Creativity and Cost Control Make an Impression

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Creativity and Cost Control Make an Impression

March 31, 2008 - 21:00


How can we help you reduce costs?

It's a simple, straightforward question that any business needs to be asking nowadays. But how many do ask? Better yet, how many businesses never have to ask the question in the first place? Instead, they're saving their clients money by providing not only a product but also solutions to problems before they even become problems.

 Impressions President Mike Jorgensen inspects a freshly printed stack of folding cartons.
Impressions President Mike Jorgensen inspects a freshly printed stack of folding cartons.

A few years ago Impressions Inc., an independent folding carton converter headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., learned that the cartons it was providing a major customer (a national brand health and beauty aid manufacturer) weren't running properly on its production line.

Let's celebrate
Let's celebrate

It would have been easy to point fingers. Instead, Impressions' process engineer and Chris Sommers, director of sales development, went to the customer's plant, troubleshot the problem, and modified the line. To get this client through its current dilemma, they then sent some of their employees over to prebreak carton scores.

Then they went back to Impressions and made changes in the carton for the next production run. Cost to the client? Zero dollars. Reacting quickly motivates the company daily.

Some examples of folding cartons produced at Impressions.
Some examples of folding cartons produced at Impressions.

"With everything we do, every person we hire, we want to achieve speed without sacrificing quality," Sommers says. "We've brought our die making and our prepress system in-house. We designed our own die library so we can track die use. We buy our board in rolls and do our own sheeting. We constantly ask, 'How will this help our customers? How will this help us get to market faster?' We also have to be creative with the terms and programs we use to price out products."

It's a constant challenge because Impressions is ISO 9001-certified and must abide by ISO's quality rules and regulations.

Impressions has been using Heidelberg presses for years. It especially likes the press’ color control system and its networking capabilities.
Impressions has been using Heidelberg presses for years. It especially likes the press’ color control system and its networking capabilities.

Hop in a Truck

Problem solving comes in all forms. For example, on numerous occasions Dave Bade, vice president, packaging, has taken his weekends to drive cartons to a customer in Oklahoma because it needed cartons faster than normal trucking services could provide.

"We're competing with integrated [carton] companies, so we have to be relationship-based and strategic," President Mike Jorgensen says.

Making a Carton Impression
Making a Carton Impression

The growth challenges for Impressions, which does $40 million in sales annually, are found in pricing pressures, reverse auctions, customer consolidation, and overseas competitors, specifically from China, he points out. His company also has to deal with customers who are looking to get out of manufacturing and outsource their packaging needs to contract packagers. These customers will qualify carton providers, but in so doing squeeze value out of the process.

"We work very hard on our cost containment processes," states CEO Mark Jorgensen. "Our spoilage is almost non-existent, and we have dramatically reduced make-ready time and material through a series of software
and equipment investments. In addition, we continuously train our employees to achieve the levels necessary to be the absolute best in their field."

Impressions, which serves the office products, health and beauty aids, and medical industries, isn't afraid to invest in equipment or other tools to help it streamline production. For example, right now it is working with Radius Solutions, Chicago, to implement enterprise resource planning software that will provide it with the tools to estimate, schedule orders, generate reports, and gather data off the shop floor.

In addition, Mike Jorgensen regularly attends Graphic Arts Technical Foundation conferences, where he is able to keep up with the latest process and quality control developments, whether they focus on continuous improvement, certification, color specification control, wash-up, or press room lighting issues.

Selling Beyond Neighborhood

Although Minneapolis has many fine attributes as a city, manufacturing isn't one of its strengths. For Impressions, this means aggressively pursuing business opportunities by selling beyond its immediate neighborhood — and even surrounding states. This effort has led to four software and medical customers on the West Coast.

One way to expand Impressions' customer base, no matter where it is located, is to reduce set-up times, says Jorgensen, adding that Radius Solutions' software will also be used to help the plant produce more orders per day. But reducing and compressing comes in other forms, including online proofing and sending files over the Internet (repeat customers prefer soft versus hard proofs), all of which Impressions does now. So jobs that used to take two weeks to turn over are now completed in four days or less.

That's what it takes for a privately held, family-owned carton converter to compete in an industry that continues to consolidate. The Jorgensen family is making certain that Impressions will be making a lasting impression on its customers for many more years.