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Becoming a P-O-P Star

Cincinnati-based KDM P.O.P Solutions has found an expansive niche in point-of-purchase

While other companies are battening down the hatches during the current recession, print provider KDM P.O.P Solutions Group (www.kdmpop.com) in Cincinnati is growing by leaps and bounds—and it shows no signs of slowing the pace. Since August of 2007, just when the recession was beginning to rear its ugly head, KDM has acquired not one, not two, but three companies in different locations, all geared toward making the firm one of the top point-of-purchase solution providers in the country.

“We moved on these acquisitions because we wanted to offer a more comprehensive product line, increase sales, and eventually cross sell between one division and another,” explains Tom Kissel, KDM’s VP of purchasing. “The goal is to have more to offer in addition to our manufacturing flexibility and printing capabilities in the P-O-P market.”

And, Kissel continues, “KDM is actively seeking new opportunities that would add to and align with our strategic objective to double our size in the next five years. By reinvesting back into the company, we are able to provide our customers with exceptional customer service with each contact that is made. We’re strong in our marketplace and financially sound—probably some of the bigger reasons we can still acquire companies in today’s economy.”

Realizing the value of digital
Founded in 1970 by husband-and-wife team Bill and Mary Kissel, KDM initially focused on magnet printing and vacuum forming, and was small enough to fit into an 80-square-foot office space. When the company moved into screen printing and then offset, that small office expanded to take over the entire two-story building. Through the years, KDM continued to grow, moving to three other locations.

Fast forward to 1998: KDM relocates to a new home in the Cincinnati suburb of Evendale, then adds 55,000 square feet to its facility in 2000, resulting in a 155,000-square-foot headquarters. KDM—now owned by the next generation of Kissels (siblings Tom, Bob, and Brian Kissel, along with sister Kathy Kissel McQueen) —employs approximately 250 employees in various departments and functions, including: the executive team; sales; administrative; project management (customer service); estimating, prepress, and design; I.T.; digital printing department; offset and screen printing departments; kitting and finishing department; cutting department; staging and shipping; film making; screen recapture/washdown; screenmaking; and the samples department.

Although screen and offset printing was KDM’s bread and butter entering the 1990s, digital printing made its initial appearance at the company circa 1995, with the purchase of an Encad NovaCut printer/cutter. Later, when digital printing really began to take hold, the company invested in various machines, including Encad NovaJets, HP Designjet 5000s, and an HP Designjet 5500.

As digital continued to cut a wide swath in the graphics market, KDM recognized the value of wide-format digital printing in providing quicker speed to market for the P-O-P industry. In 2004, the company took the leap into flatbed printing with the purchase of an EFI Vutek PressVu 200/600 UV machine. Within a year, it added another PressVu 200/600, then later traded up to an EFI Vutek QS3200. More recently, the company invested in an HP TurboJet 8500, and this past year upgraded that machine to an 8550, which provided speed enhancements.

Additionally, in September of last year, KDM added the HP Scitex FB7500 to its digital printer roster, “tripling our digital output,” says Dan Kimmerly, KDM’s graphics director. That machine now produces 10 to 15 percent of the company’s annual sales, a figure that is expected to rise.

The company’s digital printing capabilities especially cater to retail marketers, enabling them to make their campaigns more affordable than ever. So, while the current majority of KDM’s output work is still screen printing, digital printing is on the fast track to catch up. At present, KDM’s job breakdown is 20 percent offset, 60 percent screen printing, and 20 percent digital—with a strategic focus on raising the percentage of digital to more than 30 percent.

“Overall, it’s more efficient to use digital,” Kimmerly says. “There are less support departments involved in a digital job. Digital also reduces the environmental footprint. There are no chemicals, no emulsions, and no screens—therefore there is less waste and less energy used. Additionally, there is a faster speed to market, and greater color consistency.”

Just one word: plastics
As KDM has explored digital printing and added digital technologies to its operation, it has also been incorporating a number of large-scale components to the operation as a whole—acquiring three companies in just three years.

The company’s first major acquisition was World of Plastics, located in Hendersonville, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville. This acquisition, which added custom plastic fabrication for point-of-purchase to KDM’s production capabilities, was completed in August 2007.

“We had two main reasons for this acquisition. First, we wanted to keep fabrication internal. Secondly, we wanted to buy from the plastic manufacturers direct instead of going through a distributor,” says Tom Kissel.

Founded in 1980, World of Plastics was a supplier of plastic sheets, rods, tubes, and films. In 1992, the company opened its full-line plastic fabrication division that was outfitted with computerized equipment and a highly experienced staff. Today, the facility—now known as KDM South—continues to focus on plastic-display fabrication as an internal division of KDM P.O.P.

KDM South is both a distributor and a fabricator of those raw materials. “It has a unique product offering all its own. Many of our P-O-P kits are not complete without this division’s products such as acrylic literature holders and table tents,” Kissel says.

“Let’s say we get an order for a large P-O-P kit. KDM headquarters would do the printing on the plastics such as styrene, PVC, or acrylic. We would then send to KDM South and they would do the custom die cutting, routering, drilling, heat bending, and assembly of finished product, and then distribute it throughout the country from the Tennessee location. KDM cross-sells among its divisions,” Kissel continues.
Short-run and specialty

Next to join the KDM family was Advanced Digital & Screen Printing in Columbus, Ohio, which is now badged KDM North. Acquired in November 2008, KDM North has become the epicenter for KDM’s short-run and specialty digital business.

With the addition of KDM North, KDM added dye sublimation onto fabric, continuous-tone photographic imaging, eco-solvent ink technology, and document printing to its arsenal. Specifically, KDM North brought with it: an Océ LightJet continuous-tone photo printer, Roland SolJet Pro dye sublimation eco-solvent printer, Seiko 64s 6-color eco-solvent printer, EFI Vutek QS2000 6-color UV flatbed printer, EFI Vutek UV flatbed 4-color printer, and a Xerox DocuColor color copier.

“When we got KDM North, we got their digital equipment. We restructured everything digital, which included having KDM North do the short-run business. And we keep all the medium to longer runs in Cincinnati,” Kimmerly says.  “We also moved all of our digital presses to the Colorgate RIP and began using the same X-Rite i1 iO spectrophotometer across the board. It’s amazing how close we’ve been able to get the color to match in all our digital locations. And we’ve been able to get G7 certified in the past several months; we’re meeting G7 standards on all our digital presses, including those at KDM North,” Kimmerly continues.

During the transition from one company to another, KDM also focused on keeping Advanced Digital’s client base. Because this new division added additional product offerings, the client list included types of clients KDM did not already service: “Some of those clients did large volumes of work via dye sublimation and photo imaging on the Océ LightJet—both new technology additions to KDM,” Kimmerly says.

Focusing on retail
The latest KDM addition is the former NDI Retail of Cincinnati (now rebranded KDM Retail), which was added in December 2009. KDM Retail focuses on “compelling retail environments and engaging displays,” which includes store design and décor from the ground up, as well as store redesign. It serves retailers who need creative design, manufacturing, and installation services to create distinctive retail environments.

KDM Retail’s competitive advantage is its ability to design and manufacture all facets of retail environments, including store fixtures, lighting, architectural details, wayfinding signage, décor, dimensional signage, merchandising displays, and more. Customers count on this division for fresh ideas that are in step with their own vision, as well as reliable project management and delivery to meet the most demanding deadlines.

“The acquisition of KDM Retail adds a new dimension to the services KDM can provide its clients—making us uniquely positioned to be a full-service provider of print, plastic fabrication, branding, fulfillment, and now, retail environments,” explains Maureen Gumbert, KDM’s marketing manager. “Any of our sales reps can sell any of our services. KDM Retail customers have included grocery store chains, manufacturing companies, child care centers, convenience stores, retail establishments, and other related organizations. We can count Kroger, Kids R Kids, and Lasik Plus on our list of higher-profile clients.”

One-stop P-O-P
“A plethora of shopper marketing insight studies are validating that in-store P-O-P is more effective when compared to out-of-store—such as billboards and TV ads,” Gumbert says. “A recent study showed that consumers are making purchase decisions 60 percent of the time after entering the store—despite any predetermined shopping list. Retailers have realized the need for relevant marketing to engage and entertain consumers and to shift their focus to consumer-centric strategies—targeting shoppers from a local level.”

And, of course, KDM will be right there to assist those retailers. With the addition of KDM South and KDM Retail, the company can now incorporate display design and fabrication involving plastics and wood—all without having to outsource a thing. A customer can call up and place an order or can order online through the company’s Intellitrak online-procurement system, which consolidates requisitioning of multiple customer P-O-P programs into a single global order.

While other companies are floundering, KDM has gone full steam ahead in expanding its operations during these tough economic times, transforming itself into a true one-stop operation for point-of-purchase—helping its clients build brand awareness, drive traffic, and increase its customers’ sales at the store level. “A down economy is not a time to stop your marketing efforts. It’s time to kick it in gear,” Gumbert adds. “That’s why KDM was not hit so hard. We put ourselves in a position to be able to offer a lot of things.”

Let’s get small
Further exemplifying how diverse KDM P.O.P. Solutions Group has become, the company purchased an HP Indigo s2000 high-speed digital press in 2009 for the purpose of running small-format, short-run jobs on paper and plastic.

“We kept trying to produce plastics on the Xerox DocuColor at KDM North, but we only had moderate success,” says Dan Kimmerly, KDM’s graphics director. “The HP Indigo produces offset quality on pressure-sensitive and rigid vinyl, and even styrene. We can also use it for variable-data printing. A lot of marketing campaigns are doing variable data—they’ll customize the order some for one store, some for another store, and the Indigo can cater to that.”

KDM produced the aisle violator at left for Kroger’s supermarket, using its EFI Vutek QS3200 UV flatbed. Output was on 0.030-inch opaque styrene, then finished using an Esko i-cut system.

KDM boasts a 155,000-square-foot headquarters in Cincinnati; the firm has approximately 250 employees.

For these freezer-door decals, also done for Kroger’s supermarket, KDM turned to its HP TurboJet 8550, printing onto removable pressure-sensitive vinyl. The decals were finished using an Esko i-cut system.

Kroger’s cart corral signs, printed onto 16-ounce reinforced opaque vinyl, using KDM’s EFI Vutek QS3200 UV flatbed with Vutek inks

Also output with the Vutek QS3200: endcap display headers, onto 3mm PVC. Finishing was with an Esko i-cut.

This Kyocera mascot costume was a dye-sublimation project. KDM used its 54-inch Roland SolJet with Roland inks for dye-sub transfer, onto Lycra fabric.

KDM Capabilities
KDM Headquarters
Digital
65 x 126-in. HP Scitex FB7500 UV flatbed
6-color, 600 dpi
126-in. EFI Vutek QS3200 UV flatbed 6-color +
white, 1080 dpi
62 x 146-in. HP TurboJet 8550 UV 6-color,
600 dpi
60-in. HP DesignJet Z6100 8-color, 1440 dpi
12 x 18-in. HP Indigo s2000 digital print-on-
demand 4-color
48-in. vinyl cutters
Finishing
62-in. AGL 64T laminator
54-in. Orca laminator
Sewing stations
66 x 120-in. MGE iCut digital flatbed die cutter
28 x 40-in. Miller Cylinder die cutter

KDM North
Large-Format Digital
60-in. HP Designjet 5000 6-color, 1200 dpi
80-in. EFI Vutek QS2000 UV flatbed 6 color +
white, 1080 dpi
49 x 120-in. Océ LightJet 430 continuous-tone
photo
54-in. Roland SolJet Pro dye-sublimation eco-
solvent 6-color, 720 dpi
63.5-in. Seiko 64s eco-solvent 6-color, 720 dpi
12 x 18-in. Xerox DocuColor copier 4-color

KDM South
Large-Format Digital
60-in. HP Designjet 5000 6-color, 1200 dpi
12 x 18-in. Xerox DocuColor copier 4 color
Finishing
15 x 20.5-in. Heidelberg cylinder die cutter
10 x 20-in. traveling head die cutter
10 x 10-in. 60-ton punch
CNC panel saw
CNC router 48 x 96 in. w/vacuum table
Vertical panel saw
Commercial table saw
Band saw
Drill press
Pin router
Over arm router
Vacuum forming 48 x 66 in.

KDM P.O.P
kdmpop.com

Cincinnati-based freelance writer Kacey King is the former associate editor of The Big Picture magazine.

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