Inside the Workplace

Markem in 1951, Keene Public Library

The company Markem started in Brockton, Massachusetts in 1911. They started in the shoe industry, and used machines to print the style number and size inside of the shoes. When Markem moved to Keene, they expanded from textiles to electronics and a variety of different fields. Markem also specializes in specialty inks, printing on Advil capsules, and on M&Ms all the way to military specification inks. An example of that would be, printing on IC’s that will have electronic components that will have to meet military spectacles, or harsh environments. Markem was sold to Markem-Imaje in 2006. Markem-Imaje, is a trusted world manufacturer of product identification and traceability solutions in Keene, New Hampshire. Today, with 3,000 employees (300 engineers, 7 coding technologies, 6 research centers, and 30 subsidiaries) they produce reliable and innovative inkjet, thermal transfer, laser, as well as printing and applying label systems. Markem also reaches over 50,000 customers globally. I researched Markem by speaking to three people who worked there when the firm was under Putnam Family management as a multinational with headquarters in Keene, New Hampshire (1911 to 2006). I recorded an interview with Jackie and Tony Romero on April 13th, 2020, and with Edith Putnam on April 26th 2020, and both interviews will be deposited with the Historical Society of Cheshire County. These interviews made it apparent that the company was well respected in the community. The common phrase I would hear people say about Markem was, “It’s like a family.” This phrase stuck out to me mainly because that is a great trait for a company to have.

Markem corporate publication in 1985, Keene Public Library

“I would say the majority of my days at Markem were wonderful. I say that for many reasons. It was a good group of people that you worked with, and you did, it was that kind of development of family. There had been people there that had been there much longer then I had, but you soon became part of it, so I liked that feeling about it.”

Jacqueline Romero

Jacqueline and Antonio Romero spent some time working at Markem in the 1980s. When Mrs. Romero  started at Markem in 1983, she worked as a buyer, and then through a progression of ten years she was promoted to purchasing manager. Mr. Romero  started with Markem in 1984 as a sales representative in Orlando, Florida. He was later transferred to Atlanta. Mr. Romero was born in Spain, and in 1989, he was sent there to train Markem’s employees there.

When Tony was sent to Spain, they knew that he was from there, spoke the language, and knew the culture so they thought it would be a good opportunity to train and hire a sales force. Tony explained how the work ethic in Spain was a lot more relaxed compared to the chaos in the US. He phrased the opportunity as a “win, win” because both Markem and the Spanish customers were benefiting from his help.

“And you know of course, I already have the background from the United States, and the work ethic from the United States. But I also respected, coming from Spain, they’re more relaxed. If I have an appointment at 10 o’clock, I’ll be there 10 minutes before 10. Well in the Spanish culture, it doesn’t work that way. I will have an appointment at 10 o’clock and I may not show up until 10:30, 11 o’clock. You know, mañana. It’ll help you get more productivity out and so, they knew I was from Spain so they kinda listened. You know, he’s not a gringo. So I think that was positive for Markem and for the Spanish customers. So it was a win-win situation”

Antonio Romero
“Well, they sent me there because well first of all, they knew I was from there and I spoke the language and I knew the culture. So they open up the office, and because I knew the machines, not just from the… but from the practical point of view not just from the datasheet. So, they sent me there to train and higher a sales force. And of course, i already have the background from the United States and the work ethic from the United States.”
Antonio Romero

I also had the opportunity to talk with Edith Putnam about Markem and about the time she was there. Edith worked in human resources as a development manager. When I brought up Markem going international, she informed me that this really helped meet the demands of customers around the world. She explained to me how important it is to meet certain needs of a company around the world. Edith talks about how she would sometimes have to translate her work being in human resources. She would have to find trainers in those countries because they speak the local langauages.

“And in a way we, for example, printer code in the United States can be very different from how it’s done in other places around the world. So that opens up a whole new market. In some cases, it allows you to really meet the needs of customers outside of the US, right?”

Edith Putnam

Before Markem and Imaje combined, Imaje competed with Markem because they both had good machines. They decided to join forces and now they can compete and offer the customer with better precision. Merging these two companies was the smartest move for both of them. The combined Markem-Imaje claims to be the world’s largest provider of product identification solutions.

“You know, I think competition is always, it’s always something businesses think about. Right. So in it, I’m sure Markem did, too. So, you know, when you deal with competition, you really, it’s about knowledge, right? It’s really about understanding competition. Who is your competition? And making sure that you don’t lose your customers to the competition. So a lot of that is really just understanding who they are. And what does your customer want? What can you provide your customer? There are times when businesses have to say to a customer, “I can’t provide that to you.” Right. And there are times when it just doesn’t make good business sense for a company to be everything to everybody. So businesses have to make decisions on what they’re going to do every day. And so some of and sometimes the competition, you know, sometimes your competition picks up where you can’t provide. But that’s okay, because competition is a is a normal part of business.”
-Edith Putnam