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Fineline Printing Group : Living the American Dream

October 2009 By Cheryl Adams
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QUALITY PRODUCT? Check. Excellent customer service? Check. Extensive capabilities? Check. Technology leader? Check. Sustainable operation? Check.

Financially solid company? Check. Profitable even in the wake of an economically devastating 2008 and 2009? Check plus.

Indianapolis-based Fineline Printing Group has grown each and every year since its founding in 1981, in spite of various challenges, including the current financial markets crash that has spiralled the nation (if not the world) into an economic tailspin.

But, it comes as no surprise to those who know him that Richard Miller—a native of Argentina, who moved to the United States when he was only 16—ended up epitomizing the American Dream. Starting the company with $13,000 in savings, a small SBA loan and his strong sales aptitude, Miller has spent the past 28 years building up his beloved commercial printing business in Indianapolis.

Today, Fineline is located in a 56,000-square-foot facility, has more than 50 employees and generates in excess of $12 million a year in revenues. The company boasts such notable clients as Eli Lilly, Cummins Inc. and the Indy Racing League. Capabilities include brochures, pamphlets, marketing materials, posters, business cards, etc., as well as variable data printing, wide-format, display graphics, promotional products and corporate apparel, mailing services, fulfillment and online ordering.

Sheetfed Offset Firepower

Under the leadership of Fineline's executive team—consisting of Miller, president and owner; Lisa Young, vice president of operations; Ric Miller, vice president of manufacturing; and Paul Doerfler, vice president of corporate development—the company has honed its reputation as an all-Heidelberg shop. Presses include three two-color QuickMasters; a two-color MOZP; a five-color, 20˝ Speedmaster 52 with coater; a six-color, 29˝ Speedmaster 74 with aqueous coater; a two-color, 40˝ Speedmaster 102 perfector; as well as a newer five-color, 40˝ Speedmaster CD 102 with aqueous coater and extended delivery.

Two Kodak Digimaster 9110s, a Ricoh Pro C900 color digital press and a Fuji Acuity UV flatbed printer round out the firm's digital printing capabilities. Bindery and direct mail equipment consist of a Halm envelope printing press, various Polar cutters and Stahl folders, two Böwe Bell + Howell inserters and a six-pocket Muller Martini saddlestitcher. A new arrival is an Esko Kongsberg I-cut router for sign and display finishing.

Part of the company's claim to fame is its distinction as the first lithographic printer in Indiana to be certified by the Sustainable Green Printing (SGP) Partnership—and the fourth printer in the nation to be certified by the SGP. Fineline began investigating its green habits around the time the SGP launch was announced in mid-2008, and it became a Beta site printer, providing feedback to the organization and assisting in future development of the program.

The printer has implemented numerous green initiatives, as part of the SGP program and of its own accord. For example, Fineline recycles all of its paper and cardboard waste, printing plates, used shop towels and "nearly everything that can be recycled," says Miller.

"We reuse, recycle and/or neutralize almost everything used in the printing/manufacturing process. In 2008 alone, we saved about $83,000 via our recycling efforts."

In addition to its affiliation with the SGP and its extensive recycling efforts, Fineline is also a certified EPA Green Power Partner that purchases and utilizes green energy. It also uses EcoSmart inks from Braden Sutphin. "Green printing is one of our strengths," says Miller. "The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries have also become niches, as we produce Medicaid/Medicare literature and fulfillment, as well as packaging inserts."

Fineline's growth over the last few years "has been averaging about 10 percent per year," Miller reports. "However, over the past two years—with the purchase of the most recent Speedmaster, implementation of an online ordering system, creation of a marketing department, green printing promotions and expansion into promotional products—sales growth in 2007 spiked 20 percent over the previous year. And, in 2008, despite the recession woes and our clients' printing budgets being frequently cut, sales were 15 percent over 2007," he asserts.

Still Aiming Higher

Confident that its financial growth will continue, even during what economists have described, at best, as an economically tumultuous 2009, Fineline Printing Group is aiming its sights above the current fray. Miller expects the company's next milestones to include reaching the $15 million mark (sometime in the next two or three years), expanding into the wide-format digital market, and continuing to be a printing industry leader in the areas of green and lean initiatives.

Besides investing in new technology and innovative business strategies (i.e., being green), having a strong work ethic and an "employees are assets" mentality, Fineline's success can also be attributed to Miller's sense of family values and his commitment to fostering healthy relationships company-wide.

"Employees are proud to be a part of Fineline because they feel a true bond to the company and its managers," explains Shawn Smith, the company's marketing and PR director. "Whether you're a manager or a new press worker, you know Richard Miller and call him by first name. From top to bottom, all employees want to help Fineline grow, and that's reflected in the quality of their workmanship and service."

The "living proof" that Fineline employees are committed to the company, Smith says, is the fact that the average employee has been with Fineline for about 10 years, with some having served the company for 20 years or longer. "That's dedication and experience!" he asserts.

That diligence and know-how is reflected externally, as well, and Miller believes that those traits help differentiate the company from other printers.

"One thing that distinguishes us is our level of client commitment. We almost always say 'Yes' to our customers," he explains. "If we don't have the equipment, we buy it. If it's something we have never tried, we test it and try it. As our clients' needs have grown and diversified, we have expanded our products and services to meet these needs."

The bottom line at Fineline Printing Group is the same today as it was yesterday, and it will be the same tomorrow and all the days thereafter, asserts Miller. "We will not ask for your business unless we can help you improve it. That is the company creed, and it's one that our team sticks by." PI





The graphic communications industry is facing some very serious challenges, but that doesn't mean there isn't still a lot of life and opportunity in our future. 

Competing for Print's Thriving Future focuses on how printers can create their own positive future by understanding and taking advantage of the emerging changes — the changes that are shaping the printing industry of today and tomorrow. 

Use the research, analysis, and forecasts in this book to: 
• Assess the changes taking place
• Understand the changes
• Design a plan to deal with the changes

Topics include: 
• Economic forces, life cycle, and competitive position
• Place in the national and global economies
• Industry structure, cost structure, and profitability trends
• Emerging market spaces--ancillary and print management services
• Competitive strategies, tactics, and business models
• Key practices of SuperPrinters
• Combating foreign competition
• Social network usage
• A ten-step process to survive and thrive Competing for Print’s Thriving Future

The graphic communications industry is facing some very serious challenges, but that doesn't mean there isn't still a lot of life and opportunity in our future. “Competing for Print's Thriving Future” focuses on how printers can create their own positive future by understanding and taking advantage of the  changes that...







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