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Integration Success

If your customers are happy, as a supplier you'll be happy, too. But when your customers are as diverse as those of Letterhead Press, it takes special talent to keep their stress levels to a minimum. Key to Letterhead's success, says VP Dick Reindl, is its ability to integrate customers' existing systems with those of its own.

In true entrepreneurial fashion, Letterhead Press opened in 1984 in the back of an ice cream warehouse not much bigger than a garage with one Kluge hot stamp press and a staff of two. In those days, it provided finishing services for corporate communications pieces and stationery (hence the name Letterhead Press).

A year later, Letterhead was in the right place at the right time as it prepared to buy a new Kluge. Reindl explains: “The Kluge salesman was selling presses to American Bank Note for a special project and said, ‘Do you know these things can do holograms?’ We said, ‘No.’ And he said, ‘I think I know somebody who needs help on a job.’” The rest is history as the ABN “job” involved stamping the first commercially mass-produced hologram of a skull on a 1985 National Geographic cover.

ABN originated the skull hologram, but it also had plans for stamping the image from its own foils with new Kluge equipment. It turned out ABN “needed help with production capacities because foils were not the most user-friendly then,” says Reindl. “We were able to figure it out.” In the end, Letterhead stamped four million covers and was hurled into handling national accounts.

Since then, Letterhead has undergone quite a transformation. By 1988 Letterhead had ten Kluge presses, another 40-in. press, and moved to a larger building. In '93 it moved to its present 40,000-sq-ft plant and in 2001 bought Arnold Co., a local, smaller competitor. The sale included a 100,000-sq-ft building, which houses more and larger equipment dedicated to commercial finishing applications, including bindery, mounting, and die-cutting equipment that can accommodate 80-in. POP displays. Letterhead's present equipment reads like a laundry list to serve industries in security, packaging, business communications, publications, and entertainment. It provides fine embossing, foil stamping, custom bindery, die-cutting, folding and gluing, mounting, laminating, and holographic applications.

As for the future, Reindl feels, “Our greatest growth potential is in foil applications…in packaging and POP.” What hasn't changed, he emphasizes, is the company's ability to integrate its customers' existing systems with its own. Letterhead is making the most out of its investment in “a lot of new technology.” Reindl explains, “[We're] trying to do things faster and more efficiently; that helps us sell our services more as a commodity. We're selling things cheaper today than back in '84. We've driven cost out of the system to make it more palatable for food and liquor packagers requiring commodity pricing. We try not to change from what's normal for the customer so that what we provide is a minimal add-on cost versus a complicated, difficult process.”

Reindl means what he says. Take for example PFFC's August and September covers. Letterhead worked with hologram originator and foil supplier Kurz Transfer Products and Brown Printing to confirm ink and foil compatibility as well as with die-maker Hinderer and Muehlich (H&M Dies). For the September cover, print-to-cut registration was of greatest concern to assure accurate placement of the embossed central diamond wallpaper Reflex pattern and an embossed Laser foil stamp for the PFFC logo and wording for “75” and “Years 1927-2002.” The central Converter “C” is microembossed in a radiating pattern with a ±1/16 in. print-to-cut registration from Brown.

As in most fairytales, this story has a familiar conclusion because so little required out of the ordinary handling — just shipping PFFC's covers to and back from Letterhead Press. And we all lived happily ever after.

CONVERTER INFO
Letterhead Press Inc.
W226N880 Eastmound
Waukesha, WI 53186
262/574-1717; letterheadpress.com

SUPPLIER INFO
Brantjen & Kluge, St. Croix Falls, WI; 715/483-3265; brandtjenandkluge.com

Kurz Transfer Products L.P., Charlotte, NC; 704/596-9091; 800/333-2306; kurzusa.com

H&M Dies, Charlotte, NC; 888/387-4226; hmusadies.com

Brown Printing, Woodstock, IL; 815/338-0702; brownprinting.com


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