AS IT CONTINUES DURING ITS SECOND CENTURY IN BUSINESS, STEINHAUSER INC. IS A “NIMBLE PARTNER” TO ITS CUSTOMERS.
Steinhauser Inc. (Newport, Ky.) has come a long way in its 105-year history in the printing industry. Although it was founded by Albert Steinhauser in 1905 as a commercial printing operation, it has evolved into a business that, today, focuses solely on labels and packaging. It is owned and operated by Tara Steinhauser Halpin, president, and Trevor Steinhauser, vice president, the fourth generation of the Steinhauser family to run the business.
The company’s evolution was slow and steady. In the 1950s, it branched out into label printing, primarily laminated cut-and-stack paper labels. In the early 1990s, it perfected an in-mold label process using waterless offset lithography to print on plastic film, reports Steinhauser. It added flexographic printing in 2005 And then, in 2008, the company sold its commercial printing segment to concentrate on package printing.
Today Steinhauser Inc. produces pressure-sensitive (p-s) labels, in-mold labels (IMLs), flexible packaging, and shrink sleeves for markets including health and beauty, personal care, household, and food and beverage. It prints on a variety of p-s films and paper, HDPE and PP IML films, shrink film materials (both OPS and PVC), and multiple flexible packaging films.
The company has one facility with three presses and 19 employees. Its flexographic capabilities include UV and water-based printing using Mark Andy (www.markandy.com) Comco presses. Earlier this year, the company installed an HP Indigo (www.hp.com) ws6000 digital press to support its growing need for effective short-run printing.
According to the company’s Strategic Foundation, its core strength comes from being “a proven nimble partner caring about our clients’ brands.” Steinhauser says the company uses its small size to develop close relationships with its customers, while providing large company capabilities. “What makes us distinctive is that we have the technology of our larger competitors, but we are a small company that is nimble and able to turn on a dime to serve all of our customers’ requests,” he says.
In recent years, Steinhauser Inc. kept a close eye on the developing trend for smaller order quantities, along with the role that digital printing would play in this endeavor. “We researched digital technology for four years,” reports Steinhauser. “We made the decision to make the investment to satisfy current customer needs, as well as to secure new business. Digital technology is a perfect complement to our flexo workflow. Many customers are going to a JIT (just-in-time) philosophy and digital technology allows us to produce these small orders.”
Having researched a number of different digital presses, the company settled on the HP Indigo technology because of the resources and support HP offers, which “fit with our operating philosophy,” notes Steinhauser.
In the five months that the company has been running digital production, it has discovered a number of differences from the requirements for its flexo operations. “Internal communication is very important. Because of the volume and frequency of orders, there are a lot of balls in the air,” says Steinhauser. “This is one area that we have had to work on because digital printing requires a completely different operating model/mindset than our current flexo production.”
Because of this, Steinhauser reports the company “had to tighten up our processes and add some technology to our MIS to make it more robust so we could produce jobs in a timely manner. Communication with our customers is key as it pertains to artwork and timing expectations. Having as much information up front regarding artwork (color targets, PMS equivalents, etc.) is imperative.”
Steinhauser says the company is still feeling out how to use its digital printing capability, but currently, the flexo print runs range from about 6,000 to 100,000 linear feet, while the digital operation has been ranging from 250 to 5,000 linear feet. “We expect this to increase as our digital production grows,” he predicts.
Are we finished yet?
Because of the fast turnaround capability afforded by digital printing technology, the supporting finishing operations are also under the spotlight. Steinhauser reports that the company runs a variety of operations on its finishing equipment. To complement the HP Indigo press, it added a servo-driven AB Graphic International (ABG, www.abgint.com) Digicon Series 2 system that includes die-cutting, cold-foil stamping, laminating, and two flexo print stations.
“We built our Digicon Series 2 to allow us to offer a wide array of post-printing capabilities,” he says. “We currently run a lot of metallic inks on our Digicon; we have two flexo heads on our unit so we can run a flexo color and apply a coating in one pass. We also run a lot of foil on our finishing device and have the ability to laminate.”
As with any new operation, especially one that uses cutting-edge technology, Steinhauser Inc. had to overcome a number of hurdles. “We experienced some growing pains pertaining to reinsertion of jobs multiple times through both the Indigo and the Digicon,” reports Steinhauser. He credits both internal and external resources for overcoming any obstacles. “We have very skilled craftsmen in our digital department, so our prepress and finishing difficulties have been overcome very quickly.”
Steinhauser says his firm is more than satisfied with the finishing operation to date. “The quality and precision that this unit offers has allowed us to produce some amazing graphics,” he says. “We do not have additional finishing units at this point. The Digicon is keeping up with the Indigo with no problem.”
Going forward, Steinhauser sees a continuation of the trend toward smaller print runs. “Digital will continue to grow and gain market share as customers’ needs become more time-sensitive. Many customers are not interested in carrying inventories like they have in the past. Digital technology is a very cost-effective way to accomplish this and, many times, it is the only way.”
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