Top Companies Report

20. Color Resolutions

March 1, 2011

575 Quality Blvd.
Fairfield, OH 45014
Phone: (800) 346-7141; (513) 552-7200
Fax: (513) 552-7141

Sales: $50 million (Ink World estimate).

Major Products: Flexo, gravure, UV/EB inks, graphic arts coatings, metallic inks, screen Inks, security inks and specialty inks.

Key Personnel: George Sickinger, chairman, CEO and president; Rick Gray, VP finance/CFO; John Edelbrock, VP of operations; Paul Fulton, VP of strategic accounts; Joe Schlinkert, director of technology; Hixon Boyd, VP, field operations, U.S. Southern Region; Dave Barker, VP, field operations, Northern Region/West Coast; Jim Distler, VP, specialty products.

Number of employees: 117.

Operating Facilities: Manufacturing plant in Fairfield, OH, and 18 blending sites.

Comments: The global recession took its toll on the entire printing industry, and while the packaging side fared better relative to publication and commercial, packaging converters also felt the impact. For Color Resolution International (CRI), a specialist in water-based and UV-curable packaging inks, particularly the high-end corrugated business, 2010 was a continuation of the previous year.

“Sales and income were on par with 2009 and below 2008,” said George Sickinger, CRI’s president and CEO. “All in all, business was okay but certainly not our best year. It actually was a good time to look closely at our business and how best to insulate ourselves from the shifts in economic climate. Certainly, picking the right customers and markets is part of it.” 

Mr. Sickinger noted that the economy did pick up in the second half of 2010.

“The economy and our business did improve in the last half of the year,” Mr. Sickinger said. “The customers who had been making investments in equipment to produce a higher level of graphics had a very good year in 2010. We have observed the ‘strong getting stronger.’”

Even with the economy at a standstill, Color Resolutions moved forward, with an eye toward improving its customer service through training as well as adding new people.

“We took a lot of time expanding the technical knowledge of our service people to match the growing demand for higher-level technical support,” Mr. Sickinger said. “We also took advantage of the poor job market and hired some bright young people to be groomed for positions in technical sales and service.” 

Raw material cost and supply are major concerns throughout the ink industry. Mr. Sickinger said that the rise in global demand, especially in China, along with the cutback in production and consolidation among the supplier base that took place when the recession began has resulted in both a rise in prices and some shortages in many key ingredients.

“Acrylic resin prices went up several times last year and are continuing to rise this year,” Mr. Sickinger said. “Titanium has had several double-digit increases and more are expected. Pigments, especially violet 23, have increased as well.

“Material cost increases are our biggest challenge,” Mr. Sickinger added. “Once you have negotiated the best terms possible with your suppliers, the only way to cope with the situation is to raise ink prices. This must happen, but it is very challenging when most customers are just emerging from the recession along with their customers.” 

Consolidation in the packaging industry is a fact of life, and Mr. Sickinger said it does provide opportunities for ink manufacturers who can show their value to customers, an area CRI is placing great emphasis on.

“I have seen consolidation accelerating across all packaging sectors,” Mr. Sickinger said. “This can be an opportunity or a problem depending on where you are sitting. If you are an incumbent, it can mean more volume at lower margins. It presents a challenge to ink makers to better define their value proposition and to be as efficient as possible. If you have a solid ‘brand’ in the market place, you will prevail.

“In the packaging arena, customers want and need more value added services such as color management, onsite technical services and inventory management,” Mr. Sickinger said. “They expect you to thoroughly understand their processes and their business. Ink formulations must be more ‘intuitive’ and allow for process variation. Just making and shipping ink on time will no longer get the job done. I am amazed at the variety of skill sets we have brought into our company over the last few years. The new mantra is ‘top quality at machine design speeds.’ It takes a broader knowledge of the whole process to achieve this on a regular basis.” 

Not only did CRI add to its talent during the past year, the company also emphasized its efforts on health, safety and environmental issues.

“Our plant is now seven years old, and our business has changed over the years,” Mr. Sickinger said. “We have changed work centers to reflect our growth in new markets. We have hired a couple of former junior military officers for supervisory positions. Being largely in the food packaging sector, plant cleanliness is a very high priority, and our plant shows very well to customers and CPCs.

“As a member of NAPIM (National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers), we invited the manager of environmental affairs, George Fuchs, to our plant for a voluntary health, safety and environmental audit,” Mr. Sickinger added. “We value outside opinions of our operations; we think we’re doing all the right things, and this program sorts through the complicated regulations. Mr. Fuchs was able to view our practices that may fall under federal, state or OSHA regulations and provide an assessment on how we’re meeting them. Specifically, Mr. Fuchs noted our ‘highly automated manufacturing process that minimizes or eliminates both employee exposures and environmental impact’ and ‘state-of-the-art materials handling techniques which reduce the risk of employee injuries.’”

With all that Color Resolutions has put into place, Mr. Sickinger sees sales growth ahead for 2011.

“We expect 2011 to be a very good year for sales growth,” Mr. Sickinger concluded. “We are concerned about the rapid rise in material prices and the impact on margins, but this will somehow sort itself out as it always does. I believe our customers and our target prospects are beginning to view ink as a strategic material, and it is becoming easier to form true partnerships. I am excited about the future of our industry.”