Aspen Press and Packaging Takes a Big Leap of Faith in Utah
The best part about being a business owner, jokes Scott Robbins, president of Aspen Press and Packaging, "is choosing my own hours—which 20 hours I'm going to work that day." Mark Mandel, VP, and Steven Evans, CFO, concur.
Along with Robert McOmber, the group founded the Sandy, UT-based printing operation in November 2002—the same year the stock market took a turn for the worse and a lot of companies were floundering (or filing for bankruptcy) due to a recession. Amidst this financial haze, they decided it was a good time to launch their own business.
"People thought we were crazy," Robbins says. He recalls drawing up a business plan with Evans, whom he'd met working at different print shops, because they were frustrated by what they perceived as an overall loss of focus on customer satisfaction.
One of the benefits of the stagnant economy, however, was the fact that equipment costs for used printing equipment were affordable, as were prices to lease manufacturing space for their new enterprise. The group got their hands on a used six-color, 40˝ Heidelberg Speedmaster CD 102 sheetfed press, along with some prepress equipment, a cutter, folder and a stitcher. Nearly two months later, their first customer job rolled off the press.
Aspen Press and Packaging prints anything from books and magazines to posters, stationery and folding cartons. It serves verticals such as the pharmaceutical industry, scrapbooking and craft companies, education and insurance markets, as well as ad agencies.
Recently, the company started taking on more packaging jobs with the opening of a new, 25,000-square-foot packaging division about a minute away from the "mothership," as they playfully call their headquarters. "We've always done packaging, and it's been growing year after year," Robbins explains, "but we would outsource diecutting to a local trade bindery that had the equipment."
"It wasn't until 2014 that we actually made the leap to bring packaging finishing in-house," Evans added. The company brought the owners of a Salt Lake City-based packaging company on board, who subsequently shuttered their business.
"We purchased a Bobst diecutter and an Alpina folder/gluer," Robbins says. "We also invested in a new CAD system and a Brausse folder/gluer."
Aspen Press and Packaging currently splits its jobs at about 40 percent commercial printing and 60 percent packaging, a gap that continues to grow.
Altogether, the business boasts three buildings totaling 55,000 square feet, 110 full-time staff members and expects to reach $20 million in sales this fiscal year.
Recently, the company brought on a handful of new sales reps. And a major selling point they're using to gain business is the company's latest addition: a new, six-color Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106.
The XL 106 was the company's first "new" purchase, after buying its first three Heidelberg presses used. But, after doing their research, the partners have no regrets with their decision. "It has been our smoothest purchase," Evans notes. The press runs 18,000 sheets/hr., on anything from offset stock to 40-pt. board, with Prinect Inpress Control.
Of course, you can't just buy one press. One purchase leads to another. "We really had to revamp our whole shop," Evans remarks. They bought a new Suprasetter 106 CTP system with dual cassette loader from Heidelberg and even decided to buy new trucks.
As the CFO, Evans points out the benefits of a new press from a budgeting standpoint. There are a lot of fixed costs, he says, so it's nice to be able to budget accurately regarding maintenance costs.
Aside from its offset capabilities, the shop features an HP Indigo 5500 digital press and various Xerox DocuColors. The company also decided to seek G7 Master Printer qualification, to ensure color consistency across its entire offset and digital printing platform.
Robbins, Evans and Mandel are looking to purchase another sheetfed UV packaging press and recently went to Germany to do research. Certainly for this team of printers, no mountain is too high to climb when it comes to meeting customer demands. PI