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The Gold Standard

Oct 1, 2006 12:00 AM


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Earlier this year, the National Assn. for Printing Leadership (NAPL) (Paramus, NJ) presented 20 graphic communications companies with 2005 Management Plus awards.

Management Plus allows graphic communications companies to analyze specific areas of their operations as a tool to judge individual management performance against industry standards. After completing a self-analysis, companies may choose to enter the awards competition based on their results. The Management Plus program is sponsored by AMERICAN PRINTER, MAN Roland and Compass Capital Partners.

Awards include the William K. Marrinan Hall of Fame award, as well as Gold, Silver and Merit awards. In Part I of this series, we listed all of the winning companies and spoke with Joan Davidson, president and COO of Hall of Fame winner The Sheridan Press (Hanover, PA). In Part Two, we've highlighted three Gold award winners. Here are their stories.



The fun side of print
“Fun” is a word reserved for theme parks, birthday parties and skee ball. Running a printing company usually doesn't top the list — unless you're Dick Westfall, CEO of Patented Printing Co. (Dayton, OH).

Westfall's unconventional views on printing might result from his unconventional beginnings in the industry. When he purchased Patented Printing in 1985, Westfall was a banker, not a printer. He teamed with two other bankers with plans to purchase and run several small businesses. From 1984 to 1989, the trio bought or started 16 companies, one of which was Patented Printing. One partner passed away in 1987 and the other returned to banking in 1989, leaving Westfall with 16 companies all to himself. He began to close and merge several of them.

“I picked Patented because it was the most fun of the companies we owned,” he says. “It was the first time I had ever been in a position of influence. I knew what people did not like because I had been through that a number of times. I was able to put the company into a culture — and you don't do that in a day, you do it over years — that took the things I didn't like and tried to treat my people the way I knew I liked to be treated.”

The golden rule earns a Gold award
Following the “golden rule” has worked well for Westfall. Since it was formed, the company has never lost money, and it has increased sales every year but one. Most recently, the company received its first Management Plus Gold award in its fifth year of competition, previously earning two Merits and a Silver.

“The first time we, didn't win a darn thing,” Westfall laments. “But [Mangement Plus] gave me the ability to know what good printers were doing and how I could benchmark with what those good printers did.”

Westfall was able to look at the finance area and focus on how the company needed to be better at collections and inventory turns. He notes that the difference the next year came from picking up a nugget here and there, focusing on fixing the little things.

Patented Printing is a full-service printer, offering conventional and digital printing, mailing services, fulfillment, and design and creative services. It is a three-shift operation that runs seven days a week. On the conventional side, Patented Printing is a sheetfed operation with both 40-inch and half-size presses, seven of which are Komoris. In 2001, the company added variable-data printing based on customer requests. On the digital front, it operates two Heidelberg (now Kodak) 9110s and an HP 3050. The three-shift, seven-day operation specializes in short to medium run one- to five-color work.

Westfall's company culture is a big part of what keeps Patented running so smoothly. “If you created a feeling of excellence or a standard that says, ‘This is what we're going to do,’ and on a daily, weekly, monthly basis that continues to be what you say you're going to do, then it happens,” he says. “If you start wavering, then it's going to stop happening. We've just never wavered. Our people know that's the way it is.”

‘We care about our people’
A positive company culture and focus on Patented's people has had a profound affect. The company transitioned from being a traditional sheetfed printer to a full-service provider in five years, a big change for the company's many traditional workers. “We have a lot of people who have been with us for a really long time,” says Westfall. “It's difficult for the traditional tradesperson to see technology come and worry about losing their job or adjusting to the new technology. We've been careful in this evolution to make sure that we never had technology that replaced people — we only had technology that enhanced our ability to take care of the client.”

Patented Printing prides itself on being liberal with college tuition and encourages its employees to take classes at the local junior college. It also ensures that the employees are never out of the company loop. “We work hard at trying to make sure people know where the company is going, where we are now, and what we're thinking about,” Westfall notes.

Currently, Patented Printing is in the process of making some major software acquisitions. It is looking to add a new MIS system as well as a new system in the electronic prepress department.

Acquisitions and partnerships also are on the horizon for Patented Printing, a search that began several months ago. It already has invested in a company in Windsor, Ontario, and another in Detroit. “We're just trying to add more services that we can make available to our clients,” says Westfall. Some might consider that a big step for the company to make, but then, Westfall once owned 16 companies. “From my perspective,” he notes, “it's a lot of fun.”

See www.patentedprinting.com.



Starting small but thinking big
Z3 Graphix (Lenexa, KS) might not have the lengthy history the other Management Plus winners have, but the five-year old printer already has two Management Plus awards under its belt. After winning a Silver award in last year's competition, Kelly Schoen, the company's CEO, made it a point to polish up every aspect of the judging criteria. “Our motivation was to take this program and improve our internal structure so we can achieve a higher level of success on a long-term basis,” he says. “If we won an award, that was just the icing on the cake — but our focus was on the cake.” This year, the improvements paid off with the company's first Gold award.

Finding focus
Z3 Graphix was founded in 2001 as five companies consolidated into a targeted direct and Web-based marketing support and fulfillment entity. With 35 employees and two facilities totaling 30,000 sq. ft., Schoen sees multiple advantages in the company's youth. “We're not married to any equipment, so we can really look to the marketplace to tell us where we should be, and we can be nimble enough to pursue opportunities as they're presented. Other companies might have capital and HR commitments that might not allow them to move as quickly as we can.”

The full-service printer is committed to delivering very customized pieces tailored to the specific needs of the client and developing customized delivery methods. It offers both offset and digital printing, running Heidelberg, Ryobi and Halm offset presses, and Kodak and Xerox presses on the digital side. The company has been involved in digital and fulfillment services from its inception, but it made an aggressive expansion into fulfillment in 2005 with a separate, dedicated facility.

When it comes to direct mail, versatility is a good trait to have. Typical jobs don't exist at Z3. With so much customization, the only constant is that projects will touch multiple departments and include several value-add components. “We view the printing side as the commodity,” says Schoen. The value-add components — from Web-based ordering to creative design to variable, versioned or on-demand to fulfillment — offer an opportunity for Z3 to differentiate itself. “Don't get me wrong,” Schoen adds, “we want to make sure we're driving a lot of volume to the press, but we don't want the press to be what we're selling in the marketplace.”

The magnificent seven-year plan
The greatest challenge for Z3 is maintaining growth and staying focused on the areas that will yield the best long-term results. “Because we created the business in 2001, we were small and nimble enough that we could react to a number of different opportunities,” says Schoen. “We just need to make sure we don't get too distributed with our resources and that we're focusing on growth areas.”

Some of these areas include expanding the company's high-speed digital color and mailing equipment, specifically in terms of intelligent inserting and finishing systems to cut down on product handling.

But Z3 already is looking at the long term; in seven years, the 30,00- sq.-ft., 35-empolyee company hopes to be a $20 million company. Even Schoen admits that's a pretty aggressive goal for a five-year-old, $5.7 million printer, but he is confident in tackling the challenge. “It's not all going to be a smooth climb,” he admits. “There will be some victories and some challenges. Then some more victories, and some more challenges. We're perseverant enough to know that once we overcome this challenge, there's going to be another one up the mountain — but we're going to keep climbing.”

See www.z3graphix.com.



Ink, paper & imagination
Daily Printing is a misnomer. As Daily Printing's Web site points out, the name “‘Daily Estimating Planning Coordinating Recommending Guiding Preflighting Moneysaving Scanning Trapping Impositioning Proofing Computer-to-Plate Printing Binding Diecutting Stitching Trimming Assembling Kitting Digital Shipping, Inc.,’ wouldn't fit on the business cards.”

This 24-hour, full-service commercial printer not only offers a range of prepress and postpress services, including fulfillment, but the company doesn't finish with a customer as soon as the job moves out the door. Don Bergeron, executive vice president of operations at the Plymouth, MN-based company, notes the importance in following up on what the job will be used for, how the project is going, and how the customer was able to increase sales growth.

This is Daily Printing's fifth year in the Management Plus competition. It has won two Silvers, two Merits, and this year earned its first Gold award. “At first, [the competition] was intriguing just to do it,” says Bergeron, “but as time goes by, you learn about what you're doing and what other people are doing. You can compare your results to that of others and see where you stand. It allows you to find out what you're doing right and where you can correct. NAPL does a very good job of giving out ideas and coaching you on heading in the right direction.”

Day by day
Daily Printing has come a long way from 1950, when Herbert “Hub” Daly founded the company with just one pressman. Since then, the $19 million company has grown to 115 employees and moved into a 70,000-sq.-ft. facility when it bought 13 acres of land in 1994 and developed half of it. In 1991, Hub retired and the company became employee-owned. “That is a big advantage,” says Bergeron. “We instill into each employee the idea of ownership. What they do ultimately affects the success of the company.” Employee retention also is an advantage, he says.

“We trust in employees to take it upon themselves that what they do for the customer goes a long way. As I walk through the shop and we have customer O.K.s on the press, to see the customer interacting with the press operator does a lot.”

Bergeron acknowledges that the future printers might not even be in the industry yet today, so training is an important part of company life. Current employees are offered ongoing training in new equipment, and prepress personnel take classes to learn new techniques and software. “The challenge is getting the right person,” says Bergeron. “If you need to do the training, get the training done.”

The customer is always right
“If you walked into our company, you'd think we were a Heidelberg showroom,” jokes Bergeron. Daily Printing operates a lot of Heidelberg equipment in all areas of operation. It runs to 40-inch, six-color presses and a 29-inch, six-color press, all with aqueous coaters, as well as a 40-inch, two-color press. It recently entered the digital printing arena with the installation of a Xerox iGen3 this year, and plans are in the works for joining the ranks of large-format press operators. Four years ago, the company began offering fulfillment services based on customer requests.

On the horizon, Bergeron has hopes of entering the digital and large-format markets. Since some of the newer large-format presses can run two-up 16-page signatures, Bergeron sees this as an opportunity to increase efficiency. “It's just bigger, better, faster,” he says. “It's more a value-add. We're a commercial printer, and we don't want to set aside what we do here. We have a piece of business asking us to get into it. Growing the business, that's the challenge.”

See www.dailyprinting.com.



All about Management Plus
Honoring executive excellence for more than 20 years, NAPL's (Paramus, NJ) Management Plus program helps participating graphic arts companies evaluate themselves against their peers. The two-part program requires entrants to first complete a comprehensive self-evaluation form, which requests details on the company's financial performance, internal control systems, marketing/sales plan, vendor relations, business planning, human resources, environmental concerns, quality control and community/industry affairs.

The second, optional part of the program involves submitting the results to the annual Management Plus competition. Entries are judged on how well they rate in the above areas compared to companies of similar size. Merit, Silver and Gold winners are selected based on their scores. The William K. Marrinan Hall of Fame award is bestowed on companies that have won several Management Plus awards over successive years.

In addition to the award, the Hall of Fame inductee and the top Gold award winners in each category (there are five categories based on sales volume and one for in-plant printers) will present scholarships to the graphic communications schools of their choice. The scholarships are funded by NAPL and the Management Plus sponsors.

The deadline for entering this year's competition is November 3, 2006.

For more information, see www.napl.org.


Carrie Cleaveland is assistant editor for AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at ccleaveland@americanprinter.com.