Specialties Bindery — A Cut Above
The company believes that continued growth depends both on empowering people and better management systems. As Lee puts it, “To blast through the $10 million glass ceiling, we must push decisions farther down the decision chain. We’re too big to operate without professional management.” Within the past year, Lee appointed Brenda Slacum as COO and Susie Miller as executive vice president.
Lee is also cognizant that the skills required for starting a new venture are different than those needed for growing an already-large company. “We have intelligent people capable of making intelligent decisions. My job is to increase the wealth of our stakeholders, which includes our customers and employees,” he reveals, “not micro-managing daily operations.”
A Tight Labor Market
Specialties Bindery is located in Maryland’s Prince George’s County, which has a current unemployment rate of only 2.9 percent. Finding qualified employees outside of Prince George’s is even tougher. Anne Arundel, a neighboring county, is at 2.2 percent unemployment and Montgomery is at a mere 1.4 percent unemployment. Although the company would like to increase its labor force, Brenda Slacum isn’t counting on it. “Realistically, our growth will come from investments in automation and better, in-line solutions,” she says. “For example, we’re in the process of upgrading some of our collating equipment, which should allow us to divert $300,000 of annualized labor to other areas.”
Despite the tight job market, Specialties Bindery can boast that more than one third of its employees have been with the company for more than 15 years. This wealth of experience allows the finishing operation to apply industrial engineering principles to its core products, as well as to handwork and semi-automatic functions. This allows the company to successfully bid on labor-intensive projects that are outside of its traditional sweet spot.
This focus on automation and in-line solutions is not new. Years ago, Specialties Bindery installed the first fully automatic Bielomatik punching and double-loop wire binding line in the United States. Today, the company has three of these in-line systems, allowing production of up to 500,000 Wire-O books in as few as four days.