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Lithocraft Co. : UV Cures Need for Growth

April 2012 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor
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"We saw where the industry was heading," notes John Cosgrove, a partner at Lithocraft. "We were also seeing some windows of opportunity closing due to our lack of UV printing capabilities. We wanted to get into retail, and the fact that we were seeing demand by our restaurant clients for printing on synthetic materials, it became pretty clear that we needed to jump into the UV market."

After researching UV for about a year, Lithocraft decided to start the vetting process for a UV press (which included a trip to Graph Expo in Chicago). Six months later, the company opted to install an eight-color, 41˝ KBA Rapida 106 UV press equipped with the makeready-free DriveTronic SIS (Sensoric Infeed System). The press, which went live last July, was aimed at keeping the UV-craving clients from jumping ship and to enable Lithocraft to begin its foray into high-end packaging. But, a pleasant surprise awaited the printer—the phone began ringing off the hook.

“One of the things that surprised the heck out of me was that we started getting calls from people looking for UV printing vendors,” Cosgrove notes. “One large client that we had not worked with previously was looking for someone to use because they weren’t happy with the UV vendors in the area. To have a customer like that walk in the door was pretty amazing.”

Navarro notes there were a number of advantages in selecting the new Rapida, including on-the-fly color control that helps reduce press makeready time and startup waste. While there was a slight learning curve along the way, Lithocraft has enjoyed a sharp uptick in productivity, thanks in large part to the UV offering.

The packaging mojo has been slower to come, however; Cosgrove says Lithocraft is still trying to find its niche in the packaging market. The executive team is confident it will be able to identify and perform in scenarios that call for high-quality, low-volume packaging.

“We’ve learned to work a little bit more with different substrates,” Navarro points out. “That’s the key for cosmetics or food-type products.

“I was experienced on the UV end, so the transition hasn’t been too great other than having to learn what makes the press go, chemistry-wise,” he adds. “In our state, it’s pretty challenging because of the chemistry limitations that we face.”

New printing processes are important to help Lithocraft maintain stride with what its competition is offering, but the company relies on strong customer service just as much to maintain a point of differentiation in the marketplace. “New technologies and workflows are making it incredibly easy to bypass the relationship aspect of our business,” Cosgrove says.

“Despite that, we foster a culture where everybody here understands the value of knowing customers and their unique demands, and we make it ‘Job One’ to meet those demands. It sounds kind of corny, but most of our clients have been with us more than 10 years. It’s a hard concept to market to prospects, but once we get new clients in the door, they stay with us.”

Future equipment acquisitions are likely to come on the bindery end, where the printer is looking to add joggers and automated material handling equipment. Its fleet of delivery vehicles will also need some upgrading, and Navarro says Lithocraft is aiming to become more efficient and greener in its choices.

Cosgrove feels that, of the markets his company serves, health care may offer the greatest growth potential. Reform legislation passed by the Obama Administration and the changes made along the way have prompted Lithocraft to go back on-press repeatedly. Also, the company produces the packaging for the promotional campaigns sent out by health care companies, and Cosgrove sees the potential for extended programs.

Clients are often struck by the cleanliness and efficiency of Lithocraft's operation. It follows Cosgrove's customer mantra that once they've come through the door, clients are hooked.

“We take pride in our shop and it impresses our corporate clients,” Thurman concludes. “They see how well it’s organized. They take one look at us and think, ’I want to work with these guys.’ That’s a message we always strive for here.” PI



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