After 100 years, Flottman Co. continues to be extra related than ever
Flottman Co. opened its doors in 1921 and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2021. It is an impressive achievement for any company to reach this milestone, and according to Sue Flottman Steller – the current president and third generation – it all started with her grandfather.
The company’s journey began when FE Flottman was working in the printing department for another company but realized that his position would be cut. So he bought the equipment from his employer and set up his own commercial printing company. And that’s how staying is going.
In 1969 his son took over the reins and in 2020 Flottman Steller took over reins, turning Flottman Co. into a women’s company. The original business was founded in Cincinnati but relocated to northern Kentucky in the 1970s. In the late 1990s, it moved again to a new facility in Crestview Hills, Kentucky, where the company is now. “The property [we now have] enables us to expand without having to move, ”says Flottman Steller. “We can displace the building to accommodate growth or reconfigure the layout to add more equipment. We can grow without having to interrupt operations. “
Find a niche
Flottman Co. found a lucrative niche early on, which it still serves today – the pharmaceutical industry. In 1972, the FDA required that instructions be printed on both prescription drugs and the information for doctors, says Flottman Steller. The shop’s customers at the time asked if they could meet this requirement, which gave birth to the pharmacy sector.
Flottman Co. built on this know-how and added cardboard and label manufacture to its range in the 1990s. And then, says Flottman Steller, eight years ago they founded FUSIONWRX, a marketing division that “handles all communications except ink on paper”. This includes social media, website design, Google ads, and more. According to Flottman Steller, it is a full-fledged marketing agency that is another company within the Flottman sphere.
“Pharmaceuticals and packaging gave us a niche market,” she emphasizes. “It sets us apart from other printers, and the elimination of film and the addition of graphic design allowed for speed and accuracy. FUSIONWRX gave us another department and a profit center – those were some very important points in our history. They enabled us to forge some of the partnerships we still have and gave us paths and customer introductions that we would otherwise never have had. “
Today Flottman Co. produces a diverse range of products. On the commercial side of the business, direct mail remains an important application, with Flottman Steller noting that these projects are some of the company’s largest, often with multiple pieces printed and mailed for a single campaign. Miniature printed and folded pharmaceutical literature is still a major focus of the packaging and labeling segment of the business, and FUSIONWRX operates “full-fledged marketing programs”.
“With the mini-folding unit, we are now expanding beyond pharmaceuticals to medical devices,” says Flottman Steller, “and the pet grooming area for miniature literature has increased. We also see that literature calls for many devices – household
Faucets, fittings, automobile. It’s not just medicines; it really is packaging and we are focused on diversifying that offering. We get different industries that come to us for their assignments. “
A new segment that Flottman Co. is observing is the rapidly growing nutraceuticals segment, which the FDA is therefore increasingly interested in. Nutraceutical is a broad term used to describe any food product that has a health benefit or is marketed to treat or prevent a disease. It falls into the same category as dietary supplements. But while regulations are pretty lax right now, many brands are seeing this change and are taking proactive steps to align their labels with FDA requirements for other prescription drugs.
“Some companies are already taking the plunge knowing FDA requirements are on their way,” she says. “In this way we can help them because the type of literature they provide with products is different – often it’s the information and a marketing article and it is printed in multiple colors. This is an area that we are monitoring to ensure that we have the capacity in our pressroom to meet the demands of the new market. “
In addition to a very robust finishing department, the workshop has a full range of digital and offset devices to produce the diverse orders that come through the door. One of the latest additions is Safe Print 360, an antibacterial coating it can now offer to customers who are concerned about safety. Folding is also an important process required for the miniature intricate pieces required for pharmaceutical work. As a result, Flottman points out to Steller that his department is “much more elaborate” [than most] based on the requirements of the FDA. “
On the printing side, the latest addition was a Canon imagePRESS in the digital department, which was installed in February this year to increase productivity and reduce lead times. “As customer needs change, we look at our current equipment and upgrade it as needed,” notes Flottman Steller, who says that most of the time new equipment is added to complement current capabilities rather than replacing anything.
At the horizon
Although Flottman Co. has a rich history in the past, Flottman Co. always looks to the future to ensure that it is ahead of the trends and can continue to serve its customers’ needs whatever they may be.
“We watch the trends in the pharmaceutical industry and see what the FDA examines – that will determine our equipment purchases and the use and training of personnel,” says Flottman Steller. “In the world of commercial printing, we pay attention to postal regulations as they affect direct mail campaigns and how we advise our customers. And at FUSIONWRX, we look at marketing analytics to see how people are communicating and how we can improve that. “
Right now, the biggest trends are being driven by the proverbial elephant in the room – COVID-19. The Safe Print product, she notes, is a great product as people are starting to return to business. “There is a coating on the plate that kills bacteria and we can talk about that with customers, especially those in healthcare or education. We also find it very effective for restaurants that are using printed menus again. “
Another way to weather the COVID storm was to start a long-term maintenance program – if a device is underutilized, she says, they schedule more intensive maintenance and move staff to take that into account.
“We have learned to be very flexible and have not laid off a single employee during this whole pandemic,” she reveals. “We have redirected the workforce to different areas the company needs to work on and thought outside the box on continuous improvement initiatives. The maintenance has been huge – we always do monthly and weekly maintenance, but you can always look at something and think the rollers or something should be replaced. This has allowed us to take the equipment down and do just that, and still keep the production we need for the customers. We even added a technician during the downtime. “
That gives Flottman Co. the other big boost – the opportunity to hire new staff.
According to Flottman Steller, the average length of service of employees in the company is 13 years, with three employees having been with them for 30 years and another six for 20 years. In fact, 60% of the team has been with the company for over 10 years, which is an impressive achievement. But as they continue to grow – even in difficult times – more employees are needed to keep production running.
“We’re putting up a sign that says ‘We’re hiring!’ and we put search ads in newspapers, ”says Flottman Steller. “The growth continues. Before COVID-19 we could always find qualified personnel, but the last year has been a struggle. We still succeeded in attracting people, but we had to approach the process more carefully. We get really creative and think outside the box [to find new talent]. “
That includes going to schools like Cincinnati State, which offer engineering degrees, and connecting with those students to open their eyes to career opportunities in the printing industry. The shop also works with high school vocational training programs, including one that oversees around 30 schools in the area. “We’re trying to encourage those students who are into mechanical things to consider Flottman as a career alternative,” she says.
“We’ve had some success, but it goes on – we have to fight the hubs of Amazon, FedEx and DHL to bring in manpower so that people don’t see this as a job but as a career. We really focused on that as a differentiating factor. “
For other printers looking to join the 100 year club, Flottman Steller has some advice. “The very first thing is to find a niche in the industry – it becomes the backbone of the company,” she says. “And that enables you to expand and grow through diversification. We would also recommend getting involved in print-related associations as an active group creates a strong industry and keeps us all relevant. I also believe in caring for multiple customers and the old adage not to put all your eggs in one basket.
“Finally, complement print with digital and diversify your services – we communicate in a variety of ways, e. B. ink on paper, signage, social media, etc. Our focus is on looking at all aspects of communication and integrating them into the company. ”Concludes. “Although we focus on print, we have really become a communications company and the basic philosophy is to see how we communicate.”