Consolidated Graphics (CGX)
Issue Fall 12
The printing industry has changed greatly since Chairman and CEO Joe Davis founded Consolidated Graphics (CGX) in 1985. As the company has grown to include more than 70 locations in North America, Europe and Asia, it has successfully adapted to changes in offset printing and digital printing by providing customers with the benefits of working with a local CGX facility, supported by a strong national company.
“Overall, we have developed a lot of industry expertise in certain industries, such as insurance, healthcare, collectible cards, employee benefits and the photobook industry,” Davis says.
The method of growth for CGX has been relatively straightforward. By acquiring printers in targeted geographic locations, the company could gain a presence in various markets while creating the economies of scale and expanded range of services that come along with a large footprint.
Consolidated Graphics has become an industry leader by growing through acquisitions – and a few greenfield operations – that are located in positions to serve almost every major market in the United States. In addition, it has a presence in Toronto; Prague; and Gero, Japan.
“Because we are in so many different locations, the industries we serve tend to be the dominant industries that are concentrated in these local areas,” Davis says.
It is through this network of printing and fulfillment facilities that CGX offers customers access to its state-of-the-art sheetfed, web and first-class digital printing capabilities. The company has five state-of-the art digital print centers in the United States and Prague, and it entered into a joint venture in Japan to support its customers in Asia.
Each location is an individual company that has its own president and takes care of its individual customers day to day. These local relationships can take advantage of the strength of the larger CGX organization when a customer needs help with larger issues.
Davis says the company has seen a lot of success with that method instead of having a centrally controlled organization that makes decisions for local companies. From a central level, the company provides technology and back office support as well as access to capital and deals on items such as equipment and paper.
“We have a lot of technology and solutions, as well as the ability to bring unique services to our customers,” says Aaron Grohs, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “We can help them find ways to take cost out of their business and be a one-stop shop for them, providing local service in all of our markets while having a broader relationship nationally.”
The core services and solutions CGX’s customers look for are marketing collateral to support a brand, items such as brochures, catalogs, marketing pieces and direct mail. These items are time-sensitive and need to be high quality. In essence, CGX becomes a service company supported by manufacturing, working on customized manufactured projects for customers.
“We have the services and unique capabilities that enable us to offer single-source solutions,” Grohs says. “In Milwaukee, we have a company that focuses on large-format displays and signage. We have a company in Ohio that specializes in long-run direct mail. And we have the largest digital capabilities and infrastructure in the world for customers who are looking to print fewer projects that are more impactful and targeted.”
It is important for CGX to spend a lot of time educating its reps – and customers – on how to best leverage its offerings. It has access to a lot of technology. Its flagship product Streamline, part of its WorkSmart Suite collection of applications, is a customer-facing/customer-branded Web2Print solution that customers can access online to order their own marketing collateral. Those orders are sent out to various CGX companies that have been set up to support the customers’ program. Streamline provides 24/7 access, customization and ordering capabilities as well as higher levels of efficiency and control.
As CGX looks to nurture its own growth, it is no surprise the company invests in technology. But Davis contends that the most important continual investment is in its leadership development program. The company regularly hires recent college graduates who have a solid academic record, a strong work ethic and a penchant for leadership. The company then puts them through hands-on training and development – a CGX university, if you will – that has served 500 people and produced 151 graduates.
Technology does remain another important investment area, too. CGX has a data center that has been strengthened by enhanced data security expertise. The security element is critical for CGX’s ability to work with customers in sensitive industries like healthcare, insurance and finance. The company has a chief information and security officer to ensure that technology is in place to protect customers’ sensitive information.
In the years ahead, the company will continue to grow through acquisition – domestic and abroad – as well as through internally generated growth. The company can be patient in its pursuit of acquisitive growth, and its strong balance sheet means it can afford to make investments as the industry evolves.
“We would like to see a growing economy,” Davis says. “But even absent a strong economy, we still believe we are positioned to take marketshare because of our strong financial position and investments in service quality and technology.”