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Flower City Printing — Going Above and Beyond

June 2008 By Julie Greenbaum
Associate Editor
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MOST PRINTING industry folks would agree that one of the biggest problems that the industry faces today is getting the younger generation interested in the trade, and shedding the “ink under the fingernails” perception.

Rochester, NY-based Flower City Printing (FCP), one of the largest, privately held, large-format sheetfed offset printers in the United States, has gone out of its way time and again to seek solutions to the challenge, offering plant tours, workshops and even partnering with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to generate interest.

Flower City Printing has reached out to many high school and college students to show them how technology has come a long way since their parents’ and grandparents’ generation. “We have shown students that the ‘ink under the fingernails’ perception is no longer true, with the use of automatic washups and ink pumping stations,” explains Mark Ashworth, president of Flower City Printing. “Here at FCP, we are mostly computer driven, so we must continue to get young and talented people excited about this business if we are going to continue to play.”

Printing Plant Tours

This year alone, the printer has hosted three tour groups with more than 100 graphic arts students from nearby Hilton High School. One student in particular was so enthused about the tour, he plans to pursue a career in commercial printing. Today, the company has about 10 Hilton High School graduates that work in its prepress, pressroom and finishing departments.

The company also hosts Flower City Print Academy, a two-day, semi-annual seminar for clients, prospects and new employees. Participants are taught the entire production process from start to finish—tracking a job through a typical workflow. Participants also get the opportunity to attend RIT for a half-day of instruction.

“RIT has been an invaluable resource for us over the years. We have many graduates who work here, and many co-op students have passed through on their way to careers in the industry,” Ashworth points out. “RIT also has an excellent testing lab that we use in our non-conformance investigations.”

Based in Rochester—also known as the “Flower City”—since 1970, the company was founded by five partners and transitioned from a trade-like shop to a commercial printer in just six months time. In 1991, when a client needed litho labels printed, the company purchased its first large-format press, a 55˝ Planeta, which paved its way into the large-format segment.

“Many large-format printers at that time were downsizing to grasp a lot of the technology that was available specifically on 40˝ and smaller presses, such as automatic makeready stations,” recalls Bill Oliveri, president of FCP’s parent company, Flower City Group. “But our decision to upsize gave us a really nice window into the large-format arena.”

Large-format printing proved to be the right move for FCP. In 2007 alone, the company posted $55 million in sales; was ranked #117 in the PRINTING IMPRESSIONS 400; and was a recipient of a PIA/GATF 2007 Best Workplace in the Americas Award. The company currently has 292 employees, and boasts 300 active customers. To better service a national clientele, FCP maintains sales offices across the nation.

In the past two years, the printer has invested almost $7 million in an additional facility, new equipment and software. In addition, the company is in the process of installing a six-color, 73˝ MAN Roland 900XXL UV press. Other investments include an eight-color, 13˝ Nilpeter flexo press and development of a customizable Web-based ordering system called FCP SORDS. The new system has led to a 20 percent productivity improvement, tying all three plants together.

Specialized Facilities

In 2006, FCP purchased its third facility, a 150,000-square-foot kit packaging, contract packaging and fulfillment center on 19 acres of land in Rochester. The company now has more than 400,000 square feet of climate-controlled space for manufacturing, warehousing, kit packing and distribution, spread across its three facilities.

“The packing facility was essential to support our growth in the point-of-sale market. Custom kitting for our retail clients requires a large staging area, and we had outgrown the existing space,” notes Ashworth. “The additional space provides room to grow our contract packaging and fulfillment business, as well. The fulfillment services and re-packaging that we do today involve printed material, so it is a natural complement. Our clients are interested in one-stop shopping wherever possible.”

The company has both retail products and packaging products groups. The retail products group serves nationally recognized retailers and brands, and produces large, complex promotional kits with multiple varieties based on the type of store. One of the largest international shoe retailers in the world has turned to FCP over the years for its promotional signage programs and custom kit packaging needs.

The packaging products group provides primary and secondary packaging products to a variety of consumer products companies. Flower has also created a special niche in the in-home sampling market, producing dimensional mailers.

Controlling Quality

The printer implemented an in-house quality control system when a client was having difficulties getting consistent color quality with various suppliers overseas. As a result, the company now manages all digital assets, prepress and proofing in-house.

FCP currently has five MAN Roland sheetfed presses: the six-color, 73˝ Roland 900XXL UV press; a two-color, 40˝ Roland; a four-color, 36˝ Roland 700; and two six-color, 40˝ Roland 700 presses. The company also operates four KBA presses: a six-color, 55˝ 142 press; a seven-color, 64˝ 162; a six-color, 64˝ Rapida 162A; and a six-color, 42˝ Rapida 105 UV press.

Also in 2007, FCP received Chain-of-Custody certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). Oliveri has been instrumental in creating a more eco-friendly environment at Flower. For example, in 1985, the printer replaced petroleum-based inks with soy-based inks and completely eliminated the use of alcohol in press fountain solutions.

“I recognized the need for a less expensive and environmentally safer alternative to using alcohol in the printing process. We worked closely with our consumables suppliers to develop the correct balance between alcohol-free fountain solutions and inks composed of renewable resources like soy, linseed and corn, instead of petroleum oils,” says Oliveri. “In the end, we were able to still produce high-quality printing, but in a much safer environment.”

Moving forward, FCP will continue to educate students and seek ways to get them enthused about the printing industry. “If we can give back to the education process by providing additional revenues for RIT and jobs for the students, then we have helped the future of print in a small way,” Ashworth explains.

The company will also concentrate its goals in a three-year window. It plans to expand its geographic reach, and increase market share in both the retail and packaging areas; target quick-turnaround jobs; and automate wherever possible.

Ashworth feels that there is also a great opportunity to combine digital and flexography into the packaging mix to fuel the company’s growth on that side of the business.

“We’ll continue to focus on our retail end because it’s an area that touches on everything that we do well. We also have some incredibly diverse packaging customers,” concludes Ashworth. “After all, it’s our clients who took us where we are today. We will continue to listen to them as they tell us where to go next.” PI
 

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