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K&D Graphics — A Nice Printing Racket

August 2009 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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K&D, which employs 60, started out as a commercial shop, but migrated into paperboard packaging in 2000. Its commercial and packaging clientele consist of pharmaceutical, health and beauty, automotive and telecoms. Printed products include marketing materials, labels, catalogs, publications and folding cartons.

For 2008, K&D Graphics posted sales of $10.28 million, with a lion’s share of its growth coming from the packaging side. What has really allowed that aspect of the business to explode is the company’s acquisition of a 12-color, 41˝ Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105 UV press. At 120 feet, it is easily one of the longest sheetfed offset presses in the world. The machine, which perfects six colors on both sides of the sheet in a single pass, is equipped with double in-line aqueous/UV coaters and a CutStar roll feeder.

The late 2008 acquisition is the centerpiece of a $10 million capital expenditure initiative, a veritable Heidelberg shopping spree that included a Stahlfolder TH 82 folder, an ST 450 saddlestitcher, a Diana X 135 folder/gluer, a Bobst Expertfoil 104 FR foiler/diecutting press and new Prinect Printready workflow software (along with a 3,200-square-foot second-floor expansion). The company has always primarily been a Heidelberg shop; it also operates two six-color, 40˝ Speedmaster CD 102 sheetfed presses.

The new XL 105 was a long time coming for Don Chew, who himself designed a configuration back around 2003 and sought the manufacturer to construct a machine to his specifications. Its single-pass-printing capabilities have made a world of difference for K&D, which has picked up several new accounts as a result.

“The new press allows us to do more ad agency work,” points out Montri Chew, vice president and CFO. “It has helped get us qualified with bigger agencies. Back when we just had the two Speedmaster CDs, we were told that we were too small in terms of capabilities. But the XL 105 puts us right in the ballpark. It gives us the opportunity to bid on higher-end jobs.”

K&D Graphics also finds itself competing against web offset printers for smaller-quantity web runs, according to Don Chew, because of K&D’s ability to produce better quality. The CutStar roll sheeter on the XL 105 also enables the shop to match paper pricing, keeping costs down.

The addition of Artios-CAD structural design software for packaging design will further enhance K&D’s growth plans, which also include digital printing capabilities. However, the company’s founder prefers a slow and measured approach to growth.

“Sales numbers mean nothing,” Don Chew states. “The bottom line: If you can make your payments and live comfortably, that’s what you should want. Don’t be so eager to be rich and pretty. To be a rich man in printing...that’s history. 

“We don’t spend our money on big houses, cars, boats,” he adds. “Our whole family is committed, and we put everything back into the company.”

Operating in the commercial theater in Southern California gives Chew a front-row seat for the unpleasant sport of commodity pricing. He refuses to sell below cost, choosing to find new ways to become the low-cost provider without sacrificing quality or service. Now, with the new 12-color Speedmaster XL 105 and the two six-color CD 102s, the printer is able to accomplish more work in less time.

“Servicing customers with rush jobs is one of our specialties,” Montri Chew notes. “Our pressroom capacity enables us to leave time slots open, even when there’s a peak load. We have a reputation in the market for consistent quality, the best service and not being late on jobs. We’re among the cheapest price-wise because we run our operation very lean.” 

Speaking of lean operations, Bebe’s Cafe—the in-house Thai fusion eatery—keeps the Chews from indulging in fast food. Employees get a 25 percent discount off their meals, while print customers and the general public also patronize the restaurant. Pad Thai is the top dish, according to Don Chew, followed by chicken yellow curry and that famous Thai ice cream.

“We work hard, we play, we eat and then we go home,” Don Chew remarks. “We absolutely love it here.” PI


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