packagePRINTING magazine presents:

Esko and Highcon Join Forces

GHENT, BELGIUM AND YAVNE, ISRAEL—August 21, 2014—Esko, a packaging design and workflow solutions company, and Highcon, developer of the Highcon Euclid digital cutting and creasing machine, have expanded their cooperation with an OEM agreement. Highcon will distribute, install and support the Esko CAD Digital Front End (DFE) software as complement to the 2014 Must See 'Ems award winning Highcon Euclid. This combined solution is available immediately on a worldwide basis.

Esko's CAD software processes structural designs for production on the Highcon Euclid. It converts packaging structures to the finishing format required by the Euclid, which receives its CAD cutting and creasing information from ArtiosCAD prepared or converted DFX files. With the new OEM agreement, the Highcon Euclid now offers an on-board software tool, the Highcon Light Editor, that allows Euclid operators to take full advantage of the benefits of digital technology by editing crease and cut lines in the structural design of the job at the point of production, including the ability to incorporate last-minute changes. It also enables optimizing of nicks by increasing or decreasing their size or adding or removing them; and adding, removing or editing stripping lines. 

“We are proud of the opportunity to partner with Esko, incorporating their industry-leading technology into our game-changing digital converting solution,” comments Eitan Varon, Highcon’s executive vice president. “We have been working with Esko since the beginning and are excited to extend this collaboration for the benefit of our existing and future customers. Flexibility is one of the key advantages of digital technology and by implementing the Esko CAD DFE, our customers will be able to perform a wide range of last minute edits that ensure the proper production of the package, promotional item, or greeting card that their clients require.”

“This late-stage capability is especially important in an environment where run lengths and cycle times are compressed,” adds Richard Deroo, product manager structural design at Esko. “Packaging converters accept files from a wide variety of sources, and it is essential that they have the ability to control final structures at the point of production to ensure a consistent quality product with limited waste and downtime.”

“Esko's mission is to deliver integrated customer solutions that drive profitability throughout the printing and packaging supply chain,” concludes Deroo. “By partnering with Highcon to integrate Esko’s CAD DFE with the Highcon Euclid, the packaging workflow is streamlined through the ability to perform edits to design files at the point of production, ensuring optimal digital converting in the fast-paced world of digital packaging production. This minimizes downtime and maximizes productivity. We are very pleased to be working with Highcon to bring this innovative solution to the market.”

Source: Esko.

The Industry’s Own 'Organic Movement'

By Peter J. Schaefer

As advisers to printers and packagers in mergers and acquisitions, we at New Direction Partners like to stress the advantages of growth by that route. Over time, it becomes more practical to grow by acquiring other companies than by expanding the core business—that’s only natural in a mature, consolidating industry.

But, some of our clients are happily excepting themselves from the rule by growing organically at rapid clips while others in their segments have plateaued. Their strategy is specialization, and it applies whether a company is pursuing M&A opportunities or focusing on building up the existing base.

These clients understand that today, and particularly in printing, survival increasingly is about differentiation—finding ways to stay out of the commodity trap and its obsessive concern with pricing. The escape path usually is found through cultivating a niche that outflanks the competition with services that customers can’t easily obtain elsewhere. This almost always means making an investment in distinctive technical capabilities, as it’s no longer possible to differentiate a company just on the basis of product quality or timeliness of delivery.

Done correctly, specialization acts on printing/packaging companies the way growth hormones act on humans. I’m currently working with a book printer who was an early adopter of a non-lithographic production method. That end of his business is expanding at about 20 percent per year while much of the rest of the book printing segment creeps along with considerably less growth. Another client, specializing in flexible packaging, posts 40 percent annual growth—impressive even in the thriving packaging sector.

If you look at a well-managed company with rising revenues and healthy margins, you probably will find that some of the prosperity comes from organic growth in a well-chosen niche. On the commercial side, we see it in firms offering proprietary, IT-based solutions and services that move them away from the kinds of transactional printing that most commercial printers depend upon. Among package producers, those specializing in labels, pharmaceutical packaging, and folding cartons are doing particularly well.

Organic growth is a good thing for its own sake, of course, but it also becomes an undeniable sweetener when a company is ready to begin thinking about M&As. Another of my clients is a general commercial printer who wants to sell but whose business, frankly, is struggling. Ordinarily, a company like this one wouldn’t have much appeal as an acquisition target. However, the business includes an IT-based specialty that’s flourishing in spite of the poor bottom line. That’s enabled us to generate substantial interest in the company among buyers who want to acquire the specialty for themselves.

Today, growth can’t be decoupled from this kind of differentiation—to have one, you must first achieve the other. In its June Flash Report on the industry’s economic footprint and outlook, Printing Industries of America speaks of “a new print-plus business” where the action is in specialties such as print that provides logistics to manufactured products (packaging, labels, wrappers, and product user manuals).

“Aggressively look for opportunities in new niches, new geographic areas, new services or products, or new customers,” counsels PIA. “In a zero-sum industry like print, there are only two sources of sales growth—increased market share or capitalizing on these types of new opportunities.”

So, never give up hope of organic growth, even if it has been a long time since you last diversified your product and service offerings. To accomplish it, do your homework and find a way to set yourself apart from the competition. And, if you’re tempted just to shrug and say, “What’s the difference?”, remember: it makes all the difference in the world.

New Direction Partners (NDP) is the print and graphic communications industry’s leading provider of advisory services for firms seeking growth and opportunity through mergers and acquisitions. NDP assists its clients by giving them expert guidance and peace of mind at every stage of the process of buying or selling a printing company. Services include representing selling shareholders; acquisition searches; valuation; capital formation and financing; and strategic planning. NDP’s partners have participated in more than 300 mergers and acquisitions since 1979. Collectively they possess over 200 years of industry experience with transactions in aggregate exceeding $2 billion.

For information, e-mail

Dunwoody College Students Win National Packaging Competition

By Cory Francer

Three pieces of marketing innovation led to a team of students from Dunwoody College of Technology Design & Graphics Technology earning two first place awards in the Annual Student Packaging Design Competition, hosted by the Association of Independent Corrugated Converters (AICC).

The competition, themed “Design to an Opportunity,” required teams to construct a three-part structural and graphic design project. Stephanie Burdorf, Charlotte LaCour, Jenna Weiler, Dan Mueller, Noah Rabinowitz, and Finn Pearson represented Dunwoody College of Technology at the event. The team rose to the top of the 27 colleges that participated with its entry, which included a standing display to market the college at events or on campus, a mailing envelope to send to prospective students, and a welcome kit for newly enrolled students.

According to the college’s website, the team combined in-house photographs, archived images from the 1920s, and the school’s centennial seal. Throughout the pieces, they used the college’s branding guidelines.

“We were judged on the creativity, marketability, design attributes, manufacturing, durability, and ease of assembly for the structure of all three projects,” said team leader Stephanie Burdorf in the Dunwoody College of Technology article. “We were also judged separately on the graphics of all three projects on how well they created a brand and tied-in with each other to give them all a similar look.”

Burdorf goes on to explain how the three portions of the entry chronologically follow the school’s enrollment steps. She says the standee rotates, providing an interactive experience and a maximized use of space for information. The envelope, she says, is a visually enticing element and doubles as a folder. The welcome kit was created to hold the various items distributed to new students on their first day of school. She says it was also purposely designed to fit into a locker, therefore increasing locker sales.

In the article, Burdorf says the team improved its skills across multiple areas of packaging.

“Not only have we all become more proficient with the Adobe and Esko programs and software, but we also all had a chance to work in a real-world setting,” she said. “We had to work as a team, follow a strict timeline, research on what was in place as well as what was needed, find materials, and work with different departments as well as industry partners.”

According to Dunwoody, this is the first time the Dunwoody Design & Graphics Technology has won a non-flexographic competition and this is its first international win. It is also the first time the program has won a competition with this many teams involved.

“Because of the timing of the competition, we are obliged to compete with first-year students, as no team member can participate after graduation, and the annual AICC deadline is in late June,” Principal Instructor and Faculty Advisor Pete Rivard said in the article. “The four-year universities with their graduate programs typically field teams with juniors, seniors, and even graduate students, each with successive years of competition experience. So this is an absolute David vs. Goliath story, if you amend the details to have David surrounded by dozens of Goliaths.”

The team also received some assistance from industry partners. Esko contributed design software, Liberty Carton-Golden Valley provided free corrugated board, Ambassador Press and The Bureau provided large format printing and CAD table time, and Dunwoody admissions and marketing staff members provided feedback on the entries.

Source: Dunwoody College of Technology.

Mark Andy Announces Company Sale; Management Team, Former CEO Lead Buyout

ST. LOUIS—August 21, 2014—Mark Andy announced that an investment group formed by P.J. Desai, Mark Andy's former CEO, and the current management team has completed the purchase of Mark Andy from American Industrial Partners Capital Fund IV, L.P. (AIP). AIP will continue as a minority investor in Mark Andy along with Graycliff Partners, an independent investment firm focused on middle market investments.

As a pioneer in the label printing equipment space, Mark Andy has led the industry with award-winning breakthroughs in flexo printing technology and workflows, as well as a total solutions approach to driving profitability for converters around the world. Mark Andy has seen considerable growth in recent years with a focus on innovation and is poised to capitalize on the industry’s burgeoning shift to digital inkjet printing in the form of its recently launched inline hybrid solution, the Mark Andy Digital Series.

"This was an outstanding opportunity to purchase an established and innovative company with a strong core business of equipment, consumable products and services for the label market, as well as several exciting new products in the pipeline, including our new Digital Series inkjet press," said Desai. "Combined, there are over 10,000 Mark Andy and Rotoflex machines currently installed with a replacement value of over $1 billion. Together with our excellent management team, we are committed to growing Mark Andy's already leading market position."

Desai served as Mark Andy's CEO from 2012-2014. Prior to that, he was president and CEO of Abencs, an engineering and construction company, and MECS, Inc., a global leader in the design of sulfuric acid plants and related high performance products.

Kevin Wilken, CEO at Mark Andy, said, “The management team is very excited to work once again with P.J. Desai and to be part of the ownership of such a great company. We have exceptional customers, market-leading products and services that drive improved profitability for our customers, and we have great people that love the industry and take great pride in their work. The combination of dedicated owner-managers and P.J.'s expertise and strategic thinking will continue driving Mark Andy’s success and long-term growth strategy.”

Mark Andy will be exhibiting at Labelexpo Americas, September 9-11, 2014, where the new Digital Series will be debuted to a global audience. In addition, the company continues its global market strategy and mission to be the supplier of choice throughout the product life cycle, offering high quality, innovative solutions that drive customer profitability. The company's stand at the 2014 show will focus on displaying Mark Andy’s Total Solutions Partner approach, offering complete workflow solutions to advance the converters’ business.

Source: Mark Andy.