Plant Closure Rocks Southern California --Michelson
THE NEWS on April 15 that Cenveo was closing Anderson Lithograph and merging it into its Los Angeles-based ColorGraphics facility marked a sad day for the U.S. printing industry. With a national reputation dating back to 1951 as a provider of ultra-high-quality web and sheetfed offset output; highly responsive customer service; and an unwavering commitment to sustainability—long before environmental stewardship became fashionable—Anderson Litho was an industry stalwart. Cenveo Los Angeles President Mark Tennant, who himself spent three decades working at Anderson Litho, had the unenviable task of penning a short letter that was sent to customers. “While this action was taken in response to a difficult economic environment, it is important to note that we fully expect to maintain the same top-rated service to our customers,” he wrote. “We have the same state-of-the-art equipment, the same quality output and the same familiar faces.”
Some might say the beginning of the end for Anderson Litho came in 1998, when it was acquired by an industry consolidator, Mail-Well (the precursor to Cenveo). Perhaps it lost some of the entrepreneurial, sales-driven culture that had made it successful. Nothing can suck the wind out of a seasoned sales staff more than a corporate bureaucracy, new procedures and financial types making the critical business decisions. As key salespeople, and their nurtured clientele, departed, Anderson had already downsized by the time the final blow came. Proving history repeats itself, in large part it suffered the same ailments, and ultimate fate, as that of fellow icon George Rice & Sons.
Others might point to the fact that the 170,000-square-foot operation, which housed several heatset webs and eight- and 10-color sheetfeds, never expanded into digital printing. As the demand for high-end Fortune 500 annual reports and slick automotive brochures waned, so too did Anderson’s sweet spot of longer-run lithographic output. Catering to large companies that were suspending big-ticket jobs, it couldn’t weather the recession. As for all of the print quality awards that Anderson continually garnered, perhaps today’s buyers now see less value, and price premium merit, in reproducing the ultimate dot. In tough economic times, “good enough” color looks good enough, especially to the growing number of untrained, unsophisticated print buyers thrust into purchasing roles due to downsizings within their own companies.
From Cenveo’s corporate standpoint, it’s easy to see why management decided to close Anderson Litho in order to reduce capacity, rather than shut down one of its four ColorGraphics plants. For one, Anderson was unionized, and ColorGraphics is not. Plus, the ColorGraphics facilities were already networked together from when it was also a standalone company. Anderson Litho was the lame duck, trying to fly in the face of fierce economic headwinds and a sharp decrease in high-end print demand.
Unfortunately, for the Los Angeles-area print community, the timing of the closure could not be much worse. The Anderson announcement came on the heels of the Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy by Insync Marketing Solutions in early March. Formed by the combination of Insync Media and Graphic Press, its assets—which include two 38?, double-web Sunday presses; one 11-color and three eight-color, 2000-era Heidelberg sheetfed models; seven folders; and two cutters—were slated to be sold on June 24 in what the auctioneer is billing as the “Graphics Auction Event of the Decade.”
For the former workers at Insync Marketing, and those cut loose in the Anderson Litho closure, this is turning out to be one decade they would all just as soon forget.
Mark T. Michelson