The Continuing Saga
In February 1996, Print Professional, then titled Business Forms, Labels & Systems, profiled long-run manufacturer Datatel as its “Forms Pro” of the year. At the time, Datatel, based in Monaca, Pa., generated 75 percent to 80 percent of its profits on long-run business, a significant portion of which was attributed to continuous forms. Yet, it was 12 years ago, and paper was still the norm in almost all sectors. Furthermore, we as a culture hadn’t truly been digitized: the Internet wasn’t a must-have at work or at home, nor was it considered completely reliable for information or the passage of personal credit data. But, universal usage loomed on the horizon. In short, the industry profiled in 1996 was most certainly not the industry altered by changing product demand, more affordable printing equipment and the ubiquitousness of Internet-based services.
It was, however, an industry relying on continuous forms for profit. KDM Products, Carpenterville, Ill., for example, opened its doors as a continuous forms converter seven years ago. Phoenix Data, Montgomery, Pa., was established 23 years ago as an independent, custom continuous forms manufacturer. Now, both KDM Products and Phoenix Data are witnessing the waning need for the same product. As with any story of survival of the fittest, companies specializing in forms are becoming creative about adding value, variety and vitality to their product lines to remain competitive.
“During this time, we have added custom forms, laser cut sheets, jumbo rolls, wide-format rolls, retail rolls, snap sets, pads and envelopes to our ... product mix,” said Susan Bennett, regional sales manager at KDM Products. “In KDM’s case,” she continued, “not one product line is 25 percent of sales, [and] through diversification we have been able to soften the blow of the declining continuous forms market, increase our product offering and strengthen our balance sheet.”