Top Companies Report

3. INX International Ink Co.


150 N. Martingale Suite 700
Schaumburg, IL 60173
Phone: (630) 382-1800
Fax: (847) 969-9758
Sales: $325 million.

Major Products: A full line of ink and coatings solutions technology for packaging, commercial and digital print applications, including metal decorating, flexographic, gravure, web offset, lamination, corrugated, sheetfed, digital and UV/EB inks and coatings. 

Key Personnel: Kotaro Morita, chairman; Rick Clendenning, president and CEO; Bryce Kristo, CFO, senior VP general affairs; Yuichi Kataura, CTO, senior VP product development; George Polasik, COO, senior VP operations; John Hrdlick, senior VP field operations and distribution; Rick Westrom, senior VP, strategic global sourcing; Bob Osmundsen, senior VP general counsel; Joseph Cichon, VP, manufacturing technology; Dave Waller, VP, director national accounts/rigid packaging; Jonathan Ellaby, VP, international division; Janet Beasley, VP, quality systems; Ken Kisner, president, INX Digital Americas.

Number of Employees: Approximately 1,150.

Operating Facilities: Approximately 26 locations and 175 in-plants throughout North America. Subsidiaries: INX International U.K., Rochdale, England; INX International France, Bretigny, France. Sister company: INX Digital, San Leandro, CA; INX Digital Milan; INX Digital Prague; Parent company: Sakata INX, Osaka, Japan.

Comments: For INX International Ink Company, 2009 was an improvement over 2008, as the company enjoyed some earnings growth thanks to changes it has implemented in recent years.

“Last year proved to be much more stable than 2008,” said Bryce Kristo, CFO, senior vice president general affairs for INX International Ink Co. “Stable raw materials cost, expense management and previous capital expenditures allowed INX to rebound from 2008 with modest operating earnings. Sales levels were steady in most market segments with the exception of our commercial sheetfed accounts, which suffered severely as a result of the recession.”

Mr. Kristo noted that INX made heavy investments from 2006 to 2009 that included digital applications, liquid packaging inks, commercial litho and information systems

“Our timing was such that these investments helped mitigate the economic impact of the recession,” he added. “It has left us in a position where we can produce high quality products for the next few years with minimal additional investment.”

While sheetfed sales were impacted by the recession, Mr. Kristo said that packaging ink sales remain solid.

“The first quarter of 2009 followed the fourth quarter of 2008 with low demand,” Mr. Kristo said. “After February, we saw sales begin to rise and stabilize with the packaging segments, but commercial printing continued to suffer and this was especially true with sheetfed applications. By year-end, we had adjusted to the new trends and we cautiously anticipate some additional recovery into 2010. It appears the worst is behind us.”

Raw materials have been a major cause of concern in recent years, and while there remains volatility, Mr. Kristo said that 2009 saw some much-needed stability.

“Raw materials costs showed signs of increasing towards the end of last year and into 2010. These costs had stabilized over 2008 volatility and had declined in the first half of 2009,” Mr. Kristo said.

INX has been at the forefront of the movement to digital, having made a series of technologically rich acquisitions led by the former Triangle Digital. In 2009, INX combined all of its digital holdings into INX Digital International.

“One major development was the formation of INX Digital International as part of Sakata INX’s strategy to combine all of its digital resources into one cohesive group,” said Renee Etiopio, INX International Ink’s corporate marketing manager. “Our former joint venture partners – Triangle Digital INX, Megaink AS and Anteprima SRL – transferred their interest as former companies for ownership in INX Digital International, with Sakata INX being the majority shareholder. The complete network gives us a global company that is integrated among the partners, including Sakata INX. 

“Each of the founding members of our respective acquisitions has remained with the company, many of which were pioneers in inkjet applications dating back 10 years,” Ms. Etiopio added. “The only exception is the sad and untimely passing of Brad Kisner, who was president of Triangle Digital INX.” 

Ms. Etiopio noted that the group synergies include relationships with numerous printhead manufacturers, printer manufacturers and distributors that were at the core of their original success and are now leveraged across the global group. 

“All of our partners among the original acquisition members have seen the consolidation of the group take place under a strong global company with more than a century of history in color chemistry,” Ms. Etiopio added. “This is a very positive step forward. The company’s core product lines include traditional solvent-based chemistries, but most recently through collaboration, we have also created a new line of UV and Bio ink that is more suitable for the green aspects of the market.”

The emphasis on the digital side of the business is very much in line with the company’s belief that conventional printers have significant opportunities in inkjet as well. INX International Ink is also convinced that high-end printing, including energy curing, is an area of growth.

“We will continue to seek growth with high end technology products for both commercial and package printing, with a focus on our best-in-class energy curable products and a new line of EVOLVE Advanced Digital Systems,” Ms. Etiopio said. “Much of the business built around these products tends to be more sensitive to application effectiveness than 4-color process volume at rock bottom prices. Application effectiveness includes not only the unique requirements of a specific customer, but a general push towards digital and eco-friendly chemistries as well.

“To help commercial and package printers transition or adapt to digital capabilities, INX Digital can provide full workflow solutions for a wide variety of print environments,” Ms. Etiopio added. “Our unique experience with innovative design development with inkjet systems provides customer-driven solutions in the areas of inkjet printing, production workflows and materials handling. Whether your company is just venturing into the digital world for the first time, or it is already there and looking to expand digital capabilities, our technology systems can be outfitted to handle a wide range of production situations.”

Ms. Etiopio sees the growing collaboration between INX Digital and commercial printers as an excellent opportunity for INX to help its customers succeed in the evolving world of printing.

“The top commercial print industry trend is the transition to digital technology. Digital presses have become the norm in commercial printing and more common in package printing,” Ms. Etiopio said. “The commercial printing industry growth can be attributed almost entirely to digital printing, and it is shifting to faster production of smaller order quantities with more color. That’s because this is the major benefit of digital printing compared to offset and other printing methods. While digital inkjet printers began at the small end of printers, technology is increasingly able to provide digital printers with greater capability.

“Not since offset entered the letterpress world has the printing industry experienced such a transformation akin to the digital revolution now taking place,” Ms. Etiopio added. “It’s a profitable way to think about with its short runs, short times to market and even shorter cycle times. Digital printing is also an expanded way to think of operational flexibility to broaden manufacturing capabilities.”