Handschy Industries, the Bellwood, IL-based inks, coatings and varnish manufacturer with estimated annual sales approaching $40 million, has long been seen primarily as a regional sheetfed company.
In early 2004, Larry Field, owner of Field Containers, Handschy Industries’ parent company, decided the time had come to give Handschy a new identity and the resources to match. To reinvigorate the company, Kevin Yeazell, vice president of sales and marketing at INX International Ink Company, was brought aboard as Handschy’s new president in February 2004.
Mr. Yeazell has done just that for Handschy Industries. In less than a year, Handschy has added numerous talented people to their staff, opened new facilities and made major capital improvements. The company has increased its visibility through the creation of a new corporate identity, web site and advertising, and is working to get the message across that Handschy is a national as well as international manufacturer and supplier of inks, coatings and varnishes.
The early results look encouraging, and Mr. Yeazell believes the future looks very bright as well.
Becoming a National Player
For Mr. Yeazell, who had also been at Flint Ink as vice president of sales for the commercial group, the opportunity to take charge at Handschy was a challenge he could not turn down.
“I rarely ran into Handschy during my previous positions at Flint and INX due to the commercial channels we were selling into,” Mr. Yeazell said. “All I knew was that the company manufactured good products and employed good people. They contacted me with the goal of expansion. I looked at it as a welcomed challenge, and felt with the financial and human resources commitment, Handschy will be a significant national ink company.”
Expansion was very much on the mind of Mr. Field, and Mr. Yeazell said Handschy is very well positioned to do just that.
“Field Container is committed to increasing our business, and is giving us additional people and money for capital improvements. Larry Field’s goal is to grow the company, and that growth will come through internal growth with our existing customers, by adding new customers and through acquisitions, which we are actively pursuing,” Mr. Yeazell said.
Part of the problem that Handschy has faced is its reputation as a regional sheetfed manufacturer. Actually, the company’s Bellwood plant manufactures sheetfed inks, while its Milwaukee, WI plant produces heatset inks and its Riverdale, IL plant makes liquid inks for packaging. Its Indianapolis, IN facility is primarily used for blending.
“In Chicago, the impression is that we only sell sheetfed products, while in Milwaukee, we are perceived as only selling heatset,” Mr. Yeazell said. “We also had to change our mindset to become one cohesive company. In the past, Handschy has functioned as four individual companies with very little communication as to what each location was capable of doing, and had the mindset that we couldn’t be a national player.”
“Handschy had made its reputation in sheetfed, but we have a complete line of products,” said Rod Cartwright, general manager of its Bellwood facility. “We have national capabilities, and one of the things that Kevin brought to the table is that we don’t have to view ourselves as a regional company.”
In reality, the fact that Handschy is a subsidiary and major ink supplier to Field Container, a major packaging manufacturer, has allowed Handschy to develop expertise in liquid and energy-curable inks.
“Field Container is a very large consumer of energy-cured products, both UV and EB, and their entry into these markets allowed us to build on our expertise with energy-curable products,” Mr. Yeazell said. “Energy-curing is the fastest growing segment in the market, and we’re being challenged on new applications every day.”
Challenges for the Future
There are still hurdles to overcome for Handschy, beginning with its relationship with Field Container, which has led some of Field’s competitors to decide not to do business with Handschy.
However, Mr. Yeazell noted that Handschy has autonomy from Field Container, and that the ink that Handschy creates will give them an edge. He added that Field is also a major supplier of board to its competitors, who don’t have a problem buying that product from Field.
“We maintain strict confidentiality on proprietary projects our customers are working on,” Mr. Yeazell said. “The majority of our business comes from outside Field Container.
“Our customers buy from us for our technological advantages and superior services, which we have developed and become known for,” Mr. Yeazell said. “We understand the day-to-day needs of our customers.”
The second challenge is becoming more of a national force. To that end, Handschy has a network of more than 10 distributors.
“We’ve been looked at as being a regional supplier but we aren’t,” Mr. Yeazell said. “We have a national manufacturing platform, and ship products to more than 21 countries. We have distributors on the east and west coast and are building from within.”
One of those moves was to create a new facility in Nashville, TN this past summer.
“Nashville will be our southern springboard,” Mr. Yeazell said. “Our customer base told us they had a need for an ink supplier in the south. We responded to that need and are doing well there already.”
“Nashville is the first new facility built by Handschy in at least 25 years,” Mr. Cartwright added.
Adding experienced people is also crucial to the company’s success. This year, John Chu of Sun Chemical joined joined Handschy as director of product development. George McGill, who was with INX, is Handschy’s UV product manager. Kyle Hermanny, formerly of Algan and INX, is the company’s general manager of Riverdale, which makes coatings, and Tricia Logue has joined Handschy as marketing manager.
“We have excellent, dedicated long-term employees at Handschy, and we like to think that we’ve added to that with the new individuals who have joined the Handschy team,” Mr. Yeazell said. “We have brought in people who understand the industry and bring value to our organization.”
Improving the company’s technological and manufacturing capabilities is also critical. Handschy’s leadership is looking into making numerous capital investments.
“I think I’ve seen more capital from our parent company that I have ever seen before,” Mr. Cartwright said.
Ultimately, it comes down to making Handschy more visible.
“We had to reinvent Handschy,” Mr. Yeazell said. “In the short term, we hope to achieve more exposure in the marketplace through advertising and marketing our products and working with our distributors. We have started our advertising program and recently finished a web site exclusively for Handschy.”
As for the long-term future of Handschy Industries, Mr. Yeazell and Mr. Cartwright point to the company’s past success as a starting point.
“It’s unique to manufacture a full range of products for the marketplace,” Mr. Cartwright said. “We have to have the best product available, and that drives us. Outstanding product, excellent service and technical support are our recipe for success.”
“We have grown through service and product offerings that are required today by the demanding printing environment, which needs quick turnaround and high quality inks,” Mr. Yeazell said. “The future will see us expanding even more nationwide.”