Foremost Graphics Invests

Pictured above, L to R: Mark Oosting – Partner – Packaging Sales Development; Tim Karel – Partner – VP Sales & Marketing; Paul Kelly – Partner – President/Managing Partner; and Brian VanderHooning – Partner – VP National Accounts.


Foremost Graphics is an independent printing, packaging and marketing communications supplier based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The company was founded in 2002 as a merger of two local companies—Printing Arts Co., established in the 1930s, and Foremost Graphics, founded in 1967. With deep roots in West Michigan, the company puts its innovation, service and quality to work for customers in the Great Lakes region and beyond. Now, there’s high anticipation for this upcoming Autumn season at Foremost Graphics and it’s not due to college football. That’s when the 100-employee business will move its fast-growing packaging division from an old multi-floor furniture factory to a newly renovated state of the art 80,000 sq ft facility outside of Grand Rapids and install its first-ever KBA Rapida 106 sheetfed press. Along with the press, new ERP software and additional material handling equipment will provide improved workflows and shared resources with its existing corporate headquarters in the city of Walker, MI.

“We’re at an exciting crossroads in our packaging business. We’ve invested millions of dollars in new equipment, including the KBA press, as well as in a new facility,” says Paul Kelly, President of Foremost Graphics. “Our goal is to facilitate the strong expansion in the packaging segment of our business, where we see equal growth opportunities in market segments including health and beauty, automotive and food processing for our national customer base.”

Originally formed as a commercial and flexographic printer, Foremost Graphics Group LLC entered the packaging sector two years ago when it acquired the print packaging business from Cedar Springs-based Display Pack Inc.  Since then, Foremost Graphics has developed its growth strategy around the folding-carton packaging industry.

Partnering with buyers
Since adding packaging to its broad portfolio of services, the company has taken an aggressive stance to partner with folding carton buyers and differentiate itself from its competition. Foremost has had its pulse on the packaging industry seeing the proliferation of products on today’s market shelf as opposed to 10 years ago and the keen sense that marketers want their products to stand out and look different. Foremost is offering its expertise to these marketing managers and brand owners who require flexibility, colour fidelity and smaller volume runs of multiple designs, as well as, longer runs of speciality packaging.

That’s where the new KBA Rapida 106 press comes into play as the key workhorse for Foremost. Kelly and his management team decided that the KBA Rapida 106 will double its capacity, allow for faster changeovers, expand its range of substrates and improve efficiency throughout its workflow.

“This new KBA press answers the demands that our customers are requesting,” says Kelly. “We’re currently running paperboard and PVC plastic but we see expanded caliper and plastics with our new KBA press. We really like the feeder system of the KBA, which should allow us to consistently run at higher speeds. We also expect the camera system to assist with our quality initiatives. Our new KBA Rapida 106 is state of the art technology when running heavier substrates and plastics and will be used primarily for packaging products. This single press should allow us to produce all our current business with the highest quality and best throughput while providing additional capacity for growth. We are pretty conservative in our projections but we anticipate at least 50% more throughput on the KBA than on our two current presses.”

The impetus to add the new KBA press came from communication with Foremost’s customers who are seeking efficiency and speed-to-market. Foremost’s full service offering – from engineering and structural design through production and inventory management – allows them to reduce time and cost in bringing customers’ products to market. Foremost prides itself on total solutions for its customers and its ability to respond quickly to their needs.

“One of the many things that makes our company special is that we’ve created a lot of successful solutions for customers, both in the commercial and the packaging space,” Kelly said. “Because we’re relatively small, we’re able to work with our customers to create solutions and do it relatively quickly, whereas sometimes a bigger boat is harder to turn.”

Bright future
The management team at Foremost sees a bright future ahead. “If we were looking into a crystal ball, we see continued investment to diversify our product and service offerings in both packaging and commercial print markets,” says Kelly. “Our five-year goal has a 100% sales increase coming from organic and acquisition growth strategies. Our goal is to continue to streamline our workflows to become as efficient and cost-effective as possible so we can pass these savings along to our customers. Continuous change is expected and we have proven that we can adapt to a changing business environment. Market diversification and cross training of our employees will be increasingly important as we attempt to serve our customers. Lead-times and run-lengths will continue to shrink as our customers adjust to serving more markets more quickly.”

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