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Crowson Stone: photolithography pioneer

Nov 1, 2001 12:00 AM

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Crowson Stone Printing Co. opened its doors for business in 1923 as Crowson Printing. Charles E. Stone became an equal partner in the company in 1943 and bought out founder William E. Crowson in 1946. In the 1950s, the company billed itself as “South Carolina's Pioneer Photolithographer” as Stone transitioned the all-letterpress company into offset printing.

After Stone's death in 1986, his son, Ed, managed the business until December 1993, when his sister, Katherine Stone deLoach, was named president. Her son, John K. deLoach III, joined the company as general manager in February 1994, and her son Charles E.S. “Ted” deLoach serves as vice president and Charleston-area manager.

The company reports that revenues increased from $2.3 million in 1993 to $5.9 million in 2000. In those seven years, the company invested more than $5 million in state-of-the-art equipment. We asked John K. deLoach III, who became president of the company in 1999, to tell us more about Crowson Stone.

Tell us about your recent expansion.

In June 2001, we relocated from a circa 1950 16,000-sq.-ft. building to a new 32,000-sq.-ft. facility. Our new building includes 12,000 sq. ft. of office/prepress space and 20,000 sq. ft. of warehouse and manufacturing space. We incorporated GATF's plant and material-handling guidelines to optimize our workflow.

How are you staying state-of-the-art?

We employ technology in every phase of our service delivery including:

  • a tightly integrated management information system

  • on-site, on-line order-entry capabilities with paper merchants

  • PDF-based prepress workflow that accepts customer-supplied PDF files

  • low-cost, ICC color-managed inkjet proofs

  • networked presses and bindery machines controlled via CIP4- and JDF-based subsystems.

We've also added a Heidelberg SM 102-10-P press, ST-270 saddlestitcher and B26 folder. In prepress, we installed two Topsetter 102 thermal computer-to-plate (CTP) lines (one fully automated), and a Primescan vertical drum scanner.

What are your future growth projections?

We expect to reach $7.5 million by the end of 2001, and our projections are to reach $12 million in sales by the end of 2003, while maintaining our historical profitability levels. It would be difficult to predict beyond 2003, given current conditions; however, we see opportunity to become a regional leader in our market niche.

How is your company coping with the economy?

We focus on providing superior value to our target customers, as well as focusing on prospects who may be underserved by other printing firms. We listen carefully to customers' needs. And we constantly change, through technology and training, when we see opportunities to enhance our value proposition.

What services would you like to add?

We are developing consulting and training services to enhance customers' creative production-cycle productivity and profitability. We're also leveraging our prepress expertise. In addition to traditional software-application support, we are helping more customers create PDF files and color-manage remote and soft (monitor) proofing, and are offering general workflow guidance. We're seeing much greater interest among our clients in improving their internal processes.

How can we get more young people to consider a career in the graphic arts?

By increasing their awareness of our industry's great opportunities. As a member of Printing Industries of the Carolinas, Inc. (PICA), we're part of the PrintForce initiative. It's a unique approach dedicated to supporting and constantly educating secondary, high-school and tech-school instructors as well as guidance counselors about careers in the graphic arts. Each of these individuals influences hundreds of students. If we can sell them on our industry, we can reach these students much more effectively.

What's the best thing about being in this industry?

Each day presents a unique set of challenges and rewards — there isn't another industry that produces 100 percent custom products under the demands we face. Beyond day-to-day production, we're dealing with rapid technological change, including the impact of the Internet and other competing media. While it may seem daunting, there are great opportunities for those who remain excited and passionate about the work.

Crowson Stone Printing Co.
Columbia, SC
John K. deLoach III,
$5.9 million
Rapid turnaround of marketing and promotional printing; workflow consulting and technical support services

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