Wednesday, 14 November 2012

How do you turn a large fortune into a small fortune?

Dear Readers,

The following article by Catherine Diamond appeared in the November 2012 issue of Labels and Labeling. As usual, my comments are below and we would welcome your comments at the space provided....

Precision Label and Tag
1250 Reid Street, Unit 9B
Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada L4B 1G3
905-764-3745 or 1-800-465-1522

Brian Weller is a practical man. After working as the sales manager at Nashua Canada, he started Precision Label and Tag (“from scratch”) on December 27, 1987 and set out to be a quick-order turnaround manufacturer of full color labels to selected clientele. He decided to focus on food, he says, because it’s an industry with staying power.

“As long as people are eating,” he says, “you’ll need food labels. The last thing you want to do is set yourself up as the best manufacturer of a Hula-Hoop.”

Precision Label and Tag is housed in a 3,500 square foot facility in Richmond Hill, ON, Canada. It is an efficient operation, with just six employees bringing in more than one million dollars in annual sales. Weller has been president since he established the company; his son, Rob, is vice president. In addition to its focus on food labels, Precision Label and Tag also manufacturers prime labels and custom printed packaging; pharmaceutical, medical and diagnostic heat seal lidding; instant redeemable coupons, chemical and hazardous materials identification; and temper evident seals, among others.

The company’s primary clients are major distributors and wholesalers who re-market Precision Label and Tag’s products across Canada and into the United States. Weller knew some of the company’s clients from his time at Nashua Canada. Others have been acquired through referrals. “We’re very careful who we take on as a customer because we want to be sure we can satisfy their needs,” Weller says.

Weller is as thoughtful about his machinery as he is about his clients. Precision Label and Tag currently has three presses, including both a Mark Andy and an AquaFlex, and Rotoflex inspection/rewind equipment. Suppliers and partners handle the company’s prepress needs. Weller says that, in general, the company is most cost-effective with orders that range from 50,000 to 10 million labels. “When I first started, I was told ‘Just don’t grow too fast,’ and it always stuck with me,” he says.

Precision’s VP and COO Robert Weller

“Any acquisitions we’ve made have been well thought out,” Weller says. “We own our own machines, and we have no debt. We work within our constraints so that we don’t leverage ourselves or our clients.”

The company’s sales effort is handled by authorized distributors. “We support [them] in their various trading regions by keeping them supplied with the latest in on-product labeling: the products their clients need to improve market share,” he says. “We do not sell our products directly to the consumer as this would breach our distributor agreements. Whether it is the latest cooking instruction label or an updated nutrition facts label, we work closely with our distributors and their clients to ensure satisfaction. Our distributors trust us.”

Weller says that he has learned a lot over the last 25 years, particularly that in order to stay relevant, label converters have to constantly adapt to both market and industry changes. He points out that nutrition facts and cooking instructions were not seen on some food labels as recently as ten years ago. Additionally, the need for more sustainable materials and production processes has changed the game in many respects.

Specifically, Weller says, specialty food label materials and content are constantly being improved upon. For example, he notes that Precision Label and Tag manufactures biodegradable labels for “green” food containers that will breakdown in landfill, as a replacement for plastic labels. “This has been a dramatic growth opportunity for us,” he adds. “Also, content and graphics are constantly changing on food labels to initiate and maintain consumer interest.”

Weller adds, “In the long-term, we are finding that over the last ten years, production runs are becoming shorter and more frequent, and we don’t see this changing. This can be very difficult for the larger manufacturer but fits in well with our program and capabilities.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes since 1987, and we’ve found ourselves having to adapt to new materials, machinery, etc.,” he says. “You have to make investments in order to maintain, and in order to continually grow.”

Weller is someone who not only seems to embrace change, but looks forward to it. At this year’s Labelexpo, he said that he welcomes the next phase in printing technology. “Digital flexo is the next generation,” he says. “Once it becomes commercial … its got legs.”

He adds that, in his experience, it’s as vital to embrace change as it is to create an environment that works for everyone involved. Maintaining good supplier relations, he says, is also crucial.

Weller emphasizes that the key to success for a label converter, especially in today’s market, is recognizing what type of industry it is. “The label business is a craft industry,” he adds. “That’s the key. If you see it as anything other than a craft industry, it’s a race to the bottom for mass production. It’s an easy way to turn a large fortune into a small fortune. What makes it work is knowing that it’s a craft industry, knowing your machinery and hiring the right people.” – Catherine Diamond, Labels and Labelling


my comments....

........the advice not to grow too fast came from my golf partner at the time, the late Doug Ford, Sr, then President of Deco Labels, Toronto. When I started out, Doug had already been in business for 25 years and was one of the patriarchs in our industry. Doug's business has since been passed down to his son's......Doug, Rob and Randy.

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