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Pacific Southwest Container is a company on the move.

As is the case in virtually every industry, converters are seeking ways to differentiate themselves from their competition, whether it is by providing additional services, higher quality or complete solutions for their customers.

Pacific Southwest Container (PSC), a Modesto, CA-based family-owned packaging specialist, is a leader in a number of markets, including corrugated containers, single face lamination, POP, protective packaging and folding cartons. The company has developed a wide range of approaches to providing added value to their customers. PSC's ability to provide a comprehensive array of services, from planning and design, to manufacturing and delivery, allows the company to provide the most creative and cost-effective solutions to meet their customers' packaging needs.

Being able to provide just-in-time delivery and unique designs has helped PSC grow rapidly, to the point where the company has opened a new 215,000 square foot facility in Visalia, CA to work alongside its 500,000 square foot headquarters.

In order to best serve its customers, PSC has taken the unique step of creating its own ink lab, and while it may cost a little more to produce its own inks, the difference for customers is clear.

"This is another arrow in our quiver," said Bryan Smith, PSC's executive vice president, sales and marketing.

Creating an Ink Lab

PSC's decision to build its own ink lab was unique, but the company realized that it would pay off.

"This was a risk for us to take on," said Darin Jones, executive vice president of operations. "You do spend more money to make ink. Still, the ink lab has given us more options, and allowed us to maximize our product lines and offer our customers a better price."

Considering PSC's historic willingness to take risks, adding an ink room should not be surprising.

"PSC was founded in 1973 as a producer of containers," Mr. Jones said. "In 1995, we changed our business model to become a packaging company. We now have five flexo presses, four sheetfed folding carton presses, plus we do POP displays and single face laminations."

The driving force behind the decision was the need to create highly specialized inks for customers.

"Our ink lab gives us versatility, and allows us to not be driven to our vendors," said Dillon Dyer, PSC's ink team leader. "We can go to any vendor we need for support and develop an application-specific product, or even just accept a prepackaged product."

The company decided that it would be best to work with numerous ink suppliers, rather that rely on one company.

"With a vendor-created ink lab, we're driven to use their products and only their strengths, but they don't always have your sales end goal in mind," Mr. Dyer said. "A lot of times, they are developing products for a broad range of uses, not necessarily the specific need you may have at the time. We are often under a time constraint, and don't have time for trial and error using off the shelf products. By having our own ink lab, we worry about the cost of ink and the cost of running our presses, with the emphasis on satisfying our end customer's expectations. We know where we can spend and where we can save."

Mr. Dyer said that some ink manufacturers initially were reluctant to work with PSC on new product development, but they have now come to trust that PSC will keep information confidential.

"In the beginning, we had some resistance to managing our ink lab independently, but a comfort level had to be gained over time, such as not giving out wet samples and keeping proprietary information confidential, in some cases filling out joint non disclosure agreements," Mr. Dyer said.

Mr. Dyer and James Tuggle, who both previously worked for ink companies, manage the ink lab.

"We have strong R&D capabilities and the volume of usage to leverage vendors," Mr. Dyer said. "My background is in UV and conventional paste inks, coatings, water-based and UV flexographic inks, and James' background is in flexible packaging and corrugated. For example, I can steer us to specific oligomers and monomers. We regularly utilize our extensive R&D and QC capabilities, with our management team providing press time to test our formulations."

Mr. Jones makes sure that the ink room's new products are tested, which allows Mr. Dyer and Mr. Tuggle to develop inks that ultimately will help customers differentiate their products in the marketplace.

"Darin gives us the opportunity to test out our products live on press," Mr. Dyer said. "For example, we have a 40 inch KBA with a flexo unit on the first station, and we created a hybrid metallic ink in-house, a single pass reticulating varnish/coating combination, and other innovative products."

"Customers identify the product with the package, and our ability to provide different solutions, with specific looks and feels, is opening more doors in the marketplace," Mr. Smith said. "Being on the cutting edge is giving us an advantage." Mr. Dyer said that the company's decision to develop its own ink lab has paid off nicely for PSC.

"We've not only become better packagers with our existing product lines, but we now have the confidence to pursue new business that three years ago we would have seen as a struggle to produce. We started this program in June 2002, and it took about a year to make the full transition," Mr. Dyer said. "So far, it's worked out very well. It's nice to be able to utilize our company's expertise, and it has made us incredibly mobile. Our senior management team made a commitment to innovate, and took a leap of faith, and it has paid off very well."
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Title Annotation:Downstream
Author:Savastano, David
Publication:Ink World
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Previous Article:TWGA offers two new studies.
Next Article:Major acquisitions are transforming the printing ink industry.

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