The Strength of Self Sufficiency
When a business has been successful for as long as The Okonite Company, a strong sense of pride develops among management and employees. Since 1878, the Ramsey, N.J., company has been manufacturing wire and cable, bringing light to iconic locations like the Statue of Liberty and One World Trade Center. Its earliest customers included Samuel Morse and Thomas Edison.
The employee-owned company takes immense pride in the fact that all of its products are American made. Bob Seltsam, director of Advertising and Print Services, says Okonite has also maintained a strong tradition of producing nearly all of its printed material in-house.
"We don't rely on anyone else," he says.
Seltsam oversees the printing needs for the Ramsey location as well as the company's 25 district offices and six manufacturing plants. The four-employee in-plant produces banners, signs, brochures, forms, envelopes, business cards and more. The in-plant also handles design, DVD duplication, photography, video, trade show coordination and booth design.
"We do a lot of tags because we manufacture cable," Seltsam adds. "They're put on reels, so the guys are printing up tags constantly—all the different color tags that go to all the manufacturing districts. My department does the barcoding."
Seltsam says the support the in-plant receives from the company's management is immensely important. When new equipment is necessary, he says, it's provided, and he feels comfortable asking for the resources he needs to serve the large manufacturing company.
Getting the Green Light
When Seltsam arrived at Okonite 10 years ago, the print shop was using an old Solna press, dating back to 1974.
"Every time we ran a job I had to call a mechanic in to fix it," Seltsam recalls. "The waste of paper trying to get this thing to line up and get this thing to register was driving me crazy. I went to my immediate boss at the time and I said, 'Listen, we need a new press. This is a big expense, but we need a new press.' "
The request made its way to the CEO, whom Seltsam says understood the need and, with very few questions, green-lighted the $315,000 purchase of a two-color Heidelberg Printmaster PM-74-2.
"That cost included the upgrade of everything," Seltsam recalls. "I said, "If we're going with the new press we can't go with the old dark room and burning plates. We need a direct-to-plate system.' We had the whole dark room gutted. We had the whole room rewired and re-ductworked. The board all said, 'We're proud of the fact we print here. We need a new press.' I got no fight at all. I was amazed."
In addition to the Heidelberg, the in-plant operates two other offset presses: an ABDick 350 and a Toko 4750. The shop also runs a Konica Minolta bizhub PRESS C6000 and an HP Designjet T920 for its wide-format work.
The C6000, Seltsam says, is great for on-demand printing. It can also help provide backup if the other machines are occupied.
"If we're busy doing a brochure and a job comes in, and we can't stop the brochure, we have this digital press also," Seltsam observes. "It works out fine. It's fantastic."
Some examples of the wide-format printing the in-plant produces include the various signs situated throughout the facilities and a banner that welcomes employees and visitors to Okonite stating the company's passion for quality, its employee-owned status and U.S.-made policy.
Pride and Practicality
Seltsam says one reason his in-plant is so strongly supported is because of the general philosophy of the manufacturing company. Being employee-owned and self-sufficient has helped maintain this desire to keep printing in-house. Having full control over printing, he adds, spares the company the hassle and expense of procuring work outside.
"In advertising and printing there's always changes," Seltsam states. "We'll make the plates and as we're ready to throw the plates on the press, they'll make a change. Doing that with an outside printer, I'd have to call them up, stop it, and send it back. Forget it. Here, we have control of everything."
Part of the Team
While the time savings are important to the company, Seltsam says that making changes on a job that has been sent out can also be immensely costly.
"If we're wrapping [a job] up and a major spec has changed, I have to start over again," he explains. "That would cost a fortune if we had an outside printer doing that. Costs and time are the two major reasons I'm glad we do everything in-house. Here all we're losing is paper. We're not being charged with press time. We're not being charged with the guy's hourly wage over at the print shop."
The shop runs on a budget and will charge back on certain jobs. For example, Seltsam says if a plant or district office wanted a special job, such as a giveaway or promotional item, done specifically for that location, he would charge it back.
After a decade with the company, Seltsam says he still loves his work and that he and his staff members are considered integral assets to the company. In-plants don't always receive the recognition and resources they deserve, but Seltsam says in his time at Okonite, he's flourished in the positive and supportive environment.
"Everybody on the board is very proud that we have an in-house advertising and print shop," Seltsam says. "The company is just very proud of it."