Sault company ramps up production with new equipment

New on-demand printing capability

Three people stand in front of the new printing equipment showing off newly printed apparel in their hands.

Eric Sommers, Production Controller (left), Sadie Werner, Direct to Garment Operator (middle), and Sherry Berlinghoff, Owner of SK Group (right), proudly show some of the garments that they have printed with their new equipment.

Sherry Berlinghoff has been in the clothing and apparel printing business for 29 years. With her sights set on being a one-stop shop for all forms of apparel, as well as signs and promotional items, the owner of SK Group in Sault Ste. Marie is excited about the growth potential that her new direct-to-garment machine presents for her primary line of business.

Purchased with the assistance of a Jobs and Growth Fund loan through the Federal Economic Development Agency in Northern Ontario, the state-of-the-art equipment uses inkjet printing technology to send full colour designs directly from a computer to a digital printer with a garment loaded into it.

The addition of the direct-to-garment machine gives Sherry’s team the ability to choose the best production method for the garment and design.

“We can dedicate our screen press to do large jobs and not have to stop to do smaller jobs,” explains Sherry Berlinghoff, Owner, SK Group Inc. “Our production levels in our screen print area have increased because we don’t have to worry about stopping and putting on another time-sensitive job.”

In addition, the new equipment makes it easy to accommodate different sizes because the computer simply adjusts the size of the logo or design. As a result, Sherry says the company is better able to meet client requests for on-demand printing with a quick turnaround time.  Orders that used to take two weeks to fill, now average three days.

The equipment was delivered in the summer of 2022 and was up and running by November following utility upgrades and the delivery of a companion dryer. SK Group’s production controller says training and a staff commitment to learn how the machine works is paying off.

Overseeing production at SK Group

Sherry Berlinghoff, owner of SK Group, leans on a partition wall overlooking the production floor below.

Sherry Berlinghoff is all smiles about her company’s increase in business.

“Every week we bring more work into the shop,” states Eric Sommers, Production Controller, SK Group. “The direct-to-garment machine, coupled with the shop’s new management software that was installed just before the pandemic hit, has enabled us to take advantage of the surge in online shopping as a result of COVID-19. Those timely changes have worked in our favour.“

Sherry credits the repayment terms of the FedNor loan with helping her succeed by giving her the time she needs to ramp up production before payments begin.

As of July 2023, Sherry had hired four production/warehouse support people and will soon need more equipment operators bringing her total number of employees to 19.

"That’s where we’re headed,” confides Sherry. We’ve got the equipment, processes, demand and the work. The more work that we secure, the more it allows us to grow. And growth would be a second shift. Whether it would be an additional 4, 6 or 8-hour shift will depend on the type of contracts that we have."

FedNor invested $26.6 million through the Jobs and Growth Fund to help businesses like SK Group adapt, grow and move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Learn more about FedNor’s programs and the types of initiatives it funds in support of the federal Prosperity and Growth Strategy for Northern Ontario (PGSNO).