Illinois Printers — Competition’s Fierce

Santa Claus is never too busy to pay a visit to his good little boys and girls on the second shift.

“There’s a definitive work ethic here that is pretty conducive to the printing industry,” notes Adam LeFebvre, president of Specialty Printing in Des Plaines. “But the [skilled] labor force is hard to find, especially in the press operator arena. It’s probably one of the biggest challenges in the industry today beyond the pricing issue. As people leave the industry and older workers retire, we’re competing with a lot of other industries over pay scale.”

The cost of doing business is a constant headache for printers nationally, and Illinois printers are feeling the pinch as much as anyone. Ken Field, president and CEO of Itasca-based Continental Web Press, points out that increases for consumables, energy and healthcare coverage—to name just a few—are difficult to reconcile with cost-conscious customers.

“It’s virtually impossible to increase prices,” Field remarks. As a result, we have to come up with ways to be more efficient within the manufacturing process.” To that end, Continental Web Press spent $24 million on new technology over an 18-month span in an effort to improve its production efficiencies.

When RR Donnelley is the anchor of printing for your state, it helps to have an easily recognizable point of differentiation, particularly in an area where there is equipment capacity saturation. M&A transaction activity—the roundup of companies like Banta and Perry Judd’s by Donnelley—took away two of Wisconsin’s leading printers and some believe Illinois’ fragmented market could also see more assimilation.

“Illinois, like most print markets, suffers from overcapacity in the traditional products,” states Ed Garvey, president and CEO of Niles-based The Garvey Group. “We have decided to build a unique product offering in Illinois by focusing on large-format printing. There will be more consolidation of printing companies here, but it is a very slow process.”

Ralph Johnson, president of Lake County Press in Waukegan, sees overcapacity and declining volume of work, along with pressures brought about by global expansion, as continuing for the foreseeable future.

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