PI 400 Fast-Track Company: Lewisburg Printing Focuses on Technology and People
Lewisburg Printing, Lewisburg, Tenn.
Most Recent Fiscal Year Sales: $61 Million
Previous Fiscal Year Sales: $47 Million
Percentage Growth: 29%
Established in 1898 as a newspaper publisher, Lewisburg Printing Co. (LPC), located just south of Nashville, moved into commercial printing in the early 1950s.
Fueled by the purchase of Brandau Printing in 2004, and seeing an unmet need in the market, the fourth-generation printer changed its go-to-market strategy, evolving from a primarily commercial shop to a provider of extra-large-format lithography for the corrugated and display industry.
Its local, national and international clientele come from the corrugated packaging, point-of-purchase, retail, manufacturing, food processing, service and educational markets.
Led by CEO Thomas Hale Hawkins IV — descendant of the company’s founder, Thomas Hale Hawkins — LPC’s first purchases to strengthen its large-format offering were two 64˝ manroland sheetfed offset presses. Within three years, LPC purchased its first six-color, 73˝ manroland. “That was a game changer for us,” Hawkins says. “It made us significantly more efficient in large-format printing.”
LPC has since added a 56˝ manroland UV press; a second 73˝ manroland, this one with in-line UV; a third 64˝ manroland with in-line UV; and a six-color, 81˝ Rapida 205 with in-line UV — the largest sheetfed press manufactured in the world, Kirk Kelso, executive VP, notes.
To complement its line of litho presses, the G7 Master Printer qualified operation purchased a Fuji X3 digital flatbed inkjet printer in 2018.
“Everyone in the printing market knows to stay successful; you need to reinvest in technology,” Hawkins says. “You have to make a commitment and buy new technology.”
The strategy has worked. In 2017, LPC generated $61 million, a 29% increase over the previous year. With two recent acquisitions — a creative shop in New Jersey and a Dallas printer to further expand geographic reach — revenue for 2018 is forecasted to reach $73 million. Projection for 2019? $100 million.
“We attribute our company’s growth to a few key factors: people, reinvestment in technology, great customer service and extremely high customer retention,” Kelso reports. “We have a nice geographic footprint — we are 50 miles south of Nashville and can ship to 75% of the U.S. population in one day. Our speed to market and lead times are much shorter than the average for the industry.”
There’s also the genetic talent for finding opportunity. A prime example: In 2011, Kirk Kelso's wife Re Kelso, a descendent of the company's founder, started a standalone company with her sister-in-law Kathryn Hawkins. Hawk Converting is a WBENC-minority certified business that sheets raw material for other printers through the merchant channel. “They buy roll stock direct from mills, sheet the paper and sell it through the merchant channel to other printers and direct to us,” Kirk Kelso explains.
“Hawk allows us to shorten our supply chain. We are able to take a roll, sheet it exactly to the size we need, and eliminate a lot of the waste, which makes us more competitive.”
Summing up LPC’s approach to business, Kirk Kelso cites a mission statement his wife borrowed from a well-known airline that portrayed its company as a “service company that happens to fly airplanes.” Describing LPC, he concludes, “we are a service company that happens to print on paper.”