Family-Run and Going International

By Beacon Staff

WHITEFISH – Your life is full of labels. Look around. They’re on your food, your shampoo bottles, everywhere. And there’s a chance at least one of those labels was made right here in the Flathead at Total Label USA.

In five years, Total Label has grown from a small family-run business with a handful of employees to a vast international labeling enterprise. But it’s still family-run. Only now the Farris family has quite a few more helping hands around its building, located just outside of Whitefish.

Christopher Farris, the operations manager, said Total Label’s business model requires long-term vision, with a great deal of training for each employee, so people aren’t chosen on a whim. The 45 employees at Total Label all have distinct and vital roles. Just three years ago, the company had 14 employees.

Total Label USA’s plant operations manager Christopher Farris explains how important holograms are to some of their clients and how their company provides them with the label required.

“When we take an employee on, it’s a very big thing for us,” Farris said. “It’s not just another body. We don’t need a body. We need a person. We want them to think in terms of a career.”

Farris was born into the labeling business. His father, Don, has run labeling companies since the 1970s, making a name for himself in Tennessee. But five years ago, Don and the rest of the crew decided to finally fulfill their long-time dream of living in Montana. So they moved and invested all of their attention in Total Label.

Today, Don still keeps a watchful eye over all facets of the Total Label business. Meanwhile, Christopher works diligently to make sure operations run smoothly and his sister, Janet Henderson, is in charge of administration. Henderson’s husband, Scott, is the company’s sales manager. The business is built on tight-knit relationships, and the result is a tight ship.

Total Label is capable of performing every task necessary in making a label. Many of their clients already have the graphic design aspects in place and only need Total Label’s production expertise. But if a client doesn’t already have established art, Total Label has a creative team of talented graphic designers and artists.

The various offices in the 60,000-square-foot facility fulfill different purposes, from graphic design to administrative paperwork to meticulous file keeping and record collecting. The room that catches the eye, however, is the large production area where employees carefully monitor the printing presses and all other steps necessary for turning an idea into a roll of labels. Strict attention to every detail is necessary, Christopher Farris said. Written in big letters on a wall is the mantra: “Success Is Our Motto!”

Pressman Zach Purdy checks for registration, color and over all quality of labels as they fly by on the press at rates up to 70 meters per minute.

“It has to be done just right or it won’t work,” Farris said.

The company works with about 500 clients across the world, though most are located in the United States. The list of clients runs the gamut, ranging from agricultural chemical companies to wine distributors. Everyday the five Sanki letterpress printing machines, which were handmade in Osaka, Japan, pump out dozens of miles of labels of all different shapes and sizes.

“Every job is custom,” Farris said.

From the time a client places an order, Total Label can have a finished product ready to go within three days. Some labeling companies, Farris said, take up to a few weeks or more. While most labeling companies use flexography printing, Farris said Total Label uses letterpress, a method that is more popular in Asia and Europe than in the U.S. Farris said the results are crisper. The process is complicated, but after extensive training, all of the Total Label production workers are comfortable with their roles.

“This is the newest technology,” Farris said. “It’s very cool how it works.”

Philip Howeth in quality control walks towards a press to check a run of labels in the Total Label USA’s Whitefish plant.

Though most people take for granted the labels that provide pertinent information about products, Farris is still impressed, after all of these years in the labeling business, by the important role his profession plays in people’s daily lives.

“Everything has to be labeled,” Farris said. “A bottle of shampoo is not a bottle of shampoo without that label.”

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.