This Brooklyn-based company has been coming up with solutions for office organization for nearly a century. Marianne Sullivan looks at how this family-owned business is thriving even as the paperless office takes root.
Since the time people began working in offices and needing paper on which to keep records, there has been a need for filing systems. For more than 80 years, Gussco Manufacturing has been making office products to keep American businesses organized. Its Transfile® storage cases, manila, pressboard and partition folders, and index cards, have become familiar items in offices across the country.
From the time Irving Kremsdorf first set up shop in lower Manhattan in 1918, the company has been churning out these office supplies. Kremsdorf left the Royal Paper Co. and started Gussco with a $400 loan from his mother-in-law. It first operated under the name Guide System & Supply Company, converting paper into filing products. In the early 1930s its line of corrugated storage files sold under the trademark name Transfile® was introduced. As one of the company’s oldest products, the Transfile® archival storage file system is still one of the most popular and has become the standard of quality in accessible transfer cases. Made of super rugged corrugated fiberboard with a steel stacking system that lasts for years, Transfile has easy open drawers and is available in a variety of sizes.
Following the introduction of Transfile, a line of record keeping books was added, and Kremsdorf’s company was off and running as a major supplier to the growing number of New York City businesses.
The company can also lay claim to helping nurture the work ethic of a young politician: An early newspaper photo from the 1930s shows a future New York City Mayor Abraham Beame, as well as his brother, employed at the company. The pair’s father, Philip, apparently had worked there his entire career.
Gussco now manufactures more than 1,000 stock items and prides itself on its ability to accommodate special orders to fit customer specifications.
The company moved to its current location in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn in 1967 as business continued to grow. It now has 180,000 square feet of manufacturing space at this site and three years ago acquired another facility in Garfield, N.J. Today, Irving’s grandson, Joel, is the president of the company, which is still family owned and operated and now has more than 250 employees.
Following the trends
Office filing requirements have become a lot more complicated than they used to be. Continuing changes in office technology have created new needs for new filing products. Here are five important trends that Gussco has addressed in developing new products:
Significantly more data has become available as personal computers have become more powerful, more versatile and have found their way to more desks. While much of the data is stored electronically, a tremendous amount is being printed out.
More and more software has become available for desktop publishing. Desktop publishing has become easier for people to understand and more people in more offices have become involved in using it.
E-mail is in wide use and a surprising number of people actually print out important e-mail correspondence and file it with other correspondence forms and data. There are more charts, graphs and spreadsheets to look at and distribute.
The costs of laser printers and office and personal copiers and scanners have continued to decline resulting in more machines producing more paper that often needs to be filed.
Computer paper and traditional data binders have declined in importance as more and more personal computers and laser printers fill the nation’s offices. Reports and presentations are being printed on plain paper and are more widely distributed.
These trends have resulted in a noticeable increase in the sales of various types of binders and classification folders. This increase has come about as people in offices have had to seek new, more efficient ways to file and carry printed data. Hanging folder-filing systems are still the filing method of choice for most offices. It is only natural to integrate these new files into hanging file systems, creating a definite need for new types of hanging folders to accommodate new types of data being produced every day in virtually every office.
New products fill demand
New from Gussco are its hanging partition folders, already considered vital parts of many organization systems; these can be used to bind printouts and organize documents. These strong pressboard hanging folders feature six filing sections, retractable hangers, kraft dividers, each with metal fasteners and tab tops to make it easier to identify the sections. “We developed these as a way to expand the use of current hanging folder files,” said Vice President of Sales and Marketing Alan Snider, who noted that as the laser printer and PC have become popular, reports derived from these have precipitated the need for a change in the way paperwork is filed and organized.
In June, Gussco released a new manila file folder product using paper produced by the International Paper Company. These folders are made from paper that is water-and paper-cut resistant – International Paper’s WaterShed ® and CutLess ® brands – features which have been specially formulated into an 11-point manila stock, designed to resist water and to supply smooth cut edges that will protect against paper cuts.
Also new in the Gussco lineup are files that can be used in conjunction with hanging drawer files. These include report binders, as well as a file that is actually an open pocket that can be used for putting away catalogs and special project packets that may be especially thick. Another product introduced by Gussco integrates electronic and paper media together, so that both can be contained in the same folder.
In addition, the company created a line of custom expanding wallets called DesignerPak®, intended for promotion packaging for anything from conferences to media kits. These wallets keep contents safe, organized and easy to access. Customers have many options for designing their own product in this line; they specify the material, colors and sizes to ensure their presentation is exactly what they want. Gussco offers custom printing and finishing for these filing solutions, including embossing, foil stamping, silk screening and special die cuts.
Overall, the new products “are variations on an old theme,” noted Snider, meaning that the company has offered these products for years, but saw the need to enhance them with additional features to satisfy modern office needs.
Custom-made filing products, such as DesignerPak, are an important part of Gussco’s overall business. Gussco offers a wide variety of materials, specialty printing on any side of a cover, tab and tab inset, consecutive numbering and complete typesetting services; these specially designed products are made to handle specific filing needs. Customization helps clients increase productivity, because they are able to find needed information faster, organize files better and identify files at a glance, Snider said. These customized solutions, which include specialty printing and indexes, can be delivered in as little as two weeks.
“In excess of 20 percent of our business is devoted to custom made items, such as proprietary file folders made to accommodate a company’s specific record management needs. These files would be designed and printed a certain way, be a certain size and come in different varieties, all specifically for the end user, such as a law firm,” Snider said, adding that Gussco is a niche company, supplying a specific segment of the business, by providing better, faster service than the larger competitors, most of whom are many times larger than Gussco.
While Gussco has been growing all along, business has really picked up over the past five years, said Snider. The company, he explained, is able to keep expanding by placing its items in major catalogues and developing its nationwide distribution network selling through wholesalers, retailers, contract stationers and specialty dealers. Its strength lies in the service it provides to its dealers. Having such a strong presence in the specialty folder market has helped Gussco continue to grow even in bad economic times, said Snider. “There is room for us to grow no matter how the economy is and what forces shape it.”
In fact, Snider is betting that demand for paper filing products will remain strong even as the idea of a “paperless office” continues to take hold.
“As technology changes, we look to fill the voids that are created by these changes,” said Snider, noting that such changes in the office environment include the use of discs and CDs. “Those need to be filed along with paper to create a complete file. Offices need products that integrate these things efficiently.”
In fact, such new high-tech arrivals to the office environment often reinforce the need for paper backup, thanks to bugs and viruses. “The volume of information created by faster computers has created a need for people to keep more paper, and there will still be a need for paper filing systems for some time to come,” he said. “People need to be able to keep files and retrieve them in a way they can always depend on.”
Gussco currently is set on expanding out of the general office product/dealer market and commodity stock product business and creating more products for specialized uses, Snider notes. “We are in business to develop and sell products that aid in the productive filing and retrieval of important information from files,” he says. “We work to develop filing systems and products that will better serve current and future users.”