KINGERY PRINTING--Pride in Hard Work
By Erik Cagle
In America's heartland, where people traditionally possess conservative values, a solid work ethic is everything in business, particularly in the manufacturing sector. This is especially true at Kingery Printing, the pride of Effingham, IL, where ethics, strong values and pride in craftsmanship reign supreme.
"I was talking to another printer who's located in Chicago one time," begins John Kingery, president and founder of the southern Illinois-based sheetfed and web printing company. "I was complaining that about three out of four people hired turn out to be good employees. His response was, 'You're lucky; here in Chicago, there's only one out of every four that you really want to keep.'
"We maintain a very good work ethic out here. Most people tend to work hard and take pride in doing a good job. One thing I tell prospective employees: 'I expect more from you than just showing up with a lunch bucket.' We set the expectation level the first time they walk through the door. They understand what we're saying, and that's a tremendous advantage."
|Seated, from the left: Michael Kingery, president of M&D Printing; John Kingery, president, Kingery Printing; and Gerard Kingery, scheduling manager, Kingery Div. Standing: Maria Kingery, mail data processing, Kingery Div.; and Thomas Kingery, business manager, Kingery Div.|
|Among several recent capital expenditure moves, Kingery Printing has installed a second MBO B26-S/644C Perfection folder, along with a pair of Palamides BA-700 automatic paper banding systems. A third high-speed BA-700 bander is on order.|
|Above: Mark Tauber on the MBO folder. Below: One of Kingery Printing's two 40˝ Heidelberg sheetfed presses in operation.|
|John Kingery, president and founder of Kingery Printing (left), and press operator Steve Gillespie do a press check on the company's six-color Heidelberg Speedmaster CD press.|
Kingery Printing was founded on October 1, 1968, when its founder sensed a need for a commercial printing operation that was both aggressive and willing to embrace the then-new offset technology in the Effingham area. John Kingery and his company have kept pace with the changes in the industry. Initially, the printer focused on short-run, one-color work on uncoated grades for local customers. Kingery eventually migrated into high-quality color work, often encompassing long print runs, for a national customer base.
Feeding Off the Midwest
Today, the company's bread-and-butter work consists of catalogs, newsletters, publications and marketing collateral. National in scope, Kingery Printing has carved a niche for itself with clientele in surrounding Midwestern cities such as Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis.
Recognizing an opportunity for publication printing and perfect-bound finishing, Kingery acquired venerable M&D Printing of Henry, IL, in 1991. The combined operation now features 250 employees working within 165,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
Digital workflow is accomplished through Heidelberg's Delta Technology 7, a Creo Trendsetter 3244F platesetter, as well as Fuji, Epson, HP and KPG proofing systems. The all-Heidelberg pressroom features four sheetfeds with up to six-color plus aqueous tower coating capabilities and five heatset webs (up to six colors). Among its bindery gear are various Polar cutters, Heidelberg stitchers and MBO folders and banders.
From a capital expenditure standpoint, Kingery Printing has enjoyed an eventful 2004. Thus far the company has installed a second Heidelberg 650 saddlestitcher with trimmer, a second MBO B26-S/644C Perfection folder with Navigator and Rapid Set controls, a five-color Heidelberg M-100-L heatset web perfector equipped with QuadTech register controls and a Scheffer in-line finishing system, and a Kepes lugged mail table with two tabbing devices.
Speaking of traditional values, family plays a large role at Kingery Printing. Sons Mike, Tom and Gerry, along with daughter Maria, are all key members of the organization.
Kingery Printing needed to have its proverbial ducks in a row to remain fiscally viable throughout the economic turbulence that has marked the early part of this decade. John Kingery admits that it has been a struggle to stay profitable and financially strong. In doing so, the company needed to keep a close eye on productivity, cost controls and waste .
"As a management group, the key in 2002 and 2003 was to maintain balance of all the aspects of our operations, buildings and equipment," states Mike Kingery, president of M&D Printing. "We had to manage the company more strongly, much more closely, and keep a thumb on the pulse of the connection between clients and our facility."
To that end, notes John Kingery, the firm also needed to forge strong alliances with its vendors to strike an even balance and to adopt just-in-time inventories. The printer didn't shy away from investments, and instead concentrated on adopting technologies that would help bolster productivity.
Internal cost structures were evaluated to ferret out any fat. Kingery's employee base was also kept informed on the ongoing economic situation as opposed to being left in the dark.
Providing customers a better product at very competitive prices became a staple. That may all sound familiar to fellow printers that have employed similar tactics during this recession, but Kingery Printing also made a tough call when it came to some existing accounts.
"A lot of printers were printing what I call marginally profitable work, including us," John Kingery admits. "We decided, as a management team, that if we had a troublesome job, maybe a job that did not fit our equipment properly, we had to charge more. This has paid off in the long run . . .getting work that really fit our capabilities, that we enjoy producing and that we are good at doing. We tried to increase those types of accounts, and we set our salespeople on that track, as well."
Tom Kingery, business manager, feels the company is fortunate to continue to operate profitably during the economic downturn without resorting to the massive layoffs that have plagued many printers the past few years. Each member of the management team saw to it that their area was dissected for greater efficiency. From proper pricing for customers to keeping an honest relationship with vendors, Kingery Printing has endured the industry slump.
"On the paper buying side, we were heavily involved with our vendors because the price was changing almost daily," Tom Kingery notes. "And every day, we had to make sure that our suppliers knew that we could not have our vendors pricing paper to one printer at one price and with us a different price. We have to be on a level playing field and play the same game. And fortunately, we've stayed on top of that game."
Herein lays the aggressive personality that John Kingery has instilled in his operations. "We were actually challenging the marketplace instead of letting the marketplace dictate to us," he says. "We were competing in the market with new investments, new ideas and new approaches to producing printing more economically for our customers, because they were hurting also. And now it's paying off; we've got very loyal, dependable clients who come back to us time and time again because of the fact that we were able to work with them through this difficult stretch."
As 2004 approaches the midway point, John Kingery finds his greatest challenge is keeping pace with training his employees on the new hardware and software the company has acquired.
For example, the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) was approached for ideas, which led to the adoption of GATF's web press training curriculum. Employees are also being cross-trained to allow the printer to have greater flexibility and depth for all of its critical functions.
Waiting to Go Digital
One market the company has not embraced at the present is the digital printing world. Study teams have met with Kodak Polychrome Graphics about its DirectPress for short runs and with MAN Roland regarding the DICOweb for long runs, but Kingery Printing remains uncommitted, for now.
"We're not going to be caught blindsided," John Kingery says. "We're first going to fully understand what this equipment can do and if it really makes sense for our marketplace. If it can steal our markets, we'll buy a digital press next week. But we don't want to be on the bleeding edge of this technology."
One area Kingery Printing has opted for is mailing and fulfillment services. It was a practical decision—as a rural printer, the one-stop shop mentality made for an easy decision three years ago. In fact, John Kingery attributes much of his company's current success to these value-added capabilities.
According to Kurt Jansen, manufacturing manager, mailing and fulfillment have allowed Kingery Printing to take greater advantage of its resources. "We started doing more in-line finished products in the press and bindery departments," he says. "We had a finishing department that was dying; they were fully staffed, but lacked sufficient work. So the finishing department became our mailing department. We actually salvaged a department by going into mailing.
"In past years, if we had a crisis, we could throw people at the problem to solve it," Jansen adds. "As (Kingery Printing treasurer) Terry Probst reminds me, you can't throw people at problems anymore. We've become efficient at figuring out how to do more jobs with less people. We sometimes lose employees through attrition and don't replace them unless there's a definite need. We have to look at different ways to manage those jobs without putting extra people on board."
For example, the acquisition of its second MBO Perfection folder with Navigator and Rapid Set controls addressed the very issue of labor savings in the bindery. The key to the deal was also acquiring a pair of Palamides BA-700 automatic paper banding systems from MBO, according to Mark Tauber, bindery manager. A third high-speed BA-700 bander is on order.
"We'd gotten to the point where customers were requesting more product in bundled quantities to make their process a lot easier," he says. "When you start bundling jobs off the end of the folder by hand, it's very labor-intensive. Adding the banders, along with the folder—taking a job that could take, for example, an operator and two helpers—now you're down to an operator taking finished product right to box and out the door. You save labor and come out with a better looking product, since it's prepackaged when it comes off the folder.
"We really like that you can save repeat jobs within the Job Manager," he adds. "Bundling our work helps keep it organized. We can do multiple codes on the same sheet and keep them separate, without having to worry about intermingling two different codes of work on the same sheet." The result is faster throughput, quality assurance, accurate counts and reduced labor requirements.
Keeping Their Integrity
One of Kingery Printing's other defining characteristics is its internal communications system called the Integrity System. This customized, internal scheduling system allows the printer to maintain flexibility, while also giving its customers peace of mind. Each step of the production cycle is scheduled right to the hour, from importing customer files through product delivery. In addition, Kingery's CSRs find it helpful in tracking jobs and relaying updated information to clients.
"It has the Integrity name for a reason," John Kingery stresses. "It is a very sound system that eliminates any job from falling through the cracks. When we take a job into the system, it will be produced on time as promised or even before. This system provides a confidence level between us and our customers that becomes stronger with every job produced."
It is one of several formulas that have helped Kingery Printing establish an identity of integrity, quality work and more bang for the buck.
"Customers switch printers because of pain or gain," John Kingery concludes. "Pain, as in not getting proofs or printed products out on time; gain, as in customers getting their jobs done right, for a cheaper price. We've created a scenario where you're always going to gain from us."