Main image: From left: Mario Ouellet, 2nd Pressman & Feeder; Jean Francois Vezina, Head Pressman; Bruno Lemay, Operations & Technology Manager; Annick Garcin, Sales & Shareholder; Patrick Leclerc, Production Director; Sylvain Vanier, Production Supervisor; Guillaume Leblanc, Financial Manager; Shawn Desmarchais, President & Shareholder.
Situated in Boucherville, 23 miles outside of Montreal, is Produlith – a strategic packaging solutions service provider founded in 1981. Shawn Desmarchais joined the company right out of school in 1993 and has been there ever since, holding almost every position and becoming President of the second generation printer in 2006.
For Produlith, Printing Industries of America (PIA) was the ‘go-to’ for all things industry related. In the early 2000s, Desmarchais’ father, President at that time, attended a PIA meeting that set the future course for the company. Commercial print was predicted to decline to double digits, and digital printing wasn’t quite ready for prime time. The printer needed to make a decision: “The future is packaging, and we have to get into it,” he said. So, at the next sales meeting, the team was handed business cards for their newly formed division, ProPack, and they were told to go out and sell packaging. And sell they did. “The biggest strength of our company has always been the pig-headed determination to figure things out and get it done,” says Desmarchais.
From 2004 to 2008, Produlith made a 100% transition from commercial to packaging printing. The company began with traditional offset folding cartons, then moved into the digital packaging arena. About five years ago, it became the first printer in Canada with a digital packaging press. Last year, Produlith invested in flexo so that it would have the full range of packaging printing services to offer.
Technology Drives Success
For Produlith, the most important thing in packaging was to have a complete offer for any customer, any size, in any industry – food, pharma, cosmetics, tobacco or household products. According to Desmarchais, “We have a 360-degree offer for the customer, which is critical because of our competition. They’re either billion dollar companies or mom ’n pop shops. I think of Produlith as a mature mom ’n pop shop because we still have that attitude of ‘Bring it on. We can get it done’.”
When it was an all-commercial print shop there were two presses, purchased in 2000. After 19 years of operation, the printer knew its presses weren’t built for an all-packaging print shop. Desmarchais knew that investing in new technology was the only way to move forward. “We were comfortable with the Japanese technology, and Komori was always an interesting manufacturer to us,” he says.
It was also important that his pressmen got on board early in the game. “We made a scorecard comparing the models of the top manufacturers,” he explains. “What we liked about the Komori Lithrone GX was that it scored very strong in speed and had all the features necessary for folding cartons. There was an economic advantage if you compared the total package of the Komori Lithrone GX to the machines of other press manufacturers. Once this was clear, we linked up with Komcan, the Canadian distributor.
“To compete in this industry – to achieve speed and print quality – you have to invest,” he adds. “Customers appreciate the investments we’re making and understand that our cutting-edge technology is critical to their success. We listen to and stay very close to our customer base.”
The new six-color Lithrone GX40 includes Komori’s PQA-S V5 system, which will let the company get better control of its print production and standardize the work of all press teams. It also invested in KP-Connect. “KP-Connect will provide us great feedback on how we are running the press. This tool will allow our management and press teams to access their report card instantly and then set goals for improvement,” Desmarchais says.
“The large size lets us get more ups on a sheet, so we run fewer sheets and gain more output in an hour versus our old presses. The average speeds we run are more than 50 percent faster than our old presses and the makeready times have improved from an average of 60-75 minutes to 25-30 minutes. Waste per job has been reduced by 25-40 percent. And we’ve only had the press for a few months,” he said.
Reinvention Equals Growth
Produlith has completely reinvented itself over the past decade and especially the past five years. In the last five years, it purchased the building where it is currently located and did a complete renovation. The company bought a digital press, die-cutters and gluers as well as the new Komori Lithrone GX40. “We’ve invested more than $5 million recently, so now it’s time to stabilize and let the dust settle,” Desmarchais says.
Today, Produlith has 60 employees and annual revenue of approximately $14 million – double the level of 2013. Continuing its robust growth, it is 38 percent ahead of this time last year. n