Alliance's Performance 'Skyrockets' to New Heights with Diversified Products and Services
Topping the annual honor roll of the Printing Impressions 400 are its “Fast Track” companies: those with significantly higher rates of year-over-year revenue growth than the majority of other listees. One of the six exceptional strivers are profiled here.
Their stories reaffirm that whatever else may be said about the state of the printing industry, its enterprising business-people still know how to make money in ways that revenue leaders in any other industry would be the first to recognize and endorse.
Although it always seems a bit facile to search for “common denominators” in distinctive stories like these, our “Fast-Track Firms” do exhibit some shared traits of excellence.
One of them, surely, is staying locked onto customer satisfaction as the ultimate objective of everything that happens in the planning and the execution of a job.
Another is scrupulously measuring all steps of execution to make sure that the objective is being upheld.
Not as tangible, but no less crucial, is leadership: engendering the kind of pervasive enthusiasm that inspires pride of accomplishment as it spurs everyone in the organization to make the next job even better than the one that preceded it.
These are best practices that all printing businesses can emulate, and by publishing these exemplary vignettes, that is exactly what we are encouraging all of our readers to do. We salute the Fast-Track companies and to all of the other enterprises joining them on the 2019 Printing Impressions 400 list.
Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $19.8 Million
Previous Fiscal Year Sales: $15.9 Million
Percentage Growth: 25%
“It’s been a skyrocket.” That is how Alliance President Jeff Birmingham sums up the company’s zooming performance during the past two years, a period in which staff size doubled, and revenue took leaps and bounds of its own.
The springboard was a corporate rebranding that took “Graphics & Printing” out of the logo and adopted “Print Evolved” as a tagline: a makeover that, according to Birmingham, has made all the difference.
Birmingham says that once the “mantra” of the change began to sink in, “everything was about evolving, and everybody got on the ship.” The evolution at the company’s two plants in Houston has led to an across-the-board expansion of services in digital printing, labels, mailing, and distribution and fulfillment to a point where, Birmingham comments, “I feel that we’re almost not a printing company anymore.”
But, proof that Alliance remains firmly rooted in printing is clear from its production capability, which includes commercial offset presses, as well as digital devices. Birmingham notes that while he himself is not “a big equipment person” — his background is in sales — he understands that the choice of equipment “can make you or break you in this market,” depending on how closely matched to customer requirements the printing machinery is.
This insight drove investment in the device that Birmingham calls the “centerpiece” of the operation: a Canon Océ ColorStream 3700 continuous-feed inkjet press, supplemented by a pair of Canon imagePRESS C10000VP cut-sheet color digital presses, and an Océ PRISMAproduction workflow. A digital press from EFI Jetrion (a brand now distributed by Xeikon) and a flexo press from Mark Andy have been the vehicles for Alliance’s “amazing ride” in the label business during the past seven years, Birmingham says.
He adds that Alliance makes it easy for customers to draw upon these resources through an online portal the company has operated for 20 years. Fulfillment and distribution services, which now account for about 20% of sales, are offered with the same end in view. According to Birmingham, all clients want that convenience and, as an ancillary activity, “it all goes hand in hand with the printing.”
He says that something else all customers aspire to is minimizing their inventories through just-in-time production: a service offering that Alliance has specifically equipped for by investing in digital printing systems.
This is how the company assists an air-conditioner manufacturer that ships 15,000 units a day, but insists on keeping no more than 72 hours’ worth of deliverable product on the floor. The customer, explains Birmingham, gives Alliance a window into its manufacturing database so that the shop can produce exactly the right quantities of manuals and labels when, and only when, the customer is ready to pack them with the A/C units.
Tailored and responsive customer support like this “is the mainstay of our business,” Birmingham declares. To maintain Alliance’s production schedule at its present 24/5 pace, he pledges to “keep listening to our customers, and stay relevant. We try to stay flexible, and we make decisions quickly.”
Birmingham says it’s also important to “spread your offerings out” with diversified products and services as a hedge against business downturns. Although markets for everything wax and wane, he observes, fall-offs in demand for the full range of things printers provide seldom happen at the same time.