Invest in Your Plant's Future Today With New Technology
Hailed as the father of modern American shipbuilding, Henry J. Kaiser rose to and sustained prominence by adhering to his belief that everyone should “Taste the relish to be found in competition—in having put forth the best within you.” Printing, as John Shanley, president of Labels West Inc., Woodinville, Wash., contends is “a very competitive business,” so individuals must find multiple ways to excel at their craft.
Print professionals should start by considering the technology they call upon to attract and retain clients. Print+Promo sought input from Shanley, along with Peter Flottman, vice president of production for Flottman Company Inc., Crestview Hills, Ky., learning from the figures the benefits of believing in and investing in the latest time-saving and revenue-enhancing products.
No matter the field, staying complacent is one of the biggest mistakes a company can make, as the competition is always thinking of ways to match and, subsequently, outdo the frontrunner. Therefore, any little voice that says an establishment needs to work tirelessly to thrive must become a loud advocate for that display of vigor. Having been a resounding supporter of such diligence since 1921, Flottman Company Inc. made a recent investment in its future with the installation of the Heidelberg Stahlfolder TH-82.
“We’re definitely of the opinion that this will up our game,” Flottman said of his family-owned printer’s December acquisition of the automated production machine. “It’s an investment that should pay off in many ways.”
Maintaining a strong presence in the pharmaceutical market has been a top priority for the Flottman Company team. When attending a Printing Industries of America conference roughly five years ago, Flottman, the third-generation overseer, began to contemplate how he could improve his company’s lot. He eventually came to feel the aforementioned machine could deliver amazing results—and it has, allowing Flottman Industries Inc. to expand into the consumer packaged goods, medical device and nutraceutical verticals.
“The Stahlfolder TH-82 will enable us to continue our growth across all production markets that utilize miniature printed and folded inserts,” the legacy carrier said, adding, “We will be able to do all the folds we previously provided with increased efficiency and add to our portfolio new fold patterns that will enhance our product offering. This is a move for our company that will benefit our partners immediately and for years to come.”
An accompanying release concerning the purchase dubs the InterTech Technology Award-winning item “a unique and versatile, high-speed folding machine boasting hundreds of fold configurations, including parallel, right angle and gate folds,” and states that its automation process “will enable reduced setup times, precise computer patterned designs and repetitive high-capacity outputs.” That estimation makes Flottman happy, as it backs his position that if businesses do not aspire to be on the leading edge, they will find themselves on the bleeding edge.
“I think, and this is certainly the case with us, you should look to be an industry leader and not a lagger,” he said of adapting to technological changes and adopting the feeling that they will prove beneficial to one’s growth.
Like Flottman, Shanley loves evaluating what saying “yes” to advances can do for his company. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Labels West Inc., according to its head, looks for three main benefits from its tech-centric investments, namely, increased print speeds, higher quality output and the ability to produce something that the business could not have produced with its at-the-moment technology.
“These advantages certainly contribute to our longevity and always have been a part of our business strategy,” Shanley said. “In order to compete, we must be able to do the things we do better and faster than our competitors with the best quality possible.”
He and his hires have made immense commitments to technology to stand out as printers and manufacturers of custom product labels, with an 18-month, $3.2-million commitment to expanding its resources, leading to the addition of a 10-color Mark Andy Performance Series P7 printing press; an HP Indigo WS6800 digital offset press; a Digicon Series 3 combination hot stamp; an embossing, flexo and screen press; quality control/inspection equipment; and rewind inspection units. Completing the augmentation last year, Labels West Inc. enjoyed a very productive 2017, with Shanley noting output increased by 20 percent even though the Evergreen State location did not increase its employee count.
“The result has been the ability to offer a better quality end product for the customer’s money, while at the same time producing it faster [and] with more consistency from run to run,” he said of the buys. “The P7 provides better registration consistency at higher speeds. This has allowed us to take on projects that we could not produce consistently on our older presses.”
Embrace the Benefits of Technology
Even the thought, let alone the actual implementation, of trying something new can prove intimidating. But unlike, say, a dietary change or an exercise alteration, a technology investment can have greater repercussions, thereby causing extra hesitation for executives. Despite that, Shanley will never count himself as one who believes fear should keep a company from bolstering its amenities.
“I think the primary things holding back most companies that don’t invest in new technologies are cost and risk,” he said of the predicament that many peers encounter. “These new technologies can be very expensive. The pace of change in print technology is very rapid. Many companies want to make sure a new technology is completely proven before making an investment. The problem with that philosophy is that by the time you make that investment, technology has advanced and it’s already time to invest in something new.”
“You really need to focus on continuous improvement and take the necessary steps whenever feasible,” Flottman encouraged. “If not, and if you don’t stay up-to-date, the cost to try to remain current whenever you do decide to join the crowd is going to prove daunting. Simply put, you have to be methodical in remaining relevant.”
When businesses do take the plunge, they must be keen on maximizing the new equipment’s possibilities, but they cannot, according to Flottman, truncate the learning curve for those who will handle the newfangled products. Yes, technology constantly changes, but rushing the mastery of it will likely lead to complications and completion delays; in other words, the very nuisances that printers are trying to stave off by investing in the first place.
Make the Competitive Pledge
Flottman and Shanley help to helm successful businesses, and each values the opportunity to see contemporaries make great strides in their respective endeavors. Because of that, and due to their own experiences with technological advances, they feel that print professionals must carefully evaluate not only the merits of which new devices are out there, but also how one’s business can make practical use of said tools.
“My advice would be to make sure and understand what it is [that] you are trying to achieve with an investment in new technology,” Shanley offered. “There is no reason to buy the latest and greatest machine if it isn’t going to provide you, your customer or both with some sort of real advantage.
“[You should ask yourself] do the advantages the new technology provides align with the types of markets you serve? Will those advantages be internal? Will they benefit the customer in some tangible way? Does the investment align with your longer-term goals? Is the risk too great? An example of that would be an investment that, if it didn’t work out, might threaten the existence of your company. It’s also important to have a plan B if things don’t work out the way you plan.”
“With the TH-82, we’re not a first adopter, but we are an early one,” Flottman said of the item that will deliver additional pieces per minute at speeds upwards of 30 percent faster than before. “Because of that, we feel we’ve made a great investment because we saw the potential right away. I’d suggest that companies take a similar approach with what they’re thinking of adding.”