Case Study: Challenge Machinery
Challenge Machinery History
Challenge Machinery has been in business for over 151 years and is now the sole U.S. manufacturer of paper cutters/guillotine cutters for the printing industry. The company dates back to 1870 when it was founded by partners, James L Lee and Paul Shniedewend, as Shniedewend & Lee. Current President Todd Huizingh discovered 150-year-old documents discussing the great Chicago fire of 1871, a year after Shniedewend & Lee opened for business. The fire completely destroyed Shniedewend & Lee’s building, but luckily, Lee was able to save important papers and equipment just before the building was completely demolished. The company was renamed Challenge Machinery Company twelve years later and moved to Grand Haven in 1903.
Huizingh explained that during this time Challenge Machinery was also a foundry that produced their cutting machines under one roof, starting with raw materials and ending with a finished product. The company stayed in Grand Haven for 99 years before moving to their current Norton Shores location in 2002.
Overcoming Challenges in an Ever-Changing Industry
As digital technology has become the norm in our daily lives, it is not surprising that the printing industry has had to adapt to survive. According to IBISWorld, “The Printing industry’s long-term struggles are expected to continue over the four years to 2026. The Printing industry will likely continue to struggle as digital media replaces traditional paper products, and as a result, industry revenue is forecast to decline.” Not only has Challenge Machinery felt the disruption of the economy due to these technological advancements, but they have also experienced the same supply chain issues, labor shortages, COVID cases, long delay times, and inflation rates that other businesses are experiencing across the world.
Despite these conditions, Challenge Machinery has continued to persevere despite the ever-changing economy. “We have looked for areas within the printing industry that are growing, and have found success with small run book productions, copy centers, Amazon, and much more,” Huizingh explains. The printing industry has gone from large quantity traditional offset printing to small run digital printing, and this has created new opportunities for Challenge Machinery. Their equipment is well-suited for the digital printing sector, and the company now outsources parts domestically and locally, and assemblies when needed in order to keep up with volume.
Sustaining a Reputation as an Innovator
Challenge Machinery continues to be recognized as an innovator in their industry, developing new print finishing processes for both traditional and digital applications. “We have been able to establish our reputation as a manufacturer of the highest quality products in our industry that backs them with stellar service and technical support,” Huizingh adds. “This would not be possible without our employees. We have been blessed with a wonderful team that takes pride in their work in order for us to succeed.”
As we’ve seen demonstrated by Challenge Machinery, adaptability is a prerequisite for success. Opportunities are always present, it’s simply a matter of how you view the problems and challenges you’re facing. If you’d like help with navigating through these adversities, feel free to contact Greater Muskegon Economic Development at [email protected].