Wallace Carlson of Minnetonka, Minn., Continues to Build on Its Reputation
In the last 10 years, the printing industry has noticed a trend toward assuming rebranded identities that are less printing inspired and more marketing motivated. It is not so much a disdain for print as it is a desire to express an expanded product and service portfolio to potential customers. No one-trick ponies here.
But when a company has forged a reputation for quality, excellent customer service and pride of workmanship by its employees, well, swapping out the name is probably the last thing it needs to do.
Take the husband-wife tandem of Ann and Brian Turbeville, who started a print shop of their own — Lightning Printing — out of their garage (along with Brian’s dad Jack and brother Doug) and grew it into a solid, $2.5 million business. In 2005, the Turbevilles (who bought out Jack and Doug) took advantage of the opportunity to acquire Minnetonka, Minn.-based Wallace Carlson Printing from its third-generation owners. One of the first questions that needed to be answered: Does the firm need to rebrand itself?
“We did marketing research and found that Wallace Carlson Printing was very respected in the industry and had a fantastic name in the Twin Cities,” explains Brian Turbeville, company president, who oversees Wallace Carlson Printing with his wife Ann, the firm’s CEO and owner. “It was easy for us to take the Wallace Carlson name, go out, pound the pavement and actively sell our services.”
The combined company accounted for about $6 million in annual sales with 40 employees. Today — 10 years and one horrendous U.S. recession later — the partnership of Ann, Brian and COO Charlie Cox has enabled the firm to become an $11.5 million performer, backed by 60 employees.
Wallace Carlson Printing specializes in commercial printing, packaging work and direct mail for the academic, advertising, finance, retail, manufacturing and health care sectors. It offers additional kitting and fulfillment capabilities from its 45,000-square-foot facility.
Obviously, the company has not been content just trading in on its good name. The executive crew at Wallace Carlson Printing recently made a critical decision to install an eight-color, 40˝ Komori Lithrone GL840 sheetfed offset press with H-UV technology, a fully-automatic plate changing system and the PQA-S dual camera quality inspection system. H-UV enables inks to cure instantly, which allows for print jobs to be sent to the bindery much quicker.
Quick Changeovers, Minimal Waste
What swayed the company was a customer event that Komori America held in Chicago early last year. During a demonstration, the press quickly produced 500 sellable sheets: three short-run jobs done on three different substrates with minimal waste — all in less than 15 minutes. There was little doubt as to Wallace Carlson Printing’s assessment.
“The magnitude of that demo was amazing ... we had never seen this level of automation and technology,” notes Cox. “We were absolutely convinced that this was our future. The H-UV capability, being dry coming off the press, was also a huge consideration. In addition, the press requires less power consumption and consumables. The print quality is unparalleled; it’s the best I’ve seen in 30 years.”
How big of a game changer has the Komori GL840 been for Wallace Carlson Printing? It has put two of their presses on the unemployment line while comfortably assuming all existing work with plenty of room for more. The GL840 has cranked out in excess of 6.5 million sheets in the first 90 days of operation. And it has cut makeready times by 40% and increased running speeds by 30%.
And with the acquisition, says Brian Turbeville, Wallace Carlson Printing put “all of its cards in the middle.” But as bold as the move may seem, it’s not quite a gamble on the company’s part.“The business plan and crunching the numbers revealed we could do this,” he explains. “We continuously analyze all of the production numbers from prepress, press and bindery, and the data showed that the Komori GL840 H-UV was a smart business decision.”
In a matter of a few months, Cox remarks, the press had changed the entire dynamic of the company. “We swapped out equipment that still worked, but we knew we had to increase throughput with fewer touches,” he says. “The industry demanded we do something bombastic and come out full throttle. It had to make an impact. The amount and level of automation on this machine is incredible.”
The new press is but one jewel in the Wallace Carlson crown. The company completely upgraded its prepress to Fujifilm’s XMF Workflow platform, including ColorPath/G7 certification. At press time, Wallace Carlson Printing was on the verge of adding a Muller Martini Bravo saddle stitcher with full automatic makeready (AMRYS), card inserter and signature recognition (ASIR) system. An MBO folder and palamides bundling system are also a fait accompli for Wallace Carlson Printing’s bindery.
Fewer Touches, Greater Efficiency
In the end, it is all about speed, which represents a huge chunk of the efficiency pie at Wallace Carlson Printing. The fewer the touches en route from concept to finished product, the quicker the turn and the less chance for errors. That the team is able to function in an open environment only increases its chances for success.
“We’re not an ego-filled company,” states Mike Worthington, VP of sales. “All of our departments are very collaborative. There are no Hatfields and McCoys — it’s all about getting together and solving problems, so that we can move forward as a team.
“We’re big on transparency … employees want to feel valued and know that their efforts are making a difference. We also share our goals and vision for the company with them.”
That shared vision starts at the top with the partnership trio of the Turbevilles and Cox. The husband/wife managerial dynamic is not all that common outside of the smaller print franchise platform but, in this case, the Turbevilles have ample experience at it, having started Lightning Printing in 1984.
Truth be known, not all relationships can withstand too much togetherness. That’s not the case with Brian and Ann. “We’re pretty much together 24/7,” he says. “We ride to work together, bring our dog (Bella) with us, then go home and have dinner. We don’t talk business a lot at home; we’re pretty good at keeping our work and home life separated.”
Ann Turbeville adds that the couple’s intuition has grown to a degree that they know what buttons to push, and when to recognize the resolve of one another. “We enjoy working together and complement each other’s skills very well. As long as he already knows that I’m right, we’re good,” she says with a chuckle.
The future is an exciting proposition for Wallace Carlson Printing. The company produced a “mind-blowing” marketing piece that, according to Worthington, provides the sales department with the right tool to engage prospects in a conversation with a honed message. It also helps that the marketing piece is a walking, talking testament to the capabilities of the new eight-color Lithrone press. They consider it a door opener and a deal closer.
Cox points out that another strength of the company is its flat management structure, which allows Wallace Carlson Printing to be nimble and responsive to the needs of its clients. As a result, the business can also adapt and change its strategy to the needs of the market. “The market changes at the drop of a dime,” he says.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about our customers — are they happy?” Worthington adds. “It’s about receiving positive emails from clients, thanking us for bailing them out on a project. Typically, in today’s world, you only hear about any negative feedback. We post all of the ‘thank yous’ from customers to recognize our employees who touched those jobs. It’s nice to know that you’ve made a positive difference in your clients’ business.” PI