These are the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, the home of A-B Emblem Division of Conrad Industries. A-B Emblem is one of the world’s oldest and largest manufacturers of embroidered emblems. A-B Emblem’s experience in embroidery spans four generations. In 1892, the great grandfather of Bernhard Conrad started a machine embroidery business in Plauen, Germany, center of the world’s embroidery industry and the home of the modern-day embroidery machine.
I’d like to take a few moments of your time to show you who we are and what we do. I’m Bernie Conrad, president of Conrad Industries. I’m proud of my family’s more than 90 years’ experience in this business and our involvement with more than 6,000 active accounts. We feel that the emblems we manufacture should reflect that pride.
We’re particularly proud of being chosen by NASA as their exclusive emblem contractor. It’s very exciting to know that our emblems are not only used throughout the world but in outer space as well. Now, I’d like to take you on a tour of our facilities.
Here in the design department, it is the responsibility of the sketch artist to adapt and interpret the ideas of customers into an effective emblem design. The sketch artist worked from a variety of customer-supplied ideas and source materials– from camera-ready art to very rough sketches. Once an order is received, the drawing– six times the actual size of the emblem– must be made. The designers enlarge, make precision adjustments, and draw in all the stitches to give the emblem the most desirable three-dimensional effect. Creativity and meticulous attention to detail are the key ingredients to the successful start of an emblem order here in the design department.
Pattern-making is the heart and soul of a quality emblem. It takes years of on-the-job training before a pattern-maker can cut one of the more challenging design. Both Conrads are designers and pattern-makers. It is their first love. And they spend a good portion of their time in these departments,
The pattern-maker must follow all of the directional stitching indicated by the designers, adding to those stitches’ under-layers to build the third dimension. The quantity and type of under-layers give the emblem depth– breathing life into the design. A-B’s pattern-makers understand that the customer wants raised embroidery and not flat-printing or weaving.
As the pattern-maker operates his machine, he creates a sample and punch tape. The purpose of the sample is to keep track of the pattern-maker’s progression through the maze of colors and stitches. The punch pattern, the true product of the department, will go on to operate the automatic machines.
Just as a player piano roll creates a melody of sound, the punch pattern creates a melody of color and dimension. The automatic multi-needle embroidery machine reads the punch pattern and faithfully reproduces the pattern-maker’s every command. An automatic embroidery machine is 40 to 65 feet long, 10 to 14 feet high, 8 feet wide, and has 26 tons of precision castings and machine parts, all anchored in concrete. A far cry from a woman embroidering with needle and thread but able to duplicate the most intricate embroidery designs.
A-B has an enormous capacity– approximately 20,000 needles embroidering 36 million stitches every hour, 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. And they are hard pressed to keep up with the demand. For smaller orders– from a few hundred pieces on– the colors are changed by hand. Many hands.
Large volume orders– 50,000 pieces and more– are now scheduled on A-B’s new high-speed automatic color-change embroidery machine. AB is the only major manufacturer to successfully use this equipment. As you can well imagine, these machines don’t run by themselves.
A great deal of planning and support is required. A-B processes approximately 1,500 custom orders at any given time– from the small club to Fortune’s 500. Inventories on fabric and yarns must be kept in depth. No waiting for suppliers’ lead times. It is essential if you want to satisfy the customer’s wishes through a range of 124 colors and shades.
These embroidery giants also require their share of tender, loving care. A complete machine shop, Austrian and German machinist, and a seven-man general maintenance department take care of that. After embroidery, the emblems must go through a variety of finishing, cutting, and inspecting processes.
Much of this is still good old-fashioned hand detailing. A-B feels that they must use the best tool for the job, whether that be the latest in sophisticated technology or a pair of hands. A-B was an industry leader in the use of plastic laminates to stabilize their emblems. From start to finish, the family of A-B’s employees take pride in what they do. Every employee is pleased to know that the emblems they manufacture go into every walk of life, throughout the world and beyond.
Emblems are walking, talking billboards. They carry their message wherever the wearer goes. On the front, back, or shoulder of a delivery man, they carry a company’s advertising message at a cost for exposure that no other media can compete with and to places no other media can reach.
On a policeman’s uniform, they immediately tell us the wearer’s authority. On a golf shirt, they make a statement as to our buying preferences. They graphically demonstrate to others our taste, membership, philosophy, skill, rank, and allegiance.
They can say it discreetly or loud and clear. So if you have a message that you want people to see, then you should seriously consider a most affordable emblem. Remember, nothing else gets out there and tells your story over and over again as well as an emblem.
I always appreciate the opportunity of showing people through our facility. Our sales department would like to hear from you. Nothing high pressure, just a good, honest, professional effort to assist you.