By Frank J. Romano All employees were asked to leave at 1 p.m. on a sunny day in April. They packed their belongings and left, and pending jobs with the manufacturer were left undone. Jun 21, 2005 -- The end has come for Vallis, a $57 million forms printer with locations in Baltimore, Maryland, Glendale Heights, Illinois, and Cherryvale, Kansas. The forms portion of MLC Holding has been shuttered, costing 200 employees their jobs. The plants were part of Garland, Texas-based The Vallis Companies, which manufactured products such as direct mail, mailers, integrated products, labels, scratch-off products, and business forms. Founded in 1961, the company had announced that it was broadening its services to attract and develop new relationships with distributors. It ranked number 10 on Print Solutions Top 100 manufacturers 2004 list. And then, in less than an hour, it was gone. All employees were asked to leave at 1 p.m. on a sunny day in April. They packed their belongings and left, and pending jobs with the manufacturer were left undone. It was said that the plants were closed primarily because they were in the forms business, which had been off in the first quarter. A press release from MLC Holding Corporation--which includes Vallis, Metro Label, and other printing-related subsidiaries--said, "It was discontinuing all operations related to the Vallis Company, effective immediately. This decision does not affect the other subsidiaries, which will continue to provide services to existing and new customers. MLC Holding Corporation will continue its plans to expand into growth markets and focus its economic resources on developing new opportunities within the printing industry." One distributor had 30 jobs pending with the plant and over a million printed pieces in inventory. One distributor had 30 jobs pending with the plant and over a million printed pieces in inventory. A Vallis employee informed them that the manufacturer would ship all completed jobs but not process pending ones, and distributors could collect their inventories. After hearing this story from a group of printers at a recent DMIA (Document Management Industries Association) meeting, I immediately thought of Moore and Wallace and many other so-called "forms" printers. All are an object lesson in the need to constantly re-invent your business. When you realize that forms printers were among the first in digital printing and that they were true innovators in online print systems, you have to wonder why so many never saw their world changing. They were the perfect group of manufacturers to advance into digital printing, especially color. Moore and Wallace and other so-called "forms" printers are an object lesson in the need to constantly re-invent your business. In 1946, the Independent Business Forms Dealers of America was formed. In 1947, it became National Business Forms Associates, which became the National Business Forms Association in 1963. And in 1996, the association became DMIA and looked beyond the form to the document. Most forms manufacturers did not sell direct; they sold through office supply and other dealers. Any print product that can be replaced by an electronic alternative is at risk When Senators Clinton and Frist team up to announce digital healthcare databases, one can see the future of the printed form. Any print product that can be replaced by an electronic alternative is at risk, and we must be vigilant in tracking such trends and developing new print opportunities that are less susceptible to digital annihilation. Or, the fate of Vallis could be our fate.