Cox Printers: Building a Buzz About Print
With a precarious future, many commercial printers find themselves evolving into full-service communications companies. As Mike Kaufman puts it, "It's a simple 'Adapt or Die' mantra." But Kaufman, president of Linden, NJ-based Cox Printers, might define this slogan a little differently than most. He has taken his company, literally, to new heights to differentiate itself from an environmental standpoint. Cox Printers' energy use is partially powered by two wind turbines and a 36 kW solar panel system housed on its roof.
Indeed, the company has made some big changes since its founding in 1907 by the Cox family, and then by the Kaufman family in 1982. "It's a far cry from printing 250 sheets of letterhead," he says. Cox Printers provides prepress, offset and digital printing (including variable data), as well as in-house mailing and bindery departments. The company also provides warehousing and distribution services. "We pull, pack, ship and give reports whether they have 10 locations or 100," Kaufman notes.
In addition, five sister companies provide a range of services from graphic design to cross-media marketing, to importing, processing and mailing foreign periodicals.
"We're customer-driven," Kaufman adds. "We provide two different online ordering systems so we can pretty much match whatever clients require. If they want online ordering for variable data, great. If they want online ordering for fixed products, great." While customers mainly span the mid-Atlantic region, Cox Printers has served customers from as far away as Singapore.
Many are impressed with the printer's commitment to environmental sustainability. "A lot of them want to do business with a company that cares about the environment," explains Kaufman, the second generation of his family to run the company. "There are a lot of ridiculous certifications they could pay for," he says, "or they could just say, 'Well, my report card is a little greener because I'm using the printer with presses that are partially powered by solar panels on its roof.' "
Cox Printers doesn't stop at solar power, though. In addition to wind turbines, a roof garden and two honeybee hives, the company operates a 99 percent chemical-free facility. All lighting has also been replaced with energy-efficient bulbs and "anything and everything" is recycled, including skids and other wood.
Kaufman estimates the solar panels save about $500 per month on his electric bill. But it's not all about the money. "I want to do the right thing," he points out. "I want to leave the planet a little better for my children and perhaps my grandchildren some day."
It was this vision, in fact, that initially got Kaufman started down the path toward sustainability. "Printing was viewed as such a dirty industry," he says. "I didn't want to be contributing to an environmental disaster or filth." Solar power intrigued him. But without owning his own building, he couldn't move forward with any plans.
"When we bought this building in Linden, one of the first things I wanted to do was take a very industrial building, in a very industrial neighborhood, and make it as 'green' as I could," he says. "I didn't go through any official LEED certification; to me, it was just really common-sense upgrades to the building."
Although the beehives on the rooftop may not directly reduce the print shop's carbon footprint, they are a small step towards sustainability in the community and beyond. According to Bee Bold Apiaries—the company that installed and maintains the hives—one in every three bites of food eaten is either directly or indirectly dependent on pollination by honeybees. Bees are an important part of our ecosystem but, as a species, they have been suffering Colony Collapse Disorder. "If people aren't aware of it, they need to be," stresses Kaufman. Installing the hives was, in part, his way of educating his clients and the local community about the problem.
Plus, what prospect wouldn't like a jar of fresh honey and some pads of paper? Surely, it sweetens the potential relationship.
Kaufman admits to feeling like a kid in a candy store when he sticks his finger in the wax at harvest time. "It's the most delicious honey you'll ever taste," he contends. Cox Printers even hosts a harvest party, inviting clients and the local community to come see the bees.
Up on the roof, Kaufman's head isn't totally in the clouds. His goal is to run a smart, efficient operation, and he seems to be doing it. "I want to run a profitable business that allows my employees to live a good quality of life, and to support their families," he says. "We're not curing cancer; we're printers."
As a visionary, he's is not afraid to be the first to try new products. Kaufman also led the company in recently becoming one of a handful of early adopters of Konica Minolta's new 100 ppm, bizhub PRESS C1100 color digital press. "The truth is, we needed more digital printing capacity, and this was a great opportunity," he admits. Cox Printers had been using Konica Minolta printers for a while and Kaufman found them to be sturdy and reliable. "The thing about this output device is its uptime—it has rarely been down, unless it's for scheduled maintenance," he explains. "It's amazing how much pressure has been relieved off of our other equipment because of the speed and productivity of the C1100 press."
In addition, a host of environmentally-friendly features are in line with his vision. For example, the overall power consumption on the bizhub PRESS C1100 digital press is 20 percent less than older models thanks to new toner that requires less heat.
Kaufman says he's not done "greening" his printing operation. What's next? Oh, maybe an electric car, perhaps. "How cool would that be if I could have my own car charging station that is powered off the solar collected from my own roof?" PI