Celebrating 80 years of Serving the Industry


Graymills’ Dedication to Innovation, Quality, and Performance is stronger than ever

Graymills 80 Year Anniversary Logo

Far fewer companies are experiencing major milestone anniversaries today than ever before. According to McKinsey & Company, the average lifespan of a company listed in the S&P 500 has shrunk to just 15 years, compared to 67 years in the 1920s. The rate of change in the printed packaging industry continues to accelerate at a rapid pace and the ability of suppliers to effectively innovate to meet the shifting requirements of printers and converters is critical.

In 1939 Graymills was founded in Chicago by John Gray and Lloyd Mills, who recognized the need for specialized pumps for machine tool coolants. World War II drastically changed the industry as plants that had previously been supplying consumer goods were required to rapidly re-tool for wartime production; machine tools had to cut, shape and form metal faster and with greater precision. Following the war, Graymills expanded into the parts-washing sector and in the 1950s, Ray Hollis, the new owner of the company worked in conjunction with Sun Chemical to adapt a pump that would ultimately alter the course of the flexographic printing industry.

When the Shields Family purchased Graymills in 1980, the North American flexographic industry was about to enter a decade-long phase of double-digit growth. Pressure sensitive was rapidly capturing glue-applied market share as consumer packaged goods companies recognized the total applied cost and performance advantages of a self-adhesive label. As the label industry shifted from sheet-fed to roll-to-roll press systems, label-converting pioneers were figuring out how to raise the quality levels of flexo to compete with gravure, letterpress and offset. In the flexible packaging sector, flexo advancements enabled the print process to steadily capture gravure market share as wide web converters increasingly sought a more flexible and cost-effective long-run solution.

During the decades of the eighties and nineties, flexographers had to control their print process’ single most critical variable in order to achieve consistent quality and job-to-job repeatability and that variable was the ink. Graymills’ precision-engineered ink pumps were an intrinsic part of flexo’s technical achievements during these years. When the company patented their proprietary peristaltic pump in 1995, flexo and rotogravure converters across the narrow and wide web industries were able to bring the fine art of ink laydown, color control, and job-to-job changeover speeds to an entirely new level.

Today, Graymills operates out of a new 125,000 square foot facility in the greater Chicago area. The Shields family has maintained ownership with Linda Shields as the company’s CEO and daughter Kristen appointed as president earlier this year. The company’s service and dedication to the industry remain steadfast. Graymills is a member of both the FTA and TLMI and in 2015 the company was awarded Illinois Manufacturer of the Year by the Illinois Alliance of Industry and Manufacturing (AIM). Active in three main markets – metalworking pumps, ink pumps, and parts washers – Graymills’ reputation as a supplier fiercely dedicated to its printed packaging customers across the conventional and digital production landscape is stronger than ever. The company looks forward to serving the industry for another 80 years. 

graymills streetscape

Plant on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, circa late 1940’s early 50’s

Graymills Shop Floor

This photo is the same vintage

Back To Blogs
no confusion no risk no worries