Back in 1958, Jim Distler took a job with Cloudsley Company, a flexible packaging company in Cincinnati, OH. After four years working at various jobs, including press assistant on a rotogravure press, he shifted over to the company’s ink manufacturing operations.
Jim Distler, center, vice president of specialty inks at Color Resolutions International (CRI), is congratulated by CRI’s John Edelbrock, left, and George Sickinger, right, after receiving NAPIM’s Printing Ink Pioneer Award.
“The Pioneer Award is like an old man award, but I’ll take it,” Mr. Distler joked.
A low-key individual, Mr. Distler has earned the respect of his colleagues in the ink industry as well as customers.
“Jim is very low key, and our customers love him,” said George Sickinger, CRI’s chairman, president and CEO. “He is out there to help people, and there is a very high trust level. He never gets rattled. He’s been here 10 years, and I think so highly of him that I gave him an opportunity to buy a piece of Color Resolutions. He has made great contributions to our company. Our people know that when Jim’s involved, there will be a very happy ending.”
“Jim has the technical know-how and the ability to work with customers in a very sophisticated way,” said Joe Schlinkert, CRI’s technical director. “Jim is a very unassuming individual who doesn’t have an ego like most sales people. He is highly regarded by everyone in the organization, and he just seems to have an inherent insight that is unique. He earns the trust of his customers.”
“Jim is a great guy to have as a key supplier. Most people in sales just spin their yarn but he would listen first, analyze second and then propose solutions. I quickly came to trust Jim and his advice, probably because he never steered me wrong,” added Jack Dunn, vice president and general manager for Juiced Creative.
Entering the Ink Industry
For Mr. Distler, joining the printing ink industry was the result of looking for work. “I was looking for a job, and it was a job,” he said.
Cloudsley Company was a printing company specializing in flexible packaging, but it had its own ink manufacturing operation, complete with a full-time chemist and its own R&D facilities, which caught Mr. Distler’s eye.
“While working on a rotogravure press, I observed the printing and ink operations,” he said. “I became fascinated by the ink chemistry as I observed so much of the printing success was dependent on color and chemical additions made by the chemist and head technician. The owner of the company, A.G. Cloudsley, decided to promote me as the third man in the ink lab.
“It was a great opportunity to learn in formulating and manufacturing literally from the bottom up, because as low man in the department, I physically made most of the inks, then later began working as an ink formulator,” he added. “The education was unique because we would formulate, color match, manufacture, send to press for application and then observe printing results all in the same day. The beauty of ink formulating is that it is very much like cooking – making a fine French sauce so to speak – because you add a little of this and that and test (rather than taste) and you have it. It really was really quite unique, I thought.”
Mr. Distler eventually became the ink department manager and remained at that position until 1967. As the company grew, he transferred in 1977 to the R&D department, and in 1979, was promoted to technical director of the company.
Jim Distler, right, vice president of specialty inks at Color Resolutions International, receives NAPIM’s Printing Ink Pioneer Award from NAPIM president Michael Gettis during the 2009 NAPIM Annual Convention, which was held in Orlando, FL.
In 1988, Printpack acquired Cloudsley, and Mr. Distler decided it was time to move on after 30 years. He joined BCM Inks, where he spent the next 10 years, eventually becoming vice president and general manager.
“BCM was a start-up specialty company located in Cincinnati, OH. The company was notable for introducing high end graphic inks to the corrugated industry,” Mr. Distler said. “David Callif, the owner of BCM Inks, was instrumental in my success, particularly as I transitioned from technical to sales and marketing. I became vice president and general manager at BCM.”
Color Resolutions International
While Mr. Distler enjoyed working at BCM Inks, he could not refuse an offer that came in 1998, when Mr. Sickinger approached Mr. Distler with the idea of setting up a new ink division at Borden Chemical.
“In 1998, George offered me the opportunity to join Borden Chemical to head a new division focusing on high-end graphic inks for the specialty corrugated market specialty,” Mr. Distler said. “I was just turning 60 years old. I thought I would have to make the change now or forget the idea completely. I decided to take the challenge, and it ended up being the right thing for me to do.”
Within a year, Borden Chemical withdrew from the ink industry, selling the ink division to Mr. Sickinger, who formed Color Resolutions International.
“George Sickinger gave me the opportunity that was really key for me,” said Mr. Distler, who was promoted to vice president – specialty inks and became one of the new company’s owners.
Outside of CRI, Mr. Distler has long been active in a number of organizations allied with the ink industry, including the Flexographic Technical Association, Flexible Packaging Association and Association of Independent Corrugated Companies. Mr. Distler has authored numerous articles for trade magazines, and also gives talks to various industry groups.
Although Mr. Distler is reducing his work schedule some, he intends to remain active at CRI, while also enjoying reading, oil painting, exercising/keeping fit and cooking.
“I retired from full-time work in January, and now work two-thirds time,” he said. “I intend to continue on at some level, working my way toward retirement gradually.”
For Mr. Distler, the ink industry has been an excellent experience.
“It’s been a wonderful experience on both a professional and personal level,” he concluded. “Looking back, I have held upper management positions at the last three companies of employment, achieving this with a limited education. More importantly, I learned the value of working with others toward achieving common goals and the importance of always listening carefully before focusing on a detail oriented approach toward problem solving. The down side of retiring is the thought of losing touch with so many wonderful people I feel so privileged to have worked with as customers or associates.”