Archive for Sunday, October 4, 1992

CURTIS 1000 STRIVES TO STAY AHEAD OF MARKET

October 4, 1992

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Curtis 1000's options for the future literally are not as black and white today as they were 25 years ago, when the business forms and envelope printer opened its Lawrence plant, 345 N. Iowa.

To remain competitive in a changing industry, David Payton, Curtis 1000's division manager, says the Lawrence plant has incorporated color printing processes into its growing menu of services.

"Multicolor we know from research causes people to take action," Payton said. "It enables a customer to give more identity and individuality to their mailing pieces."

It's a big change from the plain-vanilla and black-ink product Curtis 1000 generated when the Lawrence plant opened in 1967. But then multicolor printing is just one on a list of "opportunity products" Payton says the company has developed in recent years to target emerging markets served by the Lawrence facility.

The company will celebrate the growth of its Lawrence operations during the past 25 years at an open house from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at the plant. Participating in the observance will be Tom Carmody, former manager of the Lawrence division and regional vice president who now is chairman and chief executive of Atlanta-based American Business Products, Curtis 1000's parent company.

IN MANY cases, Payton says, the company has experienced its greatest success in recent years by anticipating trends before they've generated full-blown demand for new products.

"We're constantly looking for new vertical markets for our products," he said.

For instance, Payton recalls that five years ago, when some marketers were saying that "green" sensibilities would never catch on among businesses, Curtis 1000 executives saw things differently and began stockpiling recycled paper to meet eventual demand.

"We felt this is where the corporate community would want to go," he said.

Today, the Lawrence division produces 15 million units a year on recycled paper and almost exclusively uses soy-based ink.

"Many of our customers through their corporate offices have put out directives Amoco for one that you will use recycled," he said, adding that recycled paper used by Curtis 1000 is 100 percent post-consumer waste.

COMPANIES are so adamant about using recycled paper that Curtis 1000 customers have been dismayed by improvements in recycling processes that turn recycled paper into crisp, white sheets, undistinguishable from regular paper.

"A lot of our customers say, `Let's put some impurities in there and make it look recycled,'" Payton said.

The company also has kept a step ahead of its changing markets by foreseeing the demise of the tractor-fed printer, which is being replaced by laser printers. Payton said Curtis 1000 was ready with the appropriate business forms to meet demand when it arose.

That's all part of a conscious choice the company has made to be proactive rather than reactive, Payton said.

"We have to be aware of new technology," he said. "We can sit back and wait for that technology to affect our marketplace or we can see that change as an opportunity."

WHEN THE Lawrence plant was built 25 years ago it was the first construction project to use industrial revenue bonds issued by the city of Lawrence. In its first year the plant employed 15 workers and posted $1 million in sales.

Today, Payton said, the Lawrence division has 55 employees, including some who work on a partial second shift.

Annual sales for the Lawrence division, which includes the local plant and a branch facaility in Denver, are now about $15 million. By 1980, though, the Lawrence division had grown enough that some Missouri operations, representing about $5 million in sales today, were transfered to a new St. Louis division.

To improve customer service, its products are stored in eight warehouses around the Midwest.

The company also has created opportunities through increased computerization and automation. A computerized system tracks orders through the plant so that a customer who inquires can learn quickly where an order is in the production process and when it will be shipped.

A COMPUTER system also performs inventory functions for the entire eight-warehouse network and allows Curtis 1000 to provide just-in-time service.

The Lawrence plant also has a system that allows steady customers to obtain price quotes, place orders and pay for them electronically.

The cost per transaction, which might encompass orders for 30 to 40 items, is 10 cents, Payton said.

"In essence, mail service is saved, along with manpower, of course, and the checking transactions are automated," he said noting that such value-added services are a selling point.

"It gives out sales representatives the opportunity to present a product that offers the customer cost savings."

For Curtis 1000, Payton said, the system improves account receivables and also saves administrative time and costs associated with postage.

"What our customer saves, we in essence mirror," he said.

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