% of the people we survey tell us that.

While they may pay their bills electronically they continue to want it in paper.

We've worked with postal service for well over a hundred years, throughout history of our industry.

The envelopes we made at the turn of the century much different than the envelopes we made in the 1950s, that are much different than the envelopes we made in the 80's, and different than the envelopes we make today.

There's subtle differences in the structure and the quality of the product we manufacture today's opposed to 30 years ago.

Today we're making more products that interface with the Internet.

They contain bar codes on them, embeded graphics that enable the envelope and the Internet to work closely together as they are focused on needs of a customer.

We're developing envelopes that play commercial message, envelopes that can drive our customers, move customers to website.

We're developing envelopes that have the ability to detect contents that are there, envelopes that will interface with other Internet software to know where you are in the middle of the street, to play out a message for you, stamps that talk.

There's just a host things we're doing.

And I think the important point here is, we'll continue that process of evolution and innovation of the product as part of what we do.

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Cheryl Chapman, International Paper

My name is Cheryl Chapman, I work for International Paper.

I'm product manager for envelopes and bristles paper.

And I've been in the industry for 30 years.

Actually I started at a paper mill, met my husband there and we've been in a paper company, a paper family since then.

Well I've had the pleasure, I started over 10 years ago with the envelope industry.

And actually, when I say 30 years ago when I worked at the paper mill, we made envelope paper that time.

So really I've been working with envelope papers throughout my career on and off.

But the last 10 years I've worked with the Envelope Manufacturers Association.

I've had the pleasure of being the chairman of the MA Foundation and also the chairman of the Institute of Postal Studies.

And there's two things that we do there.

We will look for ways that we can educate the envelope group.

But also we do a lot of research.

And there's been several pieces a key research that I'm very proud of as my job for an MA Foundation chairman and at the Institute Postal Studies.

During the last decade we've done a number of job studies to get the most up-to-date information.

We use the same methodology every time.

We look at the number of jobs in the mailing industry.

And so, you know what does that mean?

It means a lot of different areas that you're looking at.

You're talking about paper production, near and dear to my heart, but you're also talking about mail production, distribution, handling, and then also the management of mail in every different company, and then the sales of goods to go through the mail stream.

We found in the last study that we did that there are 8.4 million jobs associated with the mailing industry.

So there's a very large group of jobs.

We also had 1.3 trillion dollars in sales revenue from there.

That's over 8% of the GDP.

So you can see that the mailing industry really is the backbone of the American economy.

America’s Mailing Industry