Standard Register: Where Innovation Has Led to a Century of Success
To say the world of printed communications has undergone dramatic and even violent changes in the past 20 years would be something of an understatement. Even the past 10 years have witnessed changes that would have seemed unimaginable back in 2004. And, just imagine what 2024 may have to offer.
One of the venerable members of the printing and related services set is Standard Register, the Dayton, OH-based firm founded 102 years ago on the strength of Theodore Schirmer's pinfeed autographic register. Schirmer garnered a patent for feeding continuous forms through the autographic register, sold soon-to-be company founder John Sherman on the idea, and it became the industry "standard," hence the company name.
Frankly, the history lesson on Standard Register's product and service offerings, be it from 1912 or 2012, is somewhat moot. The larger point is that this firm has survived through the years, written and rewritten its business plan, and continues on the path of relevancy, as evidenced by its $720 million sales performance in 2013.
Innovation is king. That autographic register must have floored people during the Taft Administration and, 17 presidents later, the company maintains its innovative spirit. But what keeps the lights on is Standard Register's ability to closely monitor the needs of its client base and provide solutions—whether cranked out on manual machines or distributed via electronic dissemination.
"We're in a world where content is king, and how you purpose or repurpose that content is what drives the business," observes Joseph Morgan Jr., president and CEO of Standard Register. "Through the whole journey, we understand both workflow and content. Historically, we provided the structure by which content could be captured. That's essentially what a business form is. Today, we still do that, but more often than not, we combine the structure with the content and present it in an electronic and digital environment. Then it gets applied to paper."
Standard Register serves a number of key vertical markets, including health care, financial services, manufacturing and retail. Much of what the company provides entails marketing services, critical communications/customer communications and product marketing decoration.
Analytics to Maximize ROI
For example, Standard Register's Critical Communications Solution offers single-source design, production, processing, mailing/transmitting and fulfillment of printed and electronic documents. The firm uses analytics to enable its clients to better measure and understand the effectiveness of these communications, and to make necessary adjustments to yield optimal results.
Another example for the health care market, Standard Register supplies patient and managed care safety solutions and communications. In manufacturing, product marking and labeling account for a lion's share of its offering, including decoration technology that underscores the customer's brand recognition, provides safety information and yields higher results with consumers.
While it still offers flexographic and screen printed labels, Morgan notes that the business is increasingly gravitating toward digital printing. A pair of HP continous-feed inkjet presses, a T230 and a T400, highlighted a $7 million capex initiative in 2013. The company also invested in a 335,000-square-foot Center of Excellence in Jeffersonville, IN (near Louisville, KY) for digital printing, kitting and distribution to provide customers more flexible delivery options and to enhance speed to market.
The new facility augments Standard Register's existing digital platform. "This Center of Excellence gives us the opportunity to respond to changes taking place in the printing industry from the standpoints of cost, efficiency and capabilities," he points out.
Standard Register has been quite active in bolstering its overall platform. Late last summer, it acquired another venerable business—fellow Dayton, OH, cornerstone WorkflowOne, in a deal worth $218 million. WorkflowOne supplies printing, document management, distribution and marketing services. The added depth offered by the acquisition, which catapulted Standard Register's employee head count to 3,600, is augmented by new opportunities in the retail and promotional products spaces.
Morgan notes that the WorkflowOne deal brings balance and greater market access for Standard Register, not to mention the wealth of knowledge that accompanies the acquisition of a 120-year-old establishment. The integration has progressed quite well, culturally, and he sees great things ahead from a manufacturing and technology viewpoint.
"We also have the ability to aggressively, and in a more rapid manner, bring forward the new items we have on our agenda to a broader base of customers," Morgan says.
Standard Register has been highly engaged in recent years. In 2011, it added Dialog Medical, a health care software company that provides a bevy of talent and access to new customers, while bolstering informed consent and complementing Standard Register's Center of Excellence for health care in Atlanta, a business unit under the organization's umbrella that is led by President John King.
"We've integrated that with our core technology offering in health care, so our customers in the acute care space have one place to go for their experience around patient identification and communications," Morgan explains.
Rx for the Health Care Industry
Earlier this year, Standard Register debuted its SMARTworks EffectiveResponse patient engagement software to better facilitate patient followups in post-surgery/discharge/medical engagement scenarios. The solution is aimed at enhancing the quality of care, improving patient satisfaction and ensuring successful care transitions.
On the manufacturing end, Standard Register's quest to complement client needs has taken it into Mexico. It operates a pair of facilities: a production, warehousing and distribution plant in Monterrey; and a warehousing and distribution satellite in Juarez. Highlighting its offerings there are in-mold, durable, stock and distribution labels. Production and distribution efficiencies, and the ability to deliver South of the Border, has made for a profitable venture.
Morgan joined the company in 2001 and took the helm of CEO in 2009, which proved to be the epicenter of turbulent change in the printing industry. Unfortunately, the evolution that was taking place differed from market to market, and Standard Register could not employ a uniform solution to address the differing needs.
Between 2008 and 2010, Standard Register huddled with its clients to better understand their challenges and how they, in turn, wanted to communicate and deliver products and services to end users. Print was still viable, but forms were evolving, digital printing grew more relevant and mobile/electronic devices would open a can of worms…and opportunity.
"We learned different things in each market segment," Morgan states. "In some cases, we learned things that could be addressed with a ubiquitous capability. In others, we created solutions that were very unique to the market segment we were supporting. Our strategy was to do one-to-many instead of one-to-one. We want to create solutions that address the needs of the marketplace instead of the needs of just a handful of customers. The shared learnings across a broader group of customers was viewed as a substantial advantage versus customization.
"In a time of a transition, it's very tough to monetize that transition if you're not able to do a one-to-many," he adds. "That started to lead to more software and services, not just products. They all are together in the spirit of what we bring to our customers. That's been a very cathartic change for our business and has really driven the agenda for our company. We saw, acted through a more traditional approach—which was capabilities—adjusted, listened to the market, and we're adapting and building capabilities that are more market-specific with higher value or more ubiquitous with high efficiency."
The changes continue at a rapid clip, as evidenced by the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., Obamacare), electronic medical records (EMR) and other variables that have tested Standard Register's proficiency in security, compliance and regulation. As products take on different physical properties—i.e., diminishing market demand for business forms—the company is tasked with providing alternatives, or suffer the pains of irrelevance.
Morgan is bullish on the future of Standard Register, and marvels at the quality and durability of spirit exhibited by his employee base. Opportunities abound in all of the verticals that the company serves, even though the evolving nature of its needs is not for the faint of heart.
"It starts with the talent of our people," Morgan notes. "Their market insight is extraordinary. History matters, especially if you repeat the parts that should be repeated. Another strength is our ability to be resilient and nimble. We can change, even if it's hard. We apply this learning in things like SMARTworks, and make tough choices like our Jeffersonville (IN) investment.
"Given our market knowledge, we're now seeing companies on the technology side—software and services, analytics, workflow, content management—coming together with us in our go-to-market. We don't do it alone," Morgan concludes. "We bring a collaborative selling approach at the front end of the process, not just from the back end. That requires a lot of courage and confidence. But that's also one of the keys to our future." PI