As one of only three companies in the world with the capability, competence and equipment needed to both make the high-security, technically-sophisticated banknote paper, and also to carry out the extremely precise and demanding printing process, Crane Currency competes in a low-volume, high-value business. But it makes money, both in the production sense, as well as the financial sense.
Applying anti-counterfeiting measures to banknotes
A wealth of experience
Crane Currency is a newcomer on the banknote printing scene. Actually, that's not totally correct. In fact, the company is based on two extremely old papermaking companies, Crane & Company founded in 1801 in the USA and Tumba Bruk founded in 1755 in Sweden.
Crane, based in Dalton MA, has since 1879 been the exclusive supplier of banknote paper to the US Treasury for making the world-famous US dollar. And Tumba Bruk, located just south of Stockholm, has been making banknote paper for even longer, since its origin in 1755.
But the two ultra-old paper companies only came together in 2001 when Crane made its first international acquisition by buying Tumba from the Swedish central bank, which had decided it had better things to do than own a paper mill and printing plant. Thus, these two tradition-steeped paper companies have pooled their resources and experience to create an ultramodern banknote producer.
Paper was the main area of interest
When Crane bought the facility from the Swedish government, the main object of interest was the paper mill. There was a printing works on the site for producing Swedish banknotes but this used only about 5% of the paper from the mill. So there was a lot of paper overcapacity which was of interest to Crane as it needed more paper to supply its growing international banknote paper business. It is perhaps important to note the difference between banknotes, which are the printed currency ready to be put into circulation, and banknote paper, which is the unprinted material that is normally sold to and printed by a national bank.
In 2002, Bill Westervelt, a long-time Crane executive, came over from the US to initially run Crane AB. After evaluating the mill it was decided
to shut down PM 1 and carry out a very extensive wet end rebuild of PM 2. Westervelt also led a much-needed ramp up in sales and marketing to sell the larger volume of the paper that was available from Tumba.
Recessions are actually good for the banknote business
Crane comes to Crane
Following this, in 2007, Tim Crane, a sixth-generation member of the papermaking family and previously vice president of R&D and Security Technology, came over from the US as managing director in 2007.
"My initial aim," says Crane, "was to continue the increases in productivity which had been achieved under Bill. We also wanted to keep the paper mill running full while attempting to do more business in the high denomination area, which is higher value for us as well. The low denomination banknotes don't require as much high security technology meaning we get paid less for them, but they help keep the mill running when needed."
Following the rebuild of the paper machine, the focus was on quality and more complex grades of banknote paper. Recently, the focus has shifted to increased productivity, primarily through increasing the machine speed by 20%. And the sales of paper have been extremely good with the paper machine totally booked through 2011.
Hugh O'Brianis a paper engineer who has been covering the pulp and paper industry as a journalist for more than 20 years