|From a Coffee Filter to an International Company|
Simple Solution to a Complex Problem
And Now . . .
From a Coffee Filter to an International Company
Here's how it happened --
In 1994, MicroPatent, NEATO's former parent company, began publishing customized patent and trademark information on CD-ROMs for their clients. Later, a few customers wanted a large number of different CDs. We realized there was no cost-effective, professional way to place labels on short production runs of the discs.
A scan of the market provided three options:
- buy a $3,000 screen printer that required special drives and printers;
- use a standard address label, which could throw off the balance of the disc;
- handwrite on the discs with a marker pen, which looks unprofessional and could damage the disc and data through the corrosive action of the ink.
None of the options were very appealing. Knowing there had to be a better way, we set about to find it.
Simple Solution to a Complex Problem
While looking for our solution, we drew up a list of criteria we would need:
- high quality die-cut labels that fit perfectly on the disc
- special software that would only print in the label area
- templates for changing from one label design format to another
- a centering device
We learned how important precise centering of the disk was to the proper operation of the CD and that the label material and adhesive must be "right." The labels took some research and testing, and after that, the templates were a cinch. But the centering device, now therein lies some "Yankee Ingenuity." (This is an American phrase referring to how smart we are in this part of the US. Not everyone will agree.)
The closest circular platform device to be found was a Mr. Coffee filter base. (Mr. Coffee pioneered the home coffee making machine in the US.) We found a round metal disc and drilled a hole to match precisely the diameter of a bob, similar to a spinning top, which would hold the CD to be labeled. By placing the metal disc (simulating the label) on the filter base and then lowering the CD-toting bob through the hole, the label was applied perfectly every time. Both visitors and staff watched in awe as the production crew labeled thousands of discs with this simple, non-technical device. All together they exclaimed "Neat!" or "NEATO!" with the flawless production of each disc. NEATO had been born and named at once! Over 40,000 CDs were labeled using this rudimentary coffee filter-version.
NEATO's good idea has attracted a lot of emulation. We've been copied many times ... some competitors turn our dowel upside down, some have added a spring, one even uses their box as a substitute for our base. We support too many lawyers protecting our rights but in the end, there's no way to apply a CD label that can compare to the accuracy, speed and low cost of the ORIGINAL NEATO.
and Now . . .
NEATO now offers a complete line of labels and packaging for most popular electronic media. We have become much more of a technology company to meet the new wave of opportunity - photo quality color from ink jet printers. Our high quality materials are more important than ever for producing consistent results from these printers. For many customers, our products are being re-defined as professional quality, short-run packaging.
The future looks as exciting as our beginnings. But the simple device that was designed to make a company's products look better will always have a special place in our hearts. You can stomp it, press it, gizmo it, or stick it, but its just not a NEATO.
It's been an amazing journey - born in the production department, patented in over 20 countries, used on tens of millions of CD's throughout the world and the foundation of a line of products that empowers other small businesses to better compete with larger companies. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve you.