As part of Print+Promo’s ongoing feature, Executive Perspectives, we get to know leading professionals in the print and promotional industry. This month, we interviewed Tony Heinl, president of Repacorp Inc., Tipp City, Ohio. Here, he talks about growing great connections among industry peers, remaining aware of technological advances and fostering the right talent.
How did you first get started in this industry, and what path did you take to land in your current role?
Tony Heinl: I had just graduated from The Ohio State University in 1988 when my brother, Rick Heinl, called to ask if I would like a job as a Repacorp sales representative in Columbus, Ohio. At this time, Repacorp was a distributor, thus the name Rep-A-Corp. In 1995, Repacorp became a manufacturer, and I moved to Tipp City, Ohio to help Rick run the company. This is when I became vice president of Repacorp. In 2012, Rick wanted to semi-retire and promoted me to president as he took the CEO position. I have been president of Repacorp for six years now.
How do you set goals for yourself? For your business?
TH: For myself, my goals are to have a good reputation within the industry and to cultivate great relationships. I have always tried to help our distributors with knowledge and advice and to be fair and truthful in business dealings. Also important to me is to establish a balance between work and family.
For the business, Repacorp has a board of advisers. While Rick and I look at our company from the inside, the board provides an outside look. We also listen to our distributors, who set the tone for the industry and guide us with their needs. As a result of this feedback, we heavily invest in new technology and new capabilities to keep our distributors up-to-date and competitive.
How does the economy continue to affect the industry?
TH: The economy is affecting our industry in both a good and a bad way right now. The economy is strong and thriving, which is good. Sales are good. However, raw materials are skyrocketing. We have had three material increases this year, and I’ve been told there might be another increase in the first quarter of next year. The last time we had an increase was in 2011. It’s not just face stock that is rising; core and cartons have increased, thermal transfer ribbons have increased, and the shortage of truck drivers is pushing up the cost of shipping.
What do you expect to be some of the biggest changes and challenges the industry will face?
TH: The biggest challenges that the industry faces right now are material inflation and talent. Materials keep going up with no stabilization in sight. Acquiring talent to run presses is a challenge at a time when demand continues to rise.
The biggest industry changes I see are in digital technologies. Digital is being added to flexographic presses to make hybrids that are faster, with higher resolution, and have the best of both flexo and digital capabilities. Keeping up with technology is an industry challenge.
What keeps you up at night?
TH: What keeps me up at night is talent. It is very hard to get people to run presses. There is a shortage of flexographic press operators at a time when demand continues to increase. If we can’t find an experienced operator, we get a person off the street and train them. It takes years to become a good flexographic press operator.
What is the most exciting, cutting-edge thing your company is doing right now? Why?
TH: The most cutting-edge and exciting thing Repacorp is doing now is digital. We now have seven digital presses and laser cutters. [Recently,] we purchased the latest and greatest—which is an even faster press with higher resolution. We have multiple types of digital presses, from toner based to inkjet, wide to narrow widths.
Weekly, we have at least one customer calling us because their supplier’s digital press or laser cutter is down and they can’t get product out the door. Having multiple digital presses and laser cutters is crucial. We have found that multiple presses allow us to service our customers with multiple backups in case one press is down for service.
Repacorp also has five cutting-edge RFID presses. Two years ago, we got into shrink sleeves, both digital and flexo. This year, Repacorp bought equipment that got us into flexible packaging. Driven by feedback from our distributors, Repacorp now offers a full spectrum of labeling solutions: labels and tags, shrink sleeves and flexible packaging.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
TH: When I went to trade shows with my brother Rick, people used to ask if I was his son. Rick is 10 years older than I am, but that didn’t stop Rick from having a few choice words for them. Now, I am going to trade shows with Rick’s kids. People are asking me if I am their father. I know how Rick felt.