Waste Not, Want Not: Color Converting Industries' New Plant

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 09.02.05

Color Converting Industries (CCI) has blossomed into the seventh-largest ink manufacturer in the U.S.

For more than 24 years, Color Converting Industries (CCI) has been an influential force in the ink industry. Led by chairman and CEO Ronald T. Barry, the Des Moines, IA-based manufacturer has blossomed into an estimated $75 million in annual sales, and has become the seventh-largest ink manufacturer in the U.S.

As CCI has continued to expand, it became necessary to add further capacity. Mr. Barry decided in 1997 that it was indeed time to create a new facility in Des Moines, and the CCI organization worked diligently to create a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant and headquarters. The result: a brand new 100,000 square foot, $18 million facility that will set standards for efficiency, environmental controls and reducing waste. “This is what we like to describe as a bold move,” said Mr. Barry.

Starting from Scratch
Mr. Barry enlisted the support of his talented staff, and sought out the opinions of CCI’s employees in creating this plant. In particular, he challenged Daniel McDowell, the company’s new president, to design the best possible plant. “Dan and I had conversations, and he was challenged to ‘raise the bar’ as we address our role as a chemical compounder,” he said. “Our other facilities are very efficient, but we wondered if there was a better way. Our competitors are good and are getting better. We have to continually strive to improve at everything we do. We have to continue to give the marketplace reasons to select and retain us as a supplier.”

One area that CCI wanted to improve on was waste. “The idea is that when we buy a dollar’s worth of raw materials we want to get the full value of that dollar,” Mr. Barry said. “The fugitive solvent emissions and dust emissions will be negligible. Our loss will be somewhere well under one-half of one percent.”

“The internal engineering team worked together to focus on waste and variation,” said Mr. McDowell, Color Converting’s new president. “We started with a blank piece of paper. We needed this for capacity reasons because of our growth, and we decided to take the incremental approach and address our capability as well.”

“The engineering that went into this is not typical for ink making,” Mr. Barry said. It involves sophisticated controls to get a handle on the variables in the ink making process.”

“I have been to many ink companies throughout the world and many of these facilities are well modernized,” said Kent Shah, vice president and chief technical officer for CCI. “I am proud of our new Park Avenue facility. It’s a cleaner and environmentally safer work place. Our corporate laboratories, located at the Park Avenue facility, are also going through expansion with additional new equipment. This will enhance effective and efficient market response.”

Mr. Barry said that input from the entire CCI organization helped make this possible. “This is the first time our organization has been able to do something from the ground floor,” Mr. Barry said. “This is a team effort. There were literally hundreds of suggestions. Everybody had an opportunity to contribute.”

“We can serve our customers in ways they’ve never been served before,” Mr. Barry said. “Now, as the equipment and methodologies change in the printing industry, ink becomes more of a concern. We’re now on the leading edge.”

Mr. Barry said that having a first-class facility will be a plus in hiring and retaining the best-qualified people.

“We’re trying to go after the best people, and having a nice place to work is a big key,”Mr. Barry noted. “We’re becoming more of a mid-sized company and we have to keep the intimacy while building a critical mass. The lessons we learn at this facility will be applied throughout our system.”

A New President
Mr. McDowell had a major role in the creation of the new plant, and Mr. Barry believes CCI’s new president has the capability to contribute much to the company. “It’s a nice opportunity for Dan and for Color Converting,” Mr. Barry said.

“Dan is very good and very talented,” Mr. Shah said of CCI’s new president. “He’s been in the industry for 10 years and he’s very knowledgeable.”

In addition to an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from Iowa State University, Mr. McDowell has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Northwestern University and an MBA from DePaul. He is looking forward to the new challenge, secure in the knowledge that CCI has many talented people from whom he can draw support and advice.

“We have an incredible group,” Mr. McDowell said. “ I come from a manufacturing and finance background, and the nice thing is that we have excellent individuals in areas where I don’t have the experience. It’s a great group.”

Jim Ross, as director of sales and service, plays the critical role not only of leading sales, field service and technical areas, but his experience as a quality consultant prior to joining Color Converting blended his engineering education and experience with lessons learned from his MBA education to produce a truly exceptional leader of constraint management and systems thinking. A cadre of talented key leaders support McDowell, Ross and Shah in the execution of their ambitious plans.

Poised for Success
Production is expected to begin in December and CCI’s leaders say that everything is right on schedule. Part of that confidence is due to the fact that CCI had completed lengthy test runs of its model prior to going ahead with its construction.

“We’ve had a pilot plant running in one of our installations for more than a year,” Mr. Barry said. “We didn’t spend a lot of money hoping to get lucky.

“This was driven a lot by the demands of our customers and their need for less variation, as well as our need to reduce waste,” Mr. Barry said. “So far, all of our predictions have been accurate. This will be a very productive ink plant.”

As he surveys his new plant, Mr. Barry said he is extremely happy with the outcome of all the planning and work. “This far exceeds my initial expectations,” Mr. Barry concluded.