Frederic Printing: The Value of Human CapitalJuly 2013 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
Ask any printing company executive to talk about the strength of the firm, and he/she almost always prefaces the response with "sorry if this sounds cliche" and extols the virtues of an employee roster that is hard-working, intelligent, team-based and always willing to learn. Success, after all, is rarely achieved on the backs of those whose interest in their trade is generally waning.
Truth is, not all employee ranks are loyal and hard-working; hardly an aphorism, but perhaps the occasional reminder is necessary in order to fully appreciate those staffs that have dedicated themselves to constant improvement and innovation. A prime example of this can be found in the Denver suburb of Aurora, CO, where Frederic Printing—a Consolidated Graphics (CGX) company founded in 1878—continues to push forward backed by a workforce hell-bent on challenging itself and fortified by a parent company willing to provide the resources necessary to underscore the firm's ultimate goal of providing the latest technologies that can deliver results for Frederic's clientele.
"We've embraced the changes we have gone through and are doing something completely different today than what we were doing six months ago or a couple of years ago," notes Chris Greene, Frederic president and a 10-year veteran of the company. "Luckily, we've been able to maintain traditional operations with the workforce we already have and we're fortunate to have employees who are energized by changes and new technology. They realize there's tremendous opportunities for them to learn new things and make sure they remain vital within the company, too."
Digital, Offset Are Complementary
With nearly 200 employees operating in three Mile High City facilities, Frederic Printing is one of the biggest companies in the CGX chain. Obtained in 1994 from the fourth-generation family ownership, it is also one of the earliest acquisitions for the organization, which was founded by Joe Davis in 1985. A longtime commercial sheetfed offset shop, Frederic added digital printing eight years ago and today the offerings are complementary.
The offset and digital technologies exist harmoniously at Frederic, and Greene notes that there is still plenty of volume churning through his offset presses. That it serves a wide range of needs only augments the multi-pronged offering.
Frederic services, among others, the needs of the transactional/compliance, publishing/book manufacturing, direct marketing and multi-unit/franchise verticals. Digitally, its product arsenal features direct mail, documents, photo books and an increasing volume of data-driven personalized financial documents, while providing brochures, booklets, maps, posters and pocket folders on the offset end.
Speaking of digital, Frederic recently reaffirmed its commitment to growth with the acquisition of a second Ricoh InfoPrint 5000 inkjet web press equipped with the extended media dryer option. Its first InfoPrint 5000 was installed four years ago, and joins an HP T300 color inkjet web press and two Xerox iGen4s in a digital department that produces, on average, 100 million images per month.
According to Greene, the InfoPrint 5000 (of which Frederic was a beta site for Ricoh's new dryer technology) found its genesis through an opportunity to do short-run, high-end textbooks in the custom publishing space. The dryer provided an additional edge in being able to turn quickly on coated stocks; without the dryer, matte and gloss stocks couldn't be run through the InfoPrint.
With the dryer, Frederic is able to run a good deal of 45-lb. matte coated inkjet work for the textbook segment. It also provides an outlet to do not just 50- and 60-lb. stock destined for #10 envelopes, but 70-lb. matte and gloss stocks for four-color, variable direct mail.
The sweet spot for the InfoPrint is handling large chunks of data and transitioning from substrate to substrate. "It's been a big benefit on the four-color, variable direct mail side more than on the custom publishing side because we try to keep the publishing textbook work on the HP," Greene says. "The InfoPrint is super flexible and adaptable. We can go from running uncoated documents to four-color variable PMPs on 70-lb. matte or 70-lb. gloss to 45-lb. matte textbook."
Brett Birky, vice president of sales for Frederic Printing, notes that aside from the specific opportunity in the custom publishing niche, it was important to have the flexibility to address a variety of markets. Partnering with Ricoh was crucial, because he believes the vendor provided critical assistance each step of the way.
"It was important to have a partner like Ricoh that could support us in the transition, install the equipment and ensure it was productive," Birky says. "Not only that, but the dialog Ricoh provided with Chris, myself and the development team about emerging opportunities was pivotal. We were very focused on the book and publishing market, but we knew there would be a lot of competition in that space and we'd need to respond accordingly."
Frederic Printing was also a beta site for the HP T300; the second U.S. installation, Greene notes. That machine was chosen for its ability to print on coated stocks, and he felt honored for Frederic to serve as beta sites for both Ricoh and HP.
The digital movement came along at a fortuitous period for Frederic, given the state of the industry and the economy in general. Backed by the aggressive capex posture CGX has exhibited toward its companies that can demonstrate a need for gear, Frederic actually gained more customers and market share while competitors were fighting to keep their doors open.
Greene also stresses that not all capabilities are delivered via skids or in crates. "It's as much about people, software and internal processes as much as it's been about (output devices)," he says. "Ink on paper is still probably the easiest part of all this. What becomes more challenging is when you do something new. The question becomes, who is going to do it, and what new processes do we need to have in place? It's being smart and vigilant about those details."
Always on Lookout for Talent
Frederic Printing does its job when it comes to having the right people in place. The firm is always aggressively seeking out new talent, and Greene notes that Denver is not exactly a printing mecca, so he usually has a fairly strong sense of who's out there and who might complement the existing Frederic staff. Birky himself was recruited from a now-defunct area printer.
As food for thought, Greene points out that a printer's next critical hire might not even be drawing a paycheck in the printing industry.
"My feeling is, if you wait until you need somebody to start looking for them, then you've waited way too long," he remarks. "If you're constantly recruiting and know who's out there in the marketplace doing a good job, you're going to be able to recruit some people away from other companies or other industries. As our business keeps changing, we need to add fresh ideas, perspective and energy."
Frederic also benefits from Consolidated Graphics' Leadership Development Program, which recruits college graduates for a multi-year training program, then places them in key positions within a CGX company. In fact, about one-third of the presidents of CGX companies are graduates of the training program.
Both Greene and Birky underscore the value that comes with being a link in the CGX chain. Cross-selling opportunities enable Frederic's local clients to leverage the machinery and human resource capital of any CGX printing facility across 27 states, Canada, Europe and Asia. Plus, learning and networking opportunities such as CGX's annual emerge customer event helps keep member companies and their clients well-versed in the technology and trends driving the marketplace.
Be it the organization, the equipment or the people, Frederic Printing will always be looking for an edge to get ahead in its market, while remaining vigilant and prepared for the inevitable changes the firm will face as its product and service menu continues to evolve.
"There's not only the financial resources of Consolidated Graphics to be leveraged, but the resource engine around all the people in the network, as well," Greene concludes. "It still comes down to people and the ability to take advantage of thousands of CGX employees and hundreds of sales reps around the country who are looking into different ideas. The learning is continual. To me, how we leverage this dynamic, robust resource engine is what's most critical." PI