Putting the “Custom” in Customer
“Design2Print” is an ambitious tagline for a company with a singular focus on customer service. Established in 1948, Southern Gravure Systems (SGS) had been a part of Reynolds Metal Co. since 1958, later becoming its wholly owned subsidiary with Alcoa’s purchase of Reynolds in 2000. The company has pursued an aggressive strategy of growth through acquisition, having rolled up 21 acquisitions, most of them independent trade shops, since 1999.
In the early- to mid-1980s, SGS recognized that a majority of the gravure cylinders it manufactured for printers were intended for relatively few consumer product companies (CPCs). Consequently, the company determined that there was a need to migrate upstream to where the value proposition for CPCs lay in brand management across various substrates and print disciplines. Previously, it had participated very little in the flexo market (the fastest-growing packaging segment at the time). With the acquisition of Wilson Engraving in the 1990s, however, the company launched itself into flexo. As a result, a majority of the acquisitions made by the Southern Graphics (neé Gravure) Systems since the mid-1990s have been trade shops with a mostly flexo, instead of gravure base.
Sold by Alcoa to Citigroup Venture Capital Equity Partners (CVC) in 2005, the company has sought to parlay its newly independent status into an “obsessive” focus on service, including an ability to identify and implement the widest range of solutions for the benefit of its customers. packagePRINTING took advantage of a recent opportunity to speak with Gary Bernier, corporate director of technology and innovation and Chris Horton, southern regional vice president for North America, Southern Graphic Systems (SGS) to discuss the company’s strategy in the wake of its sale to CVC.
pP: What has been the result of your divestiture by Alcoa?
Horton: Alcoa had been focusing more and more on its core aluminum and alumina. We were an odd duck within that business. Overall, we performed well for Alcoa and I think they got a good return when they sold us. Like Reynolds Metal Co., Alcoa supported our acquisition growth. Since the acquisition by CVC, however, we’ve [been able to step up] the pace of our growth through greenfield start ups or acquisitions in Europe and Asia.