Rick Westrom, INX International Ink Co.’s senior vice president of strategic sourcing and R&D director, has risen through the ranks during his 39 years in the ink industry, from production and the labs to manufacturing and purchasing. His ability to master all of these roles makes him an ideal choice for the Pioneer Award.
“Rick is a true leader and teacher in our industry,” said Rick Clendenning, INX International’s president and CEO. “He is very knowledgeable, and has the ability to take the most difficult technical issue and break it down to resolve issues in every aspect of graphic arts.
“By all of his contributions in the past to our company and the industry, Rick has definitely helped our industry advance in a number of ways,” Clendenning added. “Rick’s progression through the different roles he had and his expertise in all the aspects of our industry truly allows him to be nominated and awarded one of the 2014 Printing Ink Pioneer Awards.”
Westrom began his ink career out of high school in 1975.
“I started at Borden Chemical in St. Charles, IL out of high school by operating a three roll mill while I was going to college part-time,” he said. “After one year, I was promoted into quality control before moving into the lab, where I learned about color matching and formulation.”
Westrom worked 13 years at the St. Charles location, where Borden produced all variety of products, from offset sheetfed and heatset to solvent- and water-based liquid inks.
“I was able to formulate and provide technical service for all these ink systems, which prepared me for my career at INX International Ink Co.,” he added.
In 1988, Westrom joined Midland Color, which would later become part of INX.
“I started with Midland Color in 1988 after Borden announced they were closing the St. Charles location,” Westrom said. “I was hired to work in the offset lab, but soon was promoted to offset lab manager, then lab director over both the Offset and Liquid divisions.”
INX acquired Midland Color in 1993, and Westrom became the branch manager of the Elk Grove Village, IL location. When INX moved into a divisional reporting organization, he was promoted to the operations vice president for the Liquid Division, overseeing six locations, and was instrumental in streamlining the company’s corrugated product line and establishing its water-based dispersion line in 1995.
With Westrom’s background on the technical and operations side, Clendenning felt Westrom could excel in purchasing.
“In 2000, I was given the opportunity to work as head of purchasing for the Liquid Division,” Westrom said. “I was well versed with the production and formulation of most of our ink systems, and I was able to utilize my technical knowledge while meeting and working with suppliers.”
In 2007, Westrom was promoted again, to vice president of strategic sourcing for the entire company. In 2010, INX recognized him again by electing him to the Board of Directors, and in 2013, INX added to Westrom’s role and responsibilities when he was named R&D director for INX as well.
“Centralizing INX’s purchasing activities at R&D has helped INX reduce and leverage raw material costs,” he said. “In 2013, I was also given the opportunity to be the director of R&D, which has allowed me to work more closely with technical, operations and sales.”
Along the way, Westrom has worked with many industry leaders, and he noted their influence on his career. “Tawfig Hawa at Borden Chemical and Frank Wawak, Charles Weinholzer and Rick Clendenning at INX have been important influences,” he said.
Outside of work, Westrom and his wife Peggy enjoy traveling and photography. “I enjoy photography and traveling to National Parks,” he noted.
Westrom is a long-time supporter of NAPIM, having participated in NAPIM and NPIRI for many years, including serving on the NAPIM Convention Planning Committee for several years. He is also active in the Flexographic Technical Association, the Gravure Association of the Americas, TAPPI and all other segment technical associations, as well as the Chicago Printing Ink Production Club, where he was awarded the Printing Ink Person of the Year Award in 2011.
“Winning the 2011 Ink Person of the Year award with the Chicago Printing Ink Production Club was a great honor,” he said.
Westrom added that receiving the Pioneer Award is a tremendous honor.
“It was a great privilege to receive the Pioneer Award, especially with such a great group of other winners that are well thought of in the industry,” Westrom said.