Kirk-Rudy Celebrates 50 Years at PRINT 17
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Kirk-Rudy Inc. (Booth 1648). The company was started in 1967 by Harry Kirk and Fred Rudy, both of whom worked for the Cheshire Corporation in Chicago, IL. Cheshire was well known in the early sixties for creating a labeling machine that would cut and glue down address labels from a mailing list printed on IBM pin-fed, continuous computer paper.
Kirk, a Czechoslovakian immigrant, worked his way up to Chief Engineer, and Rudy was involved in sales. Responsible for much of Cheshire’s early success, he developed (and patented) many time-saving features on their equipment and parts.
The success of Cheshire proved to be too much for the small, family-run operation. Soon, in-fighting began and poor management decisions were made. With news that Xerox (Booth 1302) was planning on acquiring Cheshire, Kirk decided to leave.
He was hired by Proctor & Gamble (P&G) to design a machine that would punch coupon cards that were being mailed to households, to be read by the new IBM computers, (perhaps the earliest form of collecting consumer data). IBM was currently doing that for P&G, and it was costing them a tremendous amount of money. Kirk’s design allowed P&G to produce the coupons in house, resulting in significant savings.
Then a large mailing operation in Chicago that contained a lot of Cheshire equipment caught fire and had significant damage. Kirk was hired to rebuild and repair all of their equipment. He sought the assistance of Rudy and another former employee of Cheshire, and soon had the mailing operation back in business.
One night, celebrating the completion of the project over a few beers in a local bar, Kirk discussed the idea with Rudy about starting their own company and manufacturing their own line of addressing equipment.
In August of 1967, Kirk-Rudy began operation. Their first machine was the KR201 flexographic printing unit, designed for imprinting on calendars, catalogs, and leaflets. Kirk designed a unique shuttle feeder built into the unit that fed catalogs and booklets exceptionally well. The Deluxe Corporation still operates a few of these units today.
Next, Kirk re-designed the plain paper labeler, and a heavy-duty base that included his shuttle feeder, which became the KR211 Labeling System. With all the former dealers he knew from Cheshire, it didn’t take long for Kirk-Rudy to have a global network of dealers willing to sell his equipment.
Kirk-Rudy continued to design and manufacture innovative solutions for the mailing industry. Kirk and Rudy moved their entire operation to a warmer climate, just north of Atlanta, GA. Rudy left the company in 1972. However, the mailing business was booming, both nationally and internationally. Kirk-Rudy soon became the established leader in mail equipment.
Kirk attributes his success to deciding from the beginning that they would design and manufacture just about every part they could in-house. With his background as a machinist, Kirk knew that if he could control every aspect of what goes into a machine, it would be of the very best quality and performance.
Today, that mission is carried out every day in their state-of-the-art 100,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility in Woodstock, GA, just north of Atlanta. Over 100 people design and build all of their equipment “from the ground up.”
At 89 years of age, Kirk still continues his role as an active CEO, and is on the factory floor every day, making sure his vision for better and more efficient machine solutions continues into the future.