Neil Waldrop, Century Printing & Packaging Chief Operating Officer

Neil, how did Century Printing and Packaging Begin?

My Dad and I started the label printing business while my brother Ben and Dad were already running a business related to the textile industry. I had graduated from Clemson and worked there for a couple of years then left as I was looking for something different. Dad, who had never seen a flexo press and I, who knew nothing about running a business, bought our first press for $54,0000. During the day I would make sales calls and in the afternoon and evenings, I would run the press.

In 2001 we built our current facility and we had eight employees. At the time we wondered what we were ever going to do with all this space, but since then we have filled it slam full with equipment, materials, presses, offices and we currently have 26 employees.

How have you grown in terms of production?

We’ve seen quite a change in growth and I never thought we’d ever get this big. We currently have five presses and we’re going to replace one and upgrade to a bigger, more sophisticated, higher quality, and faster press. We continue to grow and we’ve always been careful about growing too fast, but we have also taken advantage of opportunities before us. Most of the growth is just taking care of our customers and fulfilling their needs on time and solving their problems which is what we do well and enjoy. We always strive to give our customers a fair price with quality service and outcomes. One of our goals in production is to find ways to solve customer problems or challenges and make their life easier.

25 years ago did you ever think it would be on this scale?

No! I never thought we’d be doing this type of high-quality work and the volume we are currently doing. And that is to the credit of our employees, they are the ones who strive to continually improve quality and get the jobs done on time and to exceed customer expectations.

Neil, you’ve been doing this a long time, walk us through the changes you’ve seen.

The plates, the ink, and the quality of the substrates we work with today are much higher than when we started. They are easier to maintain and yet print a higher quality which allows us to provide our customers with the end results they want so their product pops off the shelf and grabs the consumer’s attention. What you see on the shelf in a product is often what sells it. Consumers don’t want to buy a bad-looking product whereas if you have an appealing label that clearly identifies what’s in the package or product it stands out from the rest of the competition.

The latest major change in the industry is digital printing. It has been around for about ten years, but within the last five years it has escalated in terms of speed, quality and the ability to print more substrates has allowed it to really explode, which has pros and cons. Some work can’t be done on flexo and has to be done on a digital press. Traditionally, digital has been a higher cost in long production runs but the prices are coming down which is why we are securing new equipment. To be competitive we’ve got to be able to produce the quality at the price our customers need.

What is the new equipment or press?

It is a Mark Andy modified press that has a flexo base, but a digital unit built in the middle of the press which allows us to use a couple of flexo stations to print or add features that do well through the flexo method, but then the digital can print the main body of work to provide high-quality images and fine line screens. It allows us to do it all in line so we don’t have multiple pieces of equipment to run it through. It will also die-cut in line. Some companies try to die cut offline, but we like to do as much as we can inline. It requires fewer people and the more you move jobs through multiple pieces of equipment the higher your scrape and the greater risk there is for problems. If you can do it all in line and come out with a great finished product on the other end that simplifies the process and boosts the quality of the finished product.

Describe your production team right now if you don’t mind.

We have a really good team that works well together and communicates. They understand that what they are doing is going to impact the people in front of and behind them. They understand that quality is critical and you are only as good as the labels you print today. Tomorrow is not a given, you’ve got to prove from order to order for the customer that you can do the work. Our team supports one another and I feel really good about it if someone is struggling and another team member is more experienced in that type of job will jump over and help them.

How has cross-training the team in production helped your business?

We have really worked hard at this for several reasons. I think if someone understands what other people in the company have to deal with and their struggles with a job it allows them to see it firsthand and appreciate their coworker’s contributions so when they are doing critical work they may feed information to the next person in a different way so they can speed up the process, eliminate mistakes and improve the finished product. It has enabled us to shift people around if we are slow in one area and minimize downtime to focus on more pressing orders. Everyone stays busy with this approach to meet our customer’s deadlines and specifications.

What are some of the things you are seeing in the future of the printing and packaging industry?

The versatility of products we can print upon continues to grow because of the quality of the inks, substrates, and the presses can handle more of them. Quite honestly, the customers want and are demanding different substrates to help their product stand out from the competition. For example, what we call “brushed steel,” is a silver-looking material that has a marking in it and looks like a raw, steel material that helps a package pop out on certain products. Being able to provide that look and feel for customers is exciting. The whole combination of bringing flexo and digital together and utilizing both to produce a well-rounded product for customers is really exciting.

What are some of the new materials that you’re excited about?

Printing on unsupported film which is used to wrap products like protein bars or small pieces of candy, snacks and natural foods is a really fast-growing market. It has its challenges as we have to understand what the customer needs from a packing standpoint. It can be a little more complicated so from a technical standpoint, I enjoy figuring out the needs of the customer, the format, and how to produce it for them. The variety of printing and packaging we are providing today is exciting. We can go into just about any store and have a good chance of seeing our product on the shelves. To me that is fun! Knowing our team produced something that is in front of everybody is exciting.

So what’s ahead for you in the future?

I think continuing to challenge myself in the industry and do things we’ve never done before personally and continuing to grow and be challenged is something that never gets old for me. The day I think I know it all I might as well quit because I won’t be challenging myself and our team and we aren’t moving forward. For me personally, I never would’ve thought 20 years ago that I’d be doing what I’m doing now. As long as I’m staying challenged, that’s what I want.

Describe the dynamic of being a family and locally owned business.

A lot of people say, “I could never work with my family.” However, we all understand as family members that anything we do suggests whether right or wrong is always for what’s right for the company. We don’t let that get in the way of success. If we disagree, we don’t hold grudges which is the key. If we have a disagreement we just hash it out and come up with a decision that’s best for the company. The key is to know that we are all thinking about the business and nothing is personal. The advantage is that we are the board and decision-makers and we can make decisions fast. If we have to turn the company in a different direction for whatever reason or take advantage of opportunities we can jump on it quickly and make the adjustments down the line faster than the competition. Other companies have to go through multiple levels which delays outcomes and we are small, nimble, and adjustable as a family-owned business. Customers can get to us directly and the same for our employees, they don’t have to go through layers of decision-makers.

So tell us about your family

I’ve got a 20-year old son who is a junior at Furman University studying music and specializing in trumpet. My daughter is a senior at Riverside H.S. and we are exploring college options. We are a very active family. I do triathlons and my wife has done them along with competitive weight lifting. Our kids are very athletic and enjoy being outdoors. We just like to stay on the move and have an active lifestyle. We enjoy the beach just hanging out and enjoying the water.

How has your training and competition as a triathlete impacted your work?

It keeps me focused. When I’m working out it’s my time to de-stress and my time if you will. I’m on a rigorous training schedule so I know when it’s family time it’s family time and I don’t answer the phone unless it’s a crisis. When I’m at church it’s church time. I think it has taught me to be in the moment and the full Iron Man has taught me to focus on what I can do in the now and don’t worry about the past or the future, but deal with what’s in front of me.

Neil, as you enter the 25th year of your company what would you say upon reflection?

It’s been a heck of a ride, a fun one. It’s been challenging, we’ve gone through economic challenges, Covid and yet we adapt and adjust to the times. We gained and unfortunately lost customers in the past, but we keep learning from it and moving forward. I do find pride that we live, work, and play in Greer. It’s a great community, people interact well and I’ve enjoyed getting to know people through the Chamber of Commerce and the business side, the personal and athletic side. We enjoy this being our home and we are proud that we are able to provide employment for 24 other local people in this community so they can provide for their families.

Neil has been a constant in our company and family. He is my brother, friend, and confidant. As we enter our 25th year in business together it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come and he has been an integral part of our growth. I’m so very proud of the work he has done and our partnership together! Being locally and family-owned means something incredibly important to us at Century Printing and Packaging.

Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651, 800.344.7509

Inflation Is Hitting Every Manufacturing Sector

Everyone is feeling the pain of inflation from rising prices in goods, materials, chemicals, fuel, and supplies. Whether you serve B2B/B2C every sector is experiencing the avalanche from inflation, supply chain disruptions, Covid19, labor shortages, and a lack of available materials. A trip to the grocery store with empty shelves or purchase limits on certain products is proof enough. It is cliche, but all of these factors have produced the “perfect storm”.

Manufacturers are scrambling to find new supply lines and vendors. Shortages from food, chemicals, lumber, metals, microchips, rubber goods, paper, laminates, and countless other goods have moved businesses from a competitive price focus to sheer availability. Shortages and availability only tighten the vise grip of competing manufacturers. Auto manufacturers are now competing with consumer electronics for computer chips. Before the storm, each had different suppliers and there was no shortage. During the storm, you may produce cars, but your computer or television producer has landed in your backyard competing for the same chips.

The printing and packaging industry is not immune to this economic reality. The supply chain gridlock and inflationary pressures have created a challenging environment for the industry. Previously fully stocked vendor’s distribution centers of paper, ink, boxes, laminate, substrate materials, and film are running empty. Lead times of these materials have drastically expanded. Shipping costs due to rising fuel prices and container shortages have only added to the inflationary pressures. These dynamics are unique because the combination of factors has impacted every aspect of business regardless of category. In the past, Wall Street cycles have come and gone, but typically it’s been one industry or just a few that have experienced serious disruption and challenges. Today, EVERY industry and business is affected by these colliding factors.

The interdependency within the global economy can best be explained by dominoes falling one over the other throughout a massive display. Everything relates to the other. Loaded ships sit in harbors and can’t get unloaded, a pandemic wiped out 700,000 people in the U.S. alone to date. Many of those were workers and paying taxes. The printing and packaging industry is experiencing supply and material increases between 7-12%, if not more. Polypropylene resin has increased 150% since January of 2020, and PET resin has risen over 20% in the same period (CDI October 2021 Report). Some Industry experts are projecting continued shortages of raw material and polymers to last through Q4 2022.

No reputable and successful business enjoys price increases. Their success is built upon providing a high-quality product/service at a competitive price backed with extraordinary customer service. These companies thrive on long-term customer relationships by exceeding customer expectations. However, there is a point at which even the strongest cannot resist anymore because they start losing money.

Craig Austin writing for PBS said: “Economists surveyed by Bloomberg in October expect inflation to slow to 3.4% next summer and hit 2.6% by the end of the year. While that would be encouraging, it’s still well above the pre-pandemic average of 1.8% and outside the Fed’s target. It’s unclear whether economists are recalibrating their expectations after the October Consumer Price Index report. Regardless, consumers should get used to the higher prices. They’re the new normal.”

Smart companies and businesses are concentrating on minimizing price increases while extending their vendor partnerships to have access to the materials and supplies they need to do their jobs. Increased costs are inevitable given the global market, but smart and reputable suppliers and manufacturers are working with their clients and suppliers to keep prices as low as they can. Material and supply shortages can be expected well into 2022. Plan way ahead to get ahead of this troubling trend. Hopefully, supply, logistics, and labor will self-correct in 2022.

At Century Printing and Packaging we have worked internally to increase efficiency and deliver the same high level of quality that helped us earn our customer’s trust during these challenging days. This combination has allowed us to only raise prices on products once this year. We are well aware of the market fluctuations and we are working with our customers and suppliers to provide solutions despite price increases to supply and rising material costs. We have been printing labels that stick, but have great eye appeal and consistently tell your brand story. We don’t mind tackling a challenging problem if it means we can help you produce something that is more appealing and of higher quality. We have produced labels and packaging for almost 25 years, so trust us to work with you as a partner instead of a job number.

Ben Waldrop, President
Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651
Tel: 800.344.7509

2020 Was Quite a Challenge for Small Business

2020 was a year unlike any other in terms of the Covid19 pandemic and its impact on the global and U.S. economy in particular. Many small businesses did not survive in the hospitality and service industries. Others struggled with logistic and shipping issues and a lack of manufacturing part sourcing. Small businesses that survived and even succeeded despite these challenges owe much of it to innovation, technology, collaboration and creativity.

These businesses were able to make critical decisions on the fly while also relying on intentional planning and marketing. Vaccines are going in arms and pharmaceutical companies are ramping up production to fulfill the global demand and the outlook for 2021 is hopeful.

One of the most important aspects of economic survival in the small business production and manufacturing sector is the ability to navigate choppy waters and be nimble. Nimble in the sense that leadership, production and sales can work together to overcome incredible obstacles and turn on a dime. An aircraft carrier cannot be turned quickly, it must make many tiny corrections and because of its size is limited in its ability to turn in a timely fashion. However, a tugboat can turn quickly and adapt to its environment because it does not carry the same weight as an aircraft carrier. A tugboat is lighter, more flexible and nimble.

Successful small businesses that survived and even thrived during 2020 understood the tugboat concept. They took care of their tenured customer base while creatively seeking new customers and alliances for their products. They made a commitment to survive through innovation. Every business in America was challenged by the pandemic and many are still trying to climb back to pre-pandemic production and sales levels.

It was a very tough year, but Century Printing and Packaging finished strong thanks to many of these principles, the commitment of our team and our faithful customers. This year we produced 249M labels for our customers both established and new. We worked hard to bring innovation and collaboration to the forefront in seeking solutions for our customers. We had zero layoffs and were able to pay performance bonuses every quarter! We were able to serve over 120 new customers while 86 tenured customers have used our printing and packaging services for over 10 years.

We continue to remain humble and grateful for our established and new customers. We worked hard to make sure we had the resources to provide our customers with products that met or exceeded their expectations on time. Our team does not take success lightly and we know that it is only because of our “heroes,” our customers.

As we enter a new year we are already seeking ways to improve quality, production, customer satisfaction and delivery. We will continue to seek partnerships with innovative companies and meet their printing and packaging needs with creativity and collaborative solutions. We are grateful for a committed team producing some of the best products we have ever produced.

Our goal in 2021 is the same, to provide our customers with a high value, high-quality product at a competitive price in a timely manner.

Too often in business companies take a bow without giving credit to the source of their success, their customers. We want to thank all of our customers for the confidence and trust they place in us to produce exactly what they need when they need it!

We are hopeful that many of our friends, neighbors and fellow small business owners will experience an incredible 2021 as we boldly face the challenges of our times in each of our sectors.

At Century Printing & Packaging we have been printing labels that stick, but have great eye appeal and consistently tell your brand story. We don’t mind tackling a challenging problem if it means we can help you produce something that is more appealing and a higher quality. We have produced labels and packaging for over 23 years, so trust us to work with you like a partner instead of a job number.

Ben Waldrop, President
Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651
Tel: 800.344.7509

Community Investment: Worth Every Penny

You can do business with companies all around the world, but if you ignore your home base you risk alienating key constituencies. Investing in the local community is not only wise but needful in these days of global technology. If a local company is unwilling to address the needs and concerns of the local economy they may want to reconsider doing business in the area.

Let’s face it, many of our customers are outside of our community or our state. However, we take great pride in our community and state as a production resource providing tangible results and value for various clients located within the Palmetto State. Our goal is customer satisfaction and adding value to their product portfolio. But our second goal is to add respect, knowledge of, and appreciation for our state and region in regards to the products we and other local companies produce for clients. South Carolinians take tremendous pride in their production efforts both within and outside the state borders.

Our company invests and serves our local community and state with great respect and regard. Being involved in the community is a natural byproduct of being locally owned. Decisions affecting our team and business are made here instead of a glass conference room in a private equity firm in Ohio, Texas, or Colorado. We choose the local organizations and causes we support as a company as well as national efforts.

One example of a statewide effort that was part of a national campaign among craft brewers was our donation through materials and production time to the “Black is Beautiful” labels for Freehouse Brewery in Charleston, SC. 100% of the proceeds from the national beer sales went to local organizations promoting racial justice and equality for people of color.

At the beginning of the Covid19 run on antiseptics, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer we filled emergency orders for labels on similar products while enacting strict protocols to protect our team and community at large from the spread of Covid19.

We serve local boards and agencies as volunteers, board, and committee members. One of those is the steering committee of the Greater Upstate Manufacturing Sector Partnership. This locally-based manufacturing partnership seeks to help each other grow while serving the greater community as a whole through a variety of initiatives and opportunities. Private-public sectors are a powerful force in finding solutions for community problems and needs.

In 2019 Century Printing and Packaging was named small business of the year by the Greer Chamber of Commerce. It was a monumental success by two brothers who began their business in a refurbished industrial bathroom. Ben and Neil Waldrop continue to seek ways to grow their business and give back to the community along the way. In 2021, Ben will serve as the Chair of the Greer Chamber of Commerce affirming Century’s commitment to its home town, partners, and neighbors. Neil has served as the President of the Greer Cultural Arts Center.

“Giving back and helping others is the heart of a locally owned business.”

This is why we participate and partner with various community agencies within our community to ensure a strong local economy and area investment. At Century Printing and Packaging we are committed to discovering new ways of supporting our community through our printing and packaging expertise. We don’t need to list all of our community involvement, instead, we would like that work and product to speak for itself. Our goal is not to pat ourselves on the back, but instead to help our community thrive in its greatest areas of need. We are proud to partner with various community organizations in an effort to improve the quality of life and standard of living in our community and challenge fellow business owners to do the same. Most importantly, we are grateful to a committed team who help support these causes and efforts.

Ben Waldrop
President
Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651
800.344.7509

Coronavirus & Printing Labels

Our smartphones, tablets, TV’s, social media and the Internet are rolling out more stories and rumors about the coronavirus than we can absorb. At the epicenter in China, the virus has had a big impact on the label printing industry. Writing for LabelsandLabeling.com Yolanda Wang notes:

The outbreak of coronavirus pneumonia has hit China hard and is now spreading around the world. What are the implications for China’s label printing industry?

Firstly, before any company can resume work they have to demonstrate they have made preparations to prevent the spread of the epidemic. This includes providing face masks, disinfectant, sanitizer, and thermo-detectors. A serious shortage of face masks has led the price to triple in just a few weeks. All this adds to label converters’ production costs.

The second issue concerns employees. Most workers do not live locally and are heavily affected by restrictions on public transport. One label converter, Dongguan Sunway, has dispatched company buses to pick up employees directly from their homes. Even if staff do get to work, they may then face a 14-day quarantine period.

Xinxiang Honglian Printing, located in Henan province, resumed work on February 10. ‘Today, only employees with a normal body temperature, living in a place without a virus outbreak, and without travel history and contact with Hubei people, are allowed to enter our workshop,’ says Huang Changjun, general manager of Honglian. ‘This means our current production is only half what it was before the virus outbreak.’

We live in a global economy and China supplies millions of diverse goods, services, and products that were previously supplied in the States by American companies. Among them, labels and packaging. It’s understandable when you are running thousands of labels and packaging that you might seek price as the deciding factor. However, when a global pandemic disrupts supply chains, shipping, and production, companies need to make decisions that protect their bottom line and produce results on time.

American label printing and packaging companies are largely local and family-owned. They contribute to the local community’s tax base through employment and the manufacturer and sales of goods. They offer competitive pricing and produce high-performing, quality work. And they have a quick turnaround time on production and shipping in the U.S. In-country supply chain management and impeccable quality is what you will get when you use a U.S. printing and packaging company.

Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipe producers could be in a bind as the virus continues to spread globally and in the U.S. Clear labels on products containing alcohol and other natural disinfectants need to withstand repeated usage without running, staining, or peeling. American label printing and packaging companies know how to get this done fast, within budget and with on-time shipping to the point of sale, or the distribution center.

At Century Printing and Packaging we recently had an “emergency order” for these products and were able to move fast and fulfill the order with one-day shipping. We specialize in label printing with the highest quality and standards. It’s why so many of our clients are return customers. We work with our customers seeking solutions that stick! Contact us today to ensure your product labels are done right and shipped on time!

Ben Waldrop, President
Century Printing and Packaging, Inc.
Greer, SC 29651
800.344.7509

Images: KIM HONG-JI/REUTERS Anna Earl on Unsplash