Supplying critical environments with performance, cleanliness and guaranteed consistent quality.

Today, Berkshire Corporation is the global leader in developing and manufacturing products and services for the critical environments market worldwide. But in the mid-1960s, the company, literally, “started from scratch”—scratch paper, that is.

Berkshire Corporation Founder, CEO, and Vice Chairman Whitmore B. “Nick” Kelley was looking for a way to earn money for college. He picked up waste paper from a local paper mill in Western Massachusetts , and began making scratch pads. Calling his fledgling creation Berkshire Paper Company, Nick was one of the nation's earliest recyclers, taking waste that was headed to the dump and turning it into a usable product.

With the ongoing support and encouragement of his mother and stepfather, Nick started out in the basement of his home. From there, he purchased a building slated for the wrecking ball and turned it into his first manufacturing plant. There, he bought old equipment, developed new manufacturing efficiencies, and built a steady base of customers—until business was interrupted by national affairs. After a tour in Asia, he returned to Western Massachusetts to pick up where he left off with his paper business. Over time, he won back most of his former customers—from retail insurance companies to office supply stores—and branched out to provide cutting and packaging services for local paper mills. With a prime New England location near Boston and New York City , the business was quick to attract a new clientele: paper mills, paper merchants, and paper brokers throughout the eastern United States .

In the late ‘70s, the company continued to reinvent itself with a move to new materials, starting with a lint-free specialty paper for use in the emerging semiconductor market. “I received an inquiry from a national semiconductor company in Utah ,” Nick explains. “Attached to the letter was a 2x2-inch paper, accompanied by a simple request: ‘Do you make this kind of paper? If so, we want to talk to you about buying some” Berkshire didn't make the paper, but Nick set out to make it happen. Through a series of investigations and experiments with what he describes as “a derivative of teabag paper,” he created a low-lint paper expressly designed to reduce microcontamination. Labeled “Labx,” the product was packaged with the Berkshire brand name, and a new direction was launched.

Armed with nothing more than a phone book in the front seat of a rental car, Nick traveled around Silicon Valley in California , showing his samples from door to door. By the time he returned to the Berkshires, he had half a million dollars worth of orders. Eventually, the company started its own lab, developing standardized testing methods for cleanroom disposable materials and comprehensive quality assurance. In 1995, Berkshire Corporation’s Quality Management System received registration to the ISO9000 Standard, the globally recognized quality management system standard developed by the International Organization of Standardization. Since then, the company has launched a Lean Manufacturing training initiative, and employees participate in ongoing Six Sigma training focused on improving operational performance.

“The key attribute in business is innovation,” says Nick, “coupled with the drive for continuous improvement—and the integrity that keeps innovation and drive on track.” Today's Berkshire Corporation demonstrates just how well his formula for success is working. Over the past two decades, Berkshire has expanded its business overseas, with manufacturing and strategic sourcing operations in the US, Europe, and Asia, and sales offices throughout the US, UK, France, Japan, Singapore, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Mexico, and Hong Kong . The company now has over 160 employees and 30 product lines, from wiping materials to lens tissues, face masks to glove liners. Beyond the semiconductor market, key customers include the biotech and pharmaceutical industries—highly regulated industries with special needs for aseptic processing.

Although Berkshire is a privately held company, it is governed by an outside, independent board of directors. “Our directors ensure our company is guided objectively, with keen business insights and solid judgment,” says Nick. Board members' blended expertise reflects an array of backgrounds, from manufacturing to publishing, investment banking to business consulting.

“Since our start in the ‘60s, our company has thrived on a culture of courtesy,” Nick explains. “This principle has engendered an operating style that promotes respect and trust—the basis of all the relationships we so deeply value. We take pride in our loyal and long-standing [business] relationships, among our employees and with our suppliers and customers throughout the world.”  




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