March 30, 2008 -- KBA North America, a global press manufacturer based in Williston, Vermont, announces that Huston Patterson Corporation of Decatur, Illinois, has installed two new fully automated presses from KBA. The new Rapida 105 41-inch six-color UV or aqueous coating press, which was installed at Huston Patterson-owned Sigma Graphics in Ottawa, Illinois, is completing test runs and will be used to continue Sigma's commercial operation as well as its move into small-format packaging. The new Rapida 142 56-inch six-color aqueous coating press was installed at Huston Patterson headquarters in Decatur and is scheduled to be operational by March 2008.
"These two new presses from KBA raise our total press capacity substantially and give our clients the comfort level of having redundant capabilities within our stable of equipment," says Huston Patterson President/CEO Thomas W. Kowa. "Clients want reassurance that we will be able to service their needs no matter what. By having two 40-inch, two 56-inch, and two 64-inch sheetfed presses on hand, we can deliver their product."
The KBA Rapida 142 56-inch six-color aqueous coating press installed at the Huston Patterson 110,000-square-foot headquarters facility will join two existing KBA presses: a KBA Rapida 162a seven-color press with UV and aqueous coating ability installed in 2001 and a Rapida 162a six-color press with aqueous coater installed in 2005. Both Rapida 162a presses are equipped with KBA's Densitronic S closed-loop color control system, KBA's Logotronic Management system, and ACR Control. The Huston Patterson headquarters has 95 employees.
The Huston Patterson–owned Sigma Graphics facility in Ottawa, which measures 70,000 square feet and has 25 employees, received the new KBA Rapida 105 41-inch six-color UV or aqueous coating press. This full-service commercial printer, purchased by Huston Patterson in 1983, serves as the company's special products division. Kowa says placing the new 40-inch printer at Sigma Graphics will allow the company to deliver quicker package printing and outlive other 40-inch printer companies.
"We are equipping our craftsmen with the best tools to achieve our mission to become the largest privately owned package printing company in North America," says Kowa. "We are expanding our opportunities to produce higher quantities and better qualities, while applying UV coating inline on any size sheet when needed. Our new KBA presses offer the latest technology and come with every option available, including fully automated plate hangers. We have increased our flexibility for quicker turn times, less overtime, and improved capabilities, which ultimately will hold costs down for clients."
Impressive sales trajectory
Under Kowa's guidance, Huston Patterson has had an impressive sales trajectory. The firm more than doubled print revenues, from $9.8 million in 2001 to $20.4 million in 2005, following the addition of its KBA equipment. Having invested $7.5 million in new presses, Kowa expects sales revenue in 2008 to grow more than 15%.
"We negotiated hard with both KBA and another press manufacturer," recalls Kowa. "But I have a personal relationship with KBA management and I felt that KBA has a solid management team and long-term future that the other company could not match. Plus, KBA has all of the automation features that keep our company on the cutting edge." Adds Don Ellis, Huston Patterson vice president of manufacturing, "From my perspective, I wanted to stay with KBA because our existing presses are running great and our press operators love them."
To announce the installation of both presses, Huston Patterson sent out holiday cards in November 2007 decorated with a Christmas tree that said, "What's under your tree?" The cards were designed to entice Huston Patterson's potential and current clients, especially designers, about its expanding capabilities with the installation of both new KBA presses.
But by April 2008, the firm will be rolling out a much larger campaign about the two new presses that will include direct mail pieces, press releases, Web site marketing, a sales video, and a slide show depicting the progress of both presses coming online.
Five-day job commitment
"Our next campaign will be themed 'Arrive in 5,' describing our new five-day job commitment," says Kowa. "It doesn't matter if a client is on the East Coast or the West Coast, we're promising to have their job completed in five days. This promise will once again put us ahead of our competition."
Key to Huston Patterson's success is its pledge to always seek value for its clients, which include prominent wineries in California, as well as other well-known U.S. corporations.
"While we concentrate on the very best packaging for our clients, we're constantly seeking new techniques and processes to ensure that their products stand out," says Kowa. "We're in the midst of a job for Procter & Gamble where we're using a unique technology known as MetalFX . We've just produced another job using a strike-through coating effect. We produced a beautiful job for Bose Corporation using FM screening techniques for their point-of-sale packaging. We're helping Ernest & Julio Gallo with a plastic tieback using synthetic paper. This year, we're adding a new testing lab on-site for substrates and inks and coatings."
Serving a client's every need: training, private flights, and overnight stays
Kowa has taken extraordinary steps to ensure that his printing company provides clients with the utmost in service and care. He says the firm is known for its high quality, reliability, and cutting-edge technology. What also sets his firm apart from others is its academic training for clients, vendors, and employees, its own flight service directly to its headquarters, and its owner's suite for overnight client visits.
In May 2007, Huston Patterson officials formally cut the ribbon to open the Robert G. Kowa Theatre at its headquarters in Decatur. Nearly 500 people attended the grand opening of the new venue designed for employee education, corporate and client presentations, media and community events. "The theater was dedicated in my father's honor, as an extension of his belief in helping people grow in their professions," says Kowa. "It is an extremely valuable tool for our employees." The theater is equipped with a full-size projection screen and surround-sound stereo system. Theater-style seating accommodates up to 24 participants. Since its opening, the firm has conducted 35 classes and welcomed numerous clients for presentations. Employees study and are tested in more than 25 core and elective courses to help them do their jobs better
Also last summer, Huston Patterson created HPx Air, a private aviation company that serves as the primary concierge carrier for Huston Patterson and Sigma Graphics clients east of the Rocky Mountains. "HPx Air allows us to cater to clients' travel needs when we bring them to our headquarters. We handle every detail, and offer the security, comfort, and convenience our clients deserve. HPx Air's exceptional service is just another way of exceeding our client's expectations," says Kowa. HPx Air's Cessna T206 aircraft features the latest avionics packages for all navigation and weather conditions. HPx Air Captain Jean Wood has logged more than 31,000 hours in commercial aviation, and has earned a reputation during his career for commitment to safety, service, and dependability. HPx Air utilizes small, executive-class airports that offer easy access for arrivals and departures. Private car and rental car service is arranged by Huston Patterson staff.
Once clients are on the ground in Decatur, the firm continues to take care of them during visits. In 2007 Huston Patterson unveiled a new luxury owner's suite. Overnight stays for color approvals, press checks, and more are accommodated in the suite, which features a king-size bed, fireplace, plasma TV, kitchenette, and living quarters. Additional conference rooms, offices, and a fully equipped kitchen have been added as well.
With all of these special client-centric features, Huston Patterson received major recognition for its differentiation and creativity. In October 2007 Huston Patterson was honored as an Industry Innovator of the Year by the Association of Independent Corrugated Converters (AICC) and Board Converting News. The award was given to Huston Patterson for its unique employee, client, and vendor training program, the HPx Academy. The company received a gleaming silver bowl trophy, which was unveiled by Kowa in front of Huston Patterson's Decatur workforce. "The award gives us serious bragging rights in the industry," he says. "If you understand baseball, it's like winning the World Series. If you understand golf, it's like winning The Masters."
As for 2008, Huston Patterson is placing emphasis on becoming an even more environmentally-friendly business. Employees have been given "Think Green" bracelets to constantly remind them to recycle. The firm has already put other measures in place. "We've reduced the thickness of our aluminum plates from 15 mil to 12 mil, thus saving 20% in aluminum," says Ellis. "We've established an in-house ink lab to control our ink usage and reduce orders for excess ink. By adding a roll sheeter to our company, we've saved $1.2 million in paper costs. We've also started to recirculate our plate chemistry and fountain solution and provide more proofs online rather than providing hard proofs. Our goal this year is to reduce waste by 10%."
Huston Patterson prides itself on being the longest-standing privately owned package printer in North America, having been in business for nearly 115 years. The firm was founded in 1895 as the commercial printing division of the local newspaper in Decatur. In 1939, E.V. Huston and J.W. Patterson purchased the company from the newspaper and renamed it Huston Patterson. In 1961, Robert G. Kowa acquired the company and became its new owner and president. In 1971, his oldest son Thomas (Tom) Kowa joined the company. In 1990, Tom was named executive vice president of Huston Patterson. When his father passed away in November 1991, Tom Kowa was named CEO and president of Huston Patterson. Today, Kowa is aided by his daughter, Tonya Kowa-Morelli, who joined the company in 2004. In 2006 she was promoted to director of sales, special products division, at Sigma Graphics in Ottawa. More recently she was promoted to vice president-sales and marketing.
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