Photo by Rod Millington
Terry Rayner knew things had to get lean when he moved from Texas to Sarasota to take over operations of a printing firm smashed by the recession.
Not the traditional business kind of lean, though, which usually means cuts in staff, services or both. The kind of lean Rayner had in mind was lean management, a business practice more commonly found in factories and manufacturing plants. Popularized by Toyota engineers, the lean theory is guided by one principle: Money or resources spent on something other than customer value is a waste and should therefore be eliminated.
Rayner thought that kind of philosophy would be perfect for Sarasota-based Coastal Printing. A British native who has been in the printing business in England and Dallas for more than 20 years, Rayner was hired as Coastal’s chief operating officer last summer.
Founded in 1971, Coastal is one of the largest independently owned printing firms in the Sarasota-Bradenton area. Alan Guttridge, whose father founded the company, has run the firm for most of the past 40 years. Guttridge’s son and brother are currently Coastal executives.
Clients over the years have ranged from real estate firms and developers to the circus and Tervis Tumbler.
The recession, however, knocked a chunk off the company. The problem, says Rayner, was Coastal wasn’t only a high-quality and high-service printer. It was also high priced. That allowed competitors to cut in with lower prices and steal work away.
“We had to learn to reinvent ourselves,” Rayner says. “We had to find a way to lower our costs.”
That low-cost reinvention, aided by lean production, has shown some early success. Revenues are up almost 50% so far this year, Rayner projects more than $6 million in revenues this year, and more than $10 million in 2012.
Coastal, with 40 employees, implemented a lean system late last year. The first challenge, not surprisingly, was to convince employees the shift was worthwhile. “It wasn’t easy,” says Rayner. “Some employees couldn’t understand how a Toyota philosophy related to printing.”
The lean philosophy has forced Coastal employees to think deeper about efficiency and organization. Tools don’t get lost anymore. Gone, says Rayner, are the days when people would spend five or 10 minutes walking from one side of the production room to the other, just to retrieve one item.
The firm has made some other key upgrades, in addition to going lean. For instance, it bought the Kodak Insite Prepress Portal, a Web-based software program that helps clients and Coastal employees work on proofs remotely. The system cost more than $100,000.
Another important upgrade was the firm’s recent move to become a G7 Master Printer. The recognition is a top-rated industry achievement, says Rayner, and should help it land clients from Europe.
The lingering challenge for Coastal is one nearly any company in the print and paper industry faces: How to corral profits in the transition from print to the Internet. Coastal is in the process of figuring it out, says Rayner, with a blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed to prove it.
“We’re doing this because our customers are doing it,” says Rayner. “We have to leverage print and that world together.”
Written by Mark Gordon | Deputy Managing Editor of The Gulf Coast Business Review, September 02, 2011