Top Companies Report

15. Wikoff Color Corporation


1886 Merritt Road 
Fort Mill, SC 29715
Phone: (803) 548-2210
Fax: (803) 548-5728

Sales:$150 million (Ink World estimate).

Major Products: Sheetfed and web offset inks, solvent-based and water-based flexo and gravure inks, energy-curable inks and coatings, security inks, overprint varnish and aqueous coatings.

Key Personnel: Phil Lambert, chairman; Geoff Peters, president and CEO; Daryl Collins, VP of national sales and regional operations; Martin Hambrock, VP of Canadian operations; Don Duncan, director of R&D; Ben Price, director of purchasing; Art Dennis, director of manufacturing; Buck Rorie, VP of finance and administration.

Number of Employees: 490.

Operating Facilities:29 manufacturing plants in the U.S. and Canada. Headquarters and primary research and development facilities are located in Fort Mill, SC. 

Comments: Wikoff Color was able to weather the economic challenges of 2010, and is poised for growth in 2011.

“For Wikoff Color, 2010 had its challenges but given the economic climate, we were not too disappointed with the results,” Geoff Peters, president and CEO “While sales were off slightly, margins were not overly impacted as the company continued to aggressively streamline its operations and reduce controllable expenses in an attempt to offset increases in raw material costs.

“While Wikoff felt signs of the economy improving, and many of our customers, especially in food packaging, reported healthy results, there were still challenges,” Mr. Peters added. “Commercial printing, especially anything advertising-related, continued to lag the rest of the printing industry in its return to past production levels.”

Wikoff Color has seen opportunities emerge in UV and EB curing, label and narrow web, flexible packaging and inkjet, and Mr. Peters expects the company to continue to expand in those markets.

“We expect the major growth areas for Wikoff Color to continue to be energy curable inks, narrow web label and flexible packaging,” Mr. Peters said. “Additionally, we have been expanding our inkjet business and expect that trend to continue.”

To become more efficient, Wikoff deployed a new enterprise resource planning application (ERP) designed to improve information flow, connectivity and efficiency across all of its facilities. 

“In 2010, the company implemented the corporate financial applications and rolled the manufacturing applications out to the Fort Mill plant (our largest manufacturing facility) and to four of our branch plants,” Mr. Peters said. “We plan to complete the implementation across the remaining 24 branch plant locations in 2011.”

Flooding heavily damaged Wikoff Color’s Nashville, TN facility, in 2010, but the company was able to overcome the loss without impacting customers.

“We had a tough challenge when our Nashville branch plant was ruined during the record floods of 2010,” Mr. Peters said. “Despite the challenge, the company missed only one customer order as other Wikoff plants stepped up in true Wikoff fashion to meet the needs of our printing customers. The facility has been rebuilt and is fully operational again.“

Wikoff continued to invest in capital improvements to drive efficiency gains in its major manufacturing facilities. Additionally, Joe Kubasiak, former branch manager of the Grand Rapids plant, was transferred to Fort Mill, SC as plant manager.

Wikoff is also expanding its international operations, as it was approved by the Chinese government for full manufacturing in its Beijing, China operation.

As for raw materials, Mr. Peters noted that 2010 began with relative stability in raw material prices, but starting around March, raw material price increase pressure became widespread, and shortages of some key ingredients became a serious issue.

“While price increases were a problem, we were also concerned about shortages of raw materials,” he said. “Lead times on key pigments, like TiO2 and carbazole violet, stretched to two months, and most suppliers had supply restrictions in place. The rosin resin market also had supply pressures, impacted by drastically increased gum rosin prices. 

“As for the coming year, nitrocellulose supply is expected to be tight throughout 2011 and energy cure raw materials continue to face upward pricing pressure,” Mr. Peters added. “Wikoff worked with our suppliers throughout the year to maintain ready sources of supply and keep price increases in check as much as possible. In summary, raw material pricing and supply were significant problems for the ink industry in 2010 and are expected to remain problems in 2011.”

Consolidation is a fact of life throughout the supply chain, particularly as key vendors are merged together.

“Wikoff continued to see consolidation among both our customers and suppliers,” Mr. Peters said. “While customer consolidation has not had an impact on our business, supplier consolidation had a more significant effect. There have been a few notable supplier consolidations over the past two years, like the BASF acquisition of Ciba, the IGM acquisition of the Cognis UV acrylates business and the Momentive merger with Hexion (and subsequent sale of the Ink and Adhesives Resins business to Harima). These acquisitions didn’t come without challenges, especially maintaining effective levels of customer service to the ink industry during the process.”

Mr. Peters said that Wikoff expects to see continued economic improvement in 2011, which should help printing volumes continue to grow, and anticipates further expansion in terms of geography and product portfolio.

“We expect to expand our geographic footprint in 2011 and add to our current product base,” Mr. Peters said. “We expect to expand our line of products, adding many inks and coatings that offer environmentally friendly options and performance improvements. We also believe that the cost adjustments and manufacturing efficiency programs that we have implemented will continue to pay strong dividends this year. The risk for our business will continue to be with material costs and our ability to manage those costs in conjunction with customer pricing.”