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Precision Printing -- A Family Affair

May 2004
BY Kristen E. Monte

Associate Editor

The economy may have generated uncertainty within the printing industry over the past couple of years but, at Precision Printing, significant plans are being drawn for the future. This third-generation, family owned company, with two Ohio-based facilities, prides itself of providing clients with good old-fashioned customer service.

When Izzy Leaventon and Abe Israel opened a small print shop in Cleveland in 1948, they had no idea that they were beginning a small printing empire. From day one, Precision Printing has dedicated itself to one goal—ensuring the highest quality products and services for its customers.

Precision Printing executives, standing in front of their Komori Lithrone sheetfed press, include (from the left): Marc Leaventon, Michael Leaventon, Barry Leaventon and Meredith Solomon.
Although the technology has since changed, the commitment to exceeding customer expectations is still paramount, with Leaventon's grandson, Michael Leaventon, and granddaughter, Meredith Solomon, taking over in October of 2002. After Izzy's unexpected death in 1982, his sons, Barry and Marc, took over the business, ran it profitably and molded the next generation of Leaventons to do the same.

"My father (Barry) and uncle (Marc) remain very active in the managing and sales areas of the company," says Michael Leaventon, president. "It's important that we keep the company a family business."

This now 90-employee printer with two full-service facilities—one in Brecksville, OH, and one in Columbus, OH—began business by providing single-color printing to the retail industry. During the 1970s and '80s, the capabilities were expanded with the addition of brochures, magazine and newspaper inserts, and bag stuffers.

A One-stop Operation

Today, Precision Printing is a complete graphic communications company with a focus on four main areas: commercial printing, packaging inserts, direct mail and variable data printing. The company has capabilities in digital prepress; single- to full-color printing; complete binding and finishing, including embossing, hot stamping and diecutting; list maintenance; CASS-certified mailing; and fulfillment.

Customers range from publishers to retailers to wholesale manufacturers, as well as retirement and manufacturing companies. "We focus on market areas that fit our product mix," says Michael Leaventon. "We serve clients mostly in the Ohio area, but also in Illinois, Wisconsin, New York and Florida."

Leaventon admits that 2003 was a "very, very tough" year for Precision Printing, as well as for the rest of the printing industry.

Even so, Precision was able to continue on track by downsizing. It sold a few of its older presses, cutters and folders, better utilized existing assets and lowered overhead by eliminating some staff and management positions.

Because of these moves, the company was still able to invest in upgraded software and new machinery. As early adopters of direct-to-plate and fully imposed film in the early 1990s, Precision Printing is "always looking to invest in new technology," according to Leaventon. Most of its new equipment this past year came in the form of software upgrades from Quark and Adobe, as well as finishing and mailing equipment to boost productivity.

"We also invest a lot of money on education for our machine operators," adds Leaventon. Precision Printing invested in training its employees by hiring a Komori trainer for its press operators, resulting in better efficiencies and to reiterate the policy of devotion between the owners and staff. In addition, funds were allocated for an eight-session course on how to effectively sell value-added services.

For the past 14 years, Precision Printing has offered value-added, monthly seminars for its customers, held the third Wednesday of the month at the Columbus plant and the third Thursday of the month at the Brecksville plant. "We bring in an outside speaker and cover topics like direct mail, sales training and effective press approvals," reports Leaventon. "We usually have about 20 to 30 people for each session, with 50 percent being existing clients and 50 percent being prospects."

After each session attendees are taken on a tour of the facility—which Leaventon feels is very helpful in building a high comfort level and awareness with Precision staff—so they can view first-hand, the way the plants are run.

"With our tours, we build a confidence in our capabilities," says Leaventon. "It also gives our customers the chance to network with other customers."

Over the past 18 months there has been a heavy focus on Precision Printing's direct mail capabilities. There has been a tremendous investment in software and in equipment, including four high-speed Ricoh copiers, with capacities for black-and-white, variable data imaging at speeds up to 105 ppm. Two Bell & Howell inserting machines have also been installed.

"We hope to invest in a color machine later this year," reveals Leaventon. "We are not sure yet; we are still doing research."

But one thing Precision Printing is sure about is how to thrive in a very competitive market region. "There is a high level of competition among printers in this area," Leaventon asserts. "We stand out by offering value-added services and client education solutions."

Sales Approach

Another sure thing is Precision's excellence in customer service. Sales team members are labeled internally as 'customer productivity experts' and are trained not to just sell to create revenues, but rather to find ways to help customers' businesses grow.

Not only does this sit well with customers, but also with employees, who have—for the third year in a row—nominated Precision Printing for the North Coast 99, an award that ranks the top 99 employers in northeastern Ohio.

The award is pooled from all industries, and judges choose winners based on benefit packages, compensation, working conditions, health and safety, diversity, recruitment, work and family life, community involvement, and training and education.

"Precision is delighted and extremely appreciative to our staff for having been selected (as a 2003 award winner)," says Barry Leaventon, executive vice president. "We share this recognition with our employees and believe that it is because of them that we are able to receive such a praiseworthy award."

And employees and owners, alike, will carry this company into the future. According to Michael Leaventon, with two facilities the company has no plans to expand in the immediate future. Precision acquired four other companies in the past 10 years and is now focusing on the direct mail aspect of its business.

"Our focus is to utilize the equipment we've got now," concludes Michael Leaventon. "We've made a tremendous investment and now we want to fill our capacity. This has been a tough period for the industry. Hopefully, if the economy picks up, everyone can do better."

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