- Associated Press
Sunday, November 22, 2020

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - Essentially, it started with staplers.

There was earlier work with photo engravings and printings (done on the third floor of the former Globe Gazette building), but things really came into focus for what is now Metalcraft in 1950 when its founder, Allen Patton, was tasked with developing an identification method for Bostitch’s staplers using metal name plates. As told by current CEO and President Steve Doerfler, they were printing company names on the staplers and there was an error made, so the solution was to print a nameplate. And, voila, Metalcraft was born.

In the meantime, its parent company, Kayenay Engraving Co., established a Webster City firm as well as Mohawk Advertising in 1955.

Seventy years after incorporation, the Mason City Globe Gazette reports that initial bit of troubleshooting has turned into a company with hundreds of products and thousands of customers spread across all 50 states and in dozens of markets worldwide.

Doerfler himself has been involved with the company in some form or fashion for 36 years. He’s been president and CEO since 2012, but got his start as a manufacturer’s rep in business with his dad repping for multiple companies including Metalcraft.

“That was about the time the barcode became a very important piece of technology,” Doerfler said. “I became enamored with Metalcraft because it was a very well-run and well-managed company at the time … To me, Metalcraft became my favorite product line to sell.”

When Doerfler did officially join the company, it was as sales manager. From there, he moved up to vice president of marketing and sales and, eventually, president and CEO.

The way Doerfler sees it, Metalcraft’s success hasn’t been creating any one product or perfecting some method but consistent tinkering. A steady push forward.

“The biggest success we’ve had to maintain 70 years goes to the innovative spirit that we’ve had really starting in the early 80s,” Doerfler acknowledged.

At that time, the innovation was based around barcodes. In the 2000s, it became “radio-frequency identification,” which allows people to read digital data stored on labels via radio waves. Where more traditional barcodes need to be in the line of sight, so-called “RFID” could be read from much farther away. Metalcraft rolled out its initial RFID product in 2005 and has been building on it since.

Moving forward, Doerfler said that Metalcraft is looking into sensor technologies to sense temperature and moisture and that its innovation team has a list of projects it’s perpetually evaluating.

And even now, 70 years later, Metalcraft is doing that evaluating and troubleshooting in Mason City. It started local and has stayed that way. Doerfler said that’s important to the company.

“This community has always been good to us. Our people are here. They like North Iowa. And we also feel that we can recruit effectively in North Iowa,” he said.

And, according to Doerfler, there isn’t any plan to go anywhere any time soon.

“I want to build for the next 100 years … If we have the mindset that we’re always building for the next generation, we’re going to be around and we’re going to be relevant in our industry.”

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