What is one of the biggest challenges for printers in today’s market? It is the effort to try to entice talented, enthusiastic and energetic millennials to see potential careers in the graphic arts industry and join their ranks. One of the most successful printers in this endeavor is Superior Lithographics, a Los Angeles-based package printer, that is proud to be lauded by Printing Industries Association of Southern California as having the youngest employee base of their 900 members companies.
“We’ve been able to attract and maintain younger employees for a number of reasons,” says Jeff Ku, VP of operations for Superior. “Our company is very open to change. Unlike many other firms, we pride ourselves on empowering our employees to speak up and make suggestions that we listen to and enact upon. We have a very open environment that fosters people to take pride of ownership in what they are producing. Our employees are very attracted to seeing well-known packaging for big brands in a variety of Fortune 500 firms being produced at our facility and then seeing that package being sold on store shelves. We actively promote from within and our employees see a career ladder. Our jobs are always new and exciting and our employees respond positively to all of the new technology that we invest in.”
One of the latest and fastest presses on the market will soon take center stage at Superior’s 80,000-sq.-ft. facility. In early summer, the 115-employee firm will be showcasing its new seven-color, 57˝ Koenig & Bauer Rapida 145 press. With its facility soon increasing in square footage, management was given a window of opportunity to re-design its operational floor plan and place the new press in a premium position right in front of the customer lounge.
“Our new Rapida 145 will be a main attraction at our facility,” says Ku enthusiastically. “Customers will be able to see their jobs being printed on the spot on this very impressive press. It builds excitement. Rather than hide our production, we’re selling our culture and our diligence to premium printing. Think of a high-end restaurant where customers can watch their meals being prepared. It’s just like that — very interesting and informative to watch.”
Once Superior’s press operators have pushed "start" for its initial press run, all eyes will be mesmerized by the Rapida’s speedy operation and high-quality output. Stoked with Koenig & Bauer’s unique automated features, the quick press will increase capacity at Superior by 40%, estimates Ku.
“Speed, quality, and consistency are our calling cards,” says Ku. “That’s what has propelled our sales to grow by 16% in one year and find ourselves at capacity even with production running 24/7. We’re seeing growth in both of our main sectors; our existing corrugated market remains strong with 70% of our business even as we push further into the folding carton segment, which makes up 30% of our production.”
Catering its folding cartons to a mix of well-known regional retail food vendors, Superior has adapted to the trend toward short orders and a premium on color consistency. An important consideration on the new Rapida is its 100% inspection system, which “can catch errors that an operator can’t catch between press pulls and ensures that all sheets are alike,” explains Ku. The new Rapida 145 is also Superior’s first seven-color press, providing it with an extra unit that opens doors to new products and increases production flexibility.
Superior’s management team evaluated all three leading offset press manufacturers with an extensive vetting process before choosing Koenig & Bauer. “Over the past decade, we’ve found Koenig & Bauer’s service department to be extremely reliable, offer quick response when needed, and be very supportive. We are also impressed with their sales team. They continue to be a solid partner.”
It’s that same mindset that Superior provides to its clientele, in which sales and operational support and service distinguish it from its competition. “We’re not just selling a product but we’re forming long-term partnerships with our packaging clients,” says Ku. “We try to pass along our manufacturing knowledge to our customers to help them make the best design and structural decisions for their corrugated and folding carton projects. We send our operators out to visit our customers and in turn we invite them to tour our facility. We recently gave an unprecedented 40 tours to demonstrate our amazing employees and their passion for continuous improvement.”
Ku notes that Superior’s employees have formed a family atmosphere in which they volunteer along with their family and friends at the LA Food Bank to help support hunger relief in Los Angeles. The team also attends local university career fairs to publicize working in the graphic arts industry, Last year, Superior was recognized for its pro-employee atmosphere by being awarded the Best Workplace in the Americas (BWA) designation, Best of the Best, to recognize its exemplary human resources practices that create an outstanding workplace. Being designated a Best of the Best company demonstrates the significant commitment that Superior Lithographics has made to its employees by investing in their work environment, their personal goals and ambitions, and recognizing that an exceptional workplace also serves the needs of the company. Its founder Doug Rawson financially supports the efforts of Printing Industries of America of Southern California (PIASC) to encourage young qualified people to join the industry. He contributes to PIASC's RAISE Foundation and further offers financial support to cover costs of students and their families to attend the annual celebration of student competitions. Some of his other industry contributions include PrintPAC of California, PrintPowers America and the PIA’s PrintPAC.
“It’s an important part of our success,” says Ku, “to be a part of our community, to encourage young talented people to join our market, and help us to become the most respected printer in the industry.”
Founded in 1987, Superior Lithographics is located in an industrial center outside of Los Angeles in an 80,000 sq ft facility with 115 employees. The firm specializes in large format printing of litho sheets and top sheets for the corrugated box industry as well as printing and converting folding cartons.