Lithocraft Co. : UV Cures Need for GrowthApril 2012 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
Southern California, perhaps as much as any region in the country, can be brutal on printers looking to grow and thrive. It has claimed many casualties in the past 10 years, including some rather large concerns that could not sustain their rapid expansion and eventually burned out or merged with other firms. For those who remain, it is a hotly-contested market.
Down the road from Los Angeles and Hollywood, where dreams of fame and fortune also burn out quickly, lies Anaheim, CA, where Mickey Mouse and Albert Pujols reign supreme over roughly 350,000 residents. One of the lesser-known, but increasingly burgeoning stars that is making a name for itself is Lithocraft Co. But this commercial sheetfed printing operation seems to have taken a more conservative approach in its growth, which has enabled the printer to maintain a steady pace as it approaches its 40th anniversary this year.
“We don’t want to be the biggest printer,” admits Brad Thurman, president and founder of Lithocraft. “We’ve seen several large companies come and go, especially in the L.A. market, where there’s been a number of closures for major industry players. Attempting to grow to that size is not conducive to what we’re trying to do.”
Growth doesn’t always equate profitability, and it’s the latter that Lithocraft has focused its energies on enhancing. The 70- employee shop, which posted sales of approximately $12 million in 2011, is projecting to approach the $16 million plateau this year. Thus, growth is not an issue, either. But, for a conservative firm operating in a city founded by German immigrants, its recent decision to invest heavily in an automated UV offset press to enter new print markets is downright bold.
Founded by Thurman in 1973, Lithocraft’s philosophy has been to go with full-sized sheetfed presses to help differentiate itself from many local shops that had taken the half-size route. With three six-color, 40˝ Komori presses, Lithocraft had been successfully producing direct mail, annual reports, high-end menus, free-standing inserts and point-of-purchase materials for a number of vertical markets, including automotive, retail, restaurant/food and beverage, along with health care.
But, three years ago, it became clear that continued success would depend on entering new markets. According to Robert Navarro, vice president of operations, existing clients' evolving product needs dictated that Lithocraft offer UV printing output. Going down the UV road would also help to bring in the high-end designer/agency work that often requires seven or eight colors. Equally as important, Lithocraft wanted a solution that would enable it to crack the highly coveted, high-end package printing market.