PI 300 Fast-Track Firm: Elanders Americas Grows Digital Printing Footprint, Customization
The worldwide happenings of the past two years have been, to say the least, unusual. From a business standpoint, the year-over-year metrics companies used to chart growth and, hopefully, success aren’t as reliable as they once were.
It is well-known that the past two years were very good for some printing segments: packaging and direct mail, specifically, come to mind. For others, for instance those companies that primarily serve events, such as concerts, festivals, and trade shows, the strong downturn was profound and prolonged. It is in this reality that Printing Impressions presents its 2021 Fast-Track companies that appeared among the 2021 Printing Impressions 300 list of the largest printers in the U.S. and Canada, ranked by annual sales.
The summary of Elanders Americas that follows recognizes this company as a “fast- track” firm that has weathered the recent storm in its own way, and its insight on business and industry trends can serve as a “north star” for companies looking to navigate themselves toward a safer harbor.
Elanders Americas | Ackworth, Georgia
Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $132.9 Million
Previous Fiscal Year Sales: $93.6 Million
Percentage Growth: 42%
While Elanders Americas is headquartered near Atlanta, and is by itself quite a large printing concern, it is a subsidiary of Elanders, a Sweden-based printing and packaging company operating in 10 countries. Explaining the broader Elanders company, Sven Linke, president and CEO of Elanders Americas, says it does $1 billion annually, and that the company’s sizable packaging operations are based in, and focused on, the European market.
Linke says the U.S. operation, which has two facilities near Atlanta and another in Davenport, Iowa, focuses primarily on the printing of manuals for manufacturers of automobiles and heavy equipment. This vehicle-focused activity is complemented by kitting operations, which is growing as a service due to increased customer demand.
Like most companies, technology at Elanders Americas is moving strongly toward digital applications. Linke says the company has added digital assets in the past year, particularly an HP T240 inkjet web press, and a Canon varioPRINT iX-series sheetfed inkjet press. About the company’s move toward digital printing, Linke sees that as an ongoing technological direction. “That is the world. That is the future,” he says. A complicating factor in that future, he notes, is finding workers who possess the skill set needed to operate the machines effectively.
Another complicating factor is supply chain shortages, which are a worldwide phenomenon. Elanders Americas, like so many other printers, is experiencing supply shortages, particularly for both paper and label stocks.
Changing Work Landscape
For Elanders Americas, a key takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic has been a transformative realization that home-office work is a viable approach. Linke says that, moving forward, the company has committed to work-from-home approaches for its office-based staff. Regarding the company’s response to the pandemic, Linke credits the influence of the Europe-based company, as lockdowns in Europe preceded those in the U.S. “We did everything in advance,” he says, noting that the company’s employee-protection efforts were in place well ahead of CDC guidelines. “With our German and Swedish
colleagues,” he adds, “we did it early here in the states.”
Looking toward the future of the printing industry, Linke is looking strongly at the forces of consolidation. He notes that among the thousands of printers in the U.S., the small companies generally struggle, medium-sized companies find success through the identification (and harvesting) of specific niches, and the largest companies continue to grow. He notes that the printing industry, in terms of the number of companies, will continue to get smaller. An additional factor he believes will strongly continue in the industry is the move to online ordering and higher levels of customization. “Everything is moving to online,” Linke says, “and that will have a strong future.”