By the late seventies micrographics and digital technology began to change the way American businesses operated. These technologies tended to limit the need for paper document filing and storage. But, these technologies also opened the door to new opportunities. In 1982 the company ventured beyond corrugated file boxes and drawers for the first time. As a natural adjacency to the storage of records, the company introduced a line of German-made paper shredders under the brand name “Fellowes,” thereby broadening its scope beyond records management solutions. Then, a year later the company acquired a business making PVC (plastic) filing systems for microfiche and “floppy disks”. Both new product ranges succeeded and led to rapid expansion over the next twenty years with hundreds of new products and over 25 company acquisitions in the broad categories of business machines and computer accessories.
With this change in its product portfolio and mix, the company changed its corporate name to Fellowes Manufacturing Company, retaining “Bankers Box” as the brand for its records storage boxes and drawers. Over the next several decades, market leadership was established in “Fellowes” brand paper shredders, binding and laminating machines, computer accessories, workspace management products, and “Body Glove” mobile technology accessories, alongside its now famous brand of Bankers Box.
By the late eighties the company was growing fast, but it faced difficult challenges managing the growth. These internal challenges coincided with great change in the office products industry caused by the emergence of “big box” office products superstores. These new retailers brought on intense pressures on pricing and profitability. At this crucial time Jamie Fellowes asked his brother Peter to join him in the business partnership.
Peter, a PhD in English, had pursued a career in higher education. By his mid-forties Peter’s career had advanced from classroom professor to Academic Dean. A promising career in academia lay ahead. Nevertheless, Peter Fellowes sensed the family call and joined his brother in the business in 1989. He became company President several years later with Jamie serving as CEO. The brothers worked together effectively.
The new market of the eighties and nineties required a lower cost basis of operation to meet market pricing pressures. Initially they faced the grim task of dismantling certain structures and ways of doing business because the market had changed.
Manufacturing and distribution were once again centralized for lower cost from five regional plants to a consolidated operation in Itasca, Illinois. Leveraging the volumes of centralized manufacturing, the company began converting corrugated sheets into boxes for the first time through adoption of die-cutting, printing, folding and gluing technologies. It also ventured into wire fabrication, injection molding, and other technologies to improve quality and lower the cost of its products. It began designing and manufacturing its own paper shredders and it introduced the world’s first “personal shredder” (PS30/50) in 1990. Automation through robotic technology drove down costs in many manufacturing processes. Advantage Fellowes was introduced in 1990: a new concept in process improvement to drive higher quality and lower cost into repetitive work processes. These measures worked and the company was able to continue to grow while maintaining solid profits in spite of pricing pressures.