After 100 years, Flottman Co. is still more relevant than ever


Sue Flottman Steller is co-owner and president, and Peter Flottman is co-owner and vice-president of the company.

Flottman Co. opened in 1921, making 2021 its 100th year of operation. It’s an impressive achievement for any business 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 adventure began when FE Flottman was working for another company in his printing department, but realized that his position was going to be cut. So he bought the equipment from his employer and opened his own commercial printing house. And that, like the rest, that was it.

In 1969 her son took over, and in 2020 Flottman Steller took over the reins, making Flottman Co. a woman-owned business. The original business was started in Cincinnati, but moved to northern Kentucky in the 1970s. It then moved in the late 1990s to a new factory it built in Crestview Hills, SK. Kentucky, where the company is located today. “The property [we now have] allows us to grow without having to relocate, ”says Flottman Steller. “We can push the building to accommodate growth, or reconfigure the layout to add more equipment. We can grow without having to disrupt operations.

Find a niche

Early on, Flottman Co. found a lucrative niche that it still serves today: the pharmaceutical industry. In 1972, the FDA began requiring instructions to be printed on both prescription drugs and information given to doctors, says Flottman Steller. Customers of the store at the time asked if they could meet this requirement, which launched the pharmacy division.

Peter Flottman with a Stahlfolder added in 2019.

Peter Flottman stands with a Stahlfolder which was added in 2019.

Flottman Co. built on that expertise by adding carton and label manufacturing to their line in the 1990s. And then, eight years ago, Flottman Steller notes, they opened FUSIONWRX, a marketing division that “Handles all communications in addition to ink on paper”. This includes social media, website design, Google ads, etc. According to Flottman Steller, this is a full-fledged marketing agency that operates like any other business within the Flottman sphere.

“Pharmaceuticals and packaging have given us a niche market,” she says. “It sets us apart from other printers, and the elimination of film and the addition of graphic design has improved speed and accuracy. FUSIONWRX gave us another department and profit center – these are key points in our history. They allowed us to form some of the partnerships that we still have and gave us leads and presentations to clients that we would never have had otherwise.

Today, Flottman Co. manufactures a diverse line of products. On the business side of the business, direct mail continues to be a major application, with Flottman Steller noting that these projects are among the most important produced by the business, often with multiple pieces printed and mailed for a single campaign. Printed and folded miniature pharmaceutical literature continues to be a major focus of the company’s packaging and label segment, and FUSIONWRX runs “full-fledged marketing programs”.

“In the mini-folding unit, we are now expanding beyond pharmacy to medical devices,” says Flottman Steller, “and there has been an increase in the pet care space for literature. miniature. We also attend requests for documentation for many equipment – household
accessories, faucets, automobile. It’s not just pharmaceuticals; it’s really packaging, and we’re focused on diversifying that offering. We receive different industries who ask us for their inserts.

A new segment that Flottman Co. is monitoring is the rapidly growing “nutraceuticals” segment in which the FDA is increasingly interested. Nutraceutical is a general term used to describe any product made from foods having a beneficial effect on health, or which is marketed for the care or prevention of disease. It falls into the same category as food supplements. But while regulations are currently quite flexible, many brands are seeing this change and are taking proactive steps to align their labels with what the FDA requires for other prescription pharmaceuticals.

Gary Peters and Terry Simpson, Flottman

Gary Peters, Shipping Coordinator, discusses the requirements of a client job with Terry Simpson, Quality Assurance Supervisor.

“Some companies are already taking the plunge, knowing that there will be FDA requirements ahead,” she said. “It allows us to help them, because the type of documentation they put with the products is different – it’s often information, as well as a marketing document, and printed in multiple colors. So this is an area that we are monitoring, to make sure that we have the capacity of our pressroom to meet the needs of the new market.

To produce the various jobs that go through the door, the workshop has a full range of digital and offset devices, as well as a very robust finishing department. One of the more recent additions has been Safe Print 360, an antibacterial coating that it can now offer to safety-conscious customers. Folding is also a major operation, necessary for the complex miniature parts required for pharmaceutical work. As a result, Flottman Steller, points out that his department is “much more elaborate [than most] based on FDA requirements.

On the print side, the latest acquisition was a Canon imagePRESS in the digital department, installed in February this year to improve productivity and speed up setup times. “As customer needs evolve, we review our current equipment and increase it as needed,” notes Flottman Steller, who says that most of the time new equipment is brought in to complement current capabilities, rather than to replace anything.

On the horizon

Although it has a rich history in the past, Flottman Co. is always looking to the future to ensure that it stays ahead of the trends and can continue to meet the needs of its customers, no matter what. that they are.

“We’re looking at trends in pharmaceuticals and seeing what the FDA is looking at – this will dictate our equipment purchases, as well as where we dedicate and train staff,” says Flottman Steller. “In the world of commercial printing, we are monitoring postal regulations as this will affect direct mail campaigns and the way we advise our customers. And, in FUSIONWRX, we take a look at marketing analytics to see how people communicate and how we can increase 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 important as people start to get back to business. “It’s a coating on the sheet that kills bacteria, and it’s something we can talk to clients about, especially those in healthcare or education. We also find it very effective for restaurants that are returning to using printed menus.

Mike Harris, Flottman

Mike Harris packs miniature folded inserts. This type of specialized work has provided a solid niche for Flottman Co. to attract a range of clients.

Another way the company weathered the COVID storm was to launch a long-term maintenance program – if a piece of equipment is underused, she says, they schedule it for more intensive maintenance and move employees to s ‘adapt to that.

“We have learned to be very flexible and we have not laid off any employees during this entire pandemic,” she reveals. “We have redirected the workforce to different areas the company needs to work on and have thought outside the box for continuous improvement initiatives. The maintenance was huge – we still do monthly and weekly maintenance, but you can still look at a piece of equipment and think the rollers or something needs to be replaced. This allowed us to take the equipment apart and do just that, while still maintaining the production that we need for customers. We even added a technician during downtime.

Which brings the other big push for Flottman Co. right now – the ability to hire new staff.

The average seniority of employees in the company, according to Flottman Steller, is 13 years, with three workers who have been with them for 30 years and six more for 20 years. In fact, she notes, 60% of the team has been in the business for over 10 years, which is an impressive achievement. But as they continue to grow, even in difficult times, more people are needed to move production forward.

“The sign reads’ We are hiring! “And we run ads looking for help in the newspapers,” says Flottman Steller. “Growth continues. Before COVID-19, we could still find qualified personnel, but the past year has been difficult. We were still successful in attracting people, but we had to be more diligent in the process. We get really, really creative and think outside the box [to find new talent]. “

This includes going to schools such as the State of Cincinnati, which offers mechanical engineering degrees, and connecting with these students to open their eyes to the possibilities of a career in printing. The boutique also partners with vocational training programs at the secondary level, including one that serves approximately 30 schools in the region. “We try to encourage students who are going into anything mechanical to consider Flottman as a career alternative,” she says.

“We’ve had some success, but it’s ongoing – we have to fight against the hubs of Amazon, FedEx and DHL to attract workers, to get people to see this not as a job, but as a job. career. We really focused on that as a differentiator.

For other printers looking to join the 100-year-old club, Flottman Steller has a few tips. “The very first thing is to find a niche in the industry – it becomes the backbone of the business,” she says. “And that allows you to develop and grow through diversification. We also recommend that you stay involved in print related associations, as an active group creates a strong industry and keeps us all relevant. I also believe in maintaining multiple customers and the old adage of not putting all your eggs in one basket.

“Finally, complement print with digital and diversify your services – we communicate in many ways, such as ink on paper, signage, social media, etc. Our goal is to look at all aspects of communication and integrate them into the business, ”she said. concludes. “Even though we’re focused on print, we’ve really become a communications company, and the core philosophy is to look at how we communicate. “

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