Although entrepreneurs tend to squabble over the exact ingredients needed, most will agree that a formula is definitely necessary for any business to succeed - or the success it does achieve is sure to be fleeting. This is especially true when a business concern is trying to survive in the highly-competitive and increasingly shrinking world of paperboard packaging.
"The companies that have been successful in our industry have, on a company-wide basis, embraced a commitment to understanding the customer. The most successful firms then use that understanding to position both processes and capabilities to meet the customer needs," explains Carlton Highsmith, a 30-year veteran of the paperboard packaging industry and the founder, president and chief executive officer of Hamden, Conn.-based Specialized Packaging Group Inc. (SPG).
In order to provide vast product and service offerings, SPG has made a significant investment in state of the art equipment at all of its facilities, including its London, Ontario plant.
Keeping A Customer Focus
As the largest minority-owned paperboard packager in North America, SPG is steadfast in its commitment to keep the customer as its primary focus. This is the same "whatever it takes approach" that Highsmith relied upon when founding the company in 1983.
"The entire organization and all of its activities are centered around taking the necessary steps to fully understand our customers' needs and expectations and then deploying the technologies, processes, and systems that enable us to profitably meet those needs and expectations on a consistent basis," Highsmith says.
With a dedication to investing in new technology, SPG President and Chief Executive Officer Carlton Highsmith is determined to keep SPG a leader in each industry sector it enters.
As a privately-owned company, SPG is noticeably fast and flexible, and its organizational structure and focus on building quality teams gives it the human power necessary to support its strategic objectives.
With annual revenue of more than $120 million, key accounts include Procter and Gamble, Colgate, Palmolive, Clorox, S.C. Johnson, and Unilever, and some of the most recognizable products on the market, including Tide, Crest, Swiffer, Colgate, Snuggle, Puffs, Scoop Away, Green Giant, and Irish Spring, SPG is definitely doing something right.
"To the extent that we can continue to meet the business needs of our key strategic customers by providing them with world-class products at competitive prices, I fully expect that we will continue to grow our business with them," Highsmith says. "There is still room to grow within our existing accounts."
Implementing Innovative Technologies
According to Highsmith, "Understanding that each client has specific needs and expectations that are subject to change depending on market segment, product positioning, the competitive landscape and the unique properties required for the package also means appreciating that no one printing and converting technology is capable of meeting the needs of all customers all of the time."
By looking at the firm's operations, Highsmith has taken this to heart. SPG currently offers one of the most diverse printing and converting technology options available from any converter.
The company's current capabilities include narrow and wide format lithographic printing using conventional inks and water-based coatings as well as UV inks and coatings with interstation drying; mid web and wide web flexo using both conventional water-based inks and coatings and UV inks and coatings also with interstation drying; inline flatbed platen-form diecutting using a rotary cutting setup; and wide web rotogravure capable of using conventional solvent inks and coatings, water-based coatings, UV coatings, electron beam coatings as well as roll-to-roll capabilities and inline laminating.
Using a comprehensive staff of in-house designers and state of the art printing machinery, SPG has been able to keep a firm hold on the consumer product packaging market.
In order to provide such vast product and service offerings, SPG has made a significant investment in state of the art equipment. For instance, SPG's Zerland units combined with its wide web, eight-color Bobst Lemanic rotogravure technology provide quality and reliable gravure printing and converting. Its Komori lithographic assets produce the highest fidelity graphic reproduction obtainable. Its flexo assets including both Zig Zag units and the Lemanic 650 servo driven UV flexo printing presses with inline diecutting offer the highest definition flexo print quality available while still delivering the many other advantages of web flexo converting, such as three-color backside printing.
Of course, with such an array of equipment, SPG also has developed extensive training programs at each of its facilities to ensure that its machinery is used efficiently to meet both customer quality standards and stringent time constraints.
Having this plethora of options also gives SPG a cost advantage, explains Highsmith.
"Being able to offer a variety of technologies provides us with the opportunity to always have the lowest cost printing and converting option available to customers," he says. "Our ability to offer multiple process technologies has absolutely allowed us to secure business in markets that would otherwise be closed to us - a direct result of our awareness of the diversity of customer needs.
"Our investment in equipment is reflective of our strategic decision to compete across a wide range of consumer product categories. Doing so makes it essential to deploy the various technologies that enable us to compete effectively in each segment," Highsmith says. "We refer to it as the right product-process fit."
Investing In People
While SPG may be an aggressive investor in state of the art printing and converting technology, its investment in innovation continues well beyond its equipment. With more than 500 employees company-wide, SPG has organized highly-innovative and capable package design teams, strategically located in Hamden and Cincinnati, to help it win new product launch opportunities.
In line with its customer focus, SPG also employs an experienced technical staff capable of helping clients quickly respond to ever changing market conditions.
"New filling and packaging lines need to be designed and implemented flawlessly," Highsmith says. "It takes thorough evaluation and careful planning to be successful."
Customers also commonly tap this same expertise when making modifications to existing filling and packaging lines.
"Our customers rely on us to be their partner. Therefore our people need to be highly trained, adept in their profession, and in tune with our company's overall mission to make sure the customer's project is a success. If you do not have this aspect in place, no amount of technology can help you succeed over the long haul," Highsmith says. "We recognized this early on, so we made employing exceptional team members a crucial aspect of our strategic goal."
Seizing Opportunities cont.