General Binding Corp. is an Illinois company: its headquarters are in Northbrook. It has subsidiaries all over the world: 21 manufacturing plants in North and Central America, Europe, Australia, and Asia; its products are sold through dealers worldwide. 25% of its sales come from its machines; the rest is from supplies & services.
GBC was founded in 1947 by William N. Lane and two business partners when they purchased a small trade bindery in Chicago. In 1952 they opened another plant and founded GBC Canada. In the 1950's they set up the infrastructure for sales in Europe and South America. Sales in Europe were slow at first as supplies were not available, so the company built a plant in Switzerland for the purpose, in 1954. The company has had to cope with a great deal of protectionism in its time: the first example was when in 1958 the EEC established a 30 percent tariff on goods produced in Switzerland and sold throughout Europe. The company responded by building a factory in Germany, and in 1959, when labour shortages in Switzerland resulted in sharply lower production, they built another plant in England. Likewise, in the face of import restrictions, a plant was built in Australia. In 1962 a wholly-owned subsidiary was set up in Brazil, but due to political instability operations didn't start until 1971.
GBC didn't actually get into the lamination business until 1962, when they bought Virginia Laminating, and in 1969 augmented this with the Purchase of Webtron Corp. They also purchased U.S. RingBinder Corp. (still a subsidiary) in 1977. Their one serious attempt to get into other fields failed dismally: in 1978 the company started selling Northstar personal computers. But another company, IBM, also entered the ring, and as a result sales were disastrous: 500 units in 1983: the company lost money in pots. In fact, so close to the edge things became that earnings fell to $236,000 on sales of $145.7 million that year. The company bailed out in 1984.
Management also changed in 1984, and under the new CEO new products were developed, a partnership with Velobind was entered into, a combined directmail, catalog, and telemarketing marketing drive for its binding and office supplies was set up, a Ringbinder plant was set up in Singapore, an expanded product catalog named Sourcebook was created, a telemarketing centre was set up at corporate headquarters, and the next year in England, Australia, and Canada. The new Film Products Division was set up in 1989 and Loose Leaf Metals Co. was purchased. Partner Velobind was bought out in 1991. In 1993 the company purchased Bates Manufacturing Company. And as noted elsewhere, Ibico was purchased in 1998.
The company is now recognized as a market leader and has a splendid reputation. It sells laminating equipment, bookbinding machinery, shredders, "metal rings for looseleaf binders" (Ringbinder), and has developed special plastic and binding products for the desktop publishing and home-office market.
So far as laminators go, GBC has pouch laminators with throats from 9 1/2" to 12" and film thickness from 1.5 mils to 10 mils, with models that can accomodate substrates up to 1/2"; roll laminators from 12" to 27" wide (these lines are for SHO and school use); cold laminators up to 63" wide; extra width laminators from 40" to 64" (both for commercial and high-volume use). And of course, GBC has all the supplies that will be needed. (Remember also that GBC sells Ibico products).