They say everything is bigger in Texas, and it’s fair to say the phrase applies to Abbott Label. Headquartered in Dallas, the scope of the label converter’s operations span from coast-to-coast, with plans under way to even further extend the company’s reach and capabilities.
Founded in 2000, Abbott Label is a relatively young company, yet it’s history, and that of founder and president John Abbott, go back to the 1970s. Abbott Label’s roots play a key role in the company’s business model, as well as its continuous development.
Jerry Abbott is John’s dad, and was a pioneering force in the label industry through the growth and success of Metro Label, a company he bought in 1978. For 20 years, Jerry’s Metro Label grew exponentially with established label manufacturing plants in Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and New Jersey. Jerry sold the company to a group of investment bankers in 1998. John, who had worked for Metro Label and played a key role in its growth, stayed on board with the company until 2000. Soon after, he started Abbott Label in Dallas.
“We took the same philosophy and success that my Dad had instilled into Metro Label and brought it to Abbott Label,” John says. “We have a different mindset from our competitors – we believe you have to be there in order to service your customers,” he explains, noting that Abbott Label’s effectiveness lies in its manufacturing capabilities at its headquarters in Dallas, as well as equally capable plants in Atlanta, GA, and the Los Angeles, CA, area. John’s industry experience has been an instrumental asset. With Metro Label, he coordinated the plant openings in Atlanta, LA, Chicago and New Jersey. Today, overseeing the production at all three manufacturing locations is industry veteran Ken Young, who serves as the company’s national operations manager.
While Abbott Label opened for business humbly with a couple pieces of machinery, the new fledgling operation had a slew of potential customers. The Abbott family had more than two decades worth of industry contacts and former customers of Metro Label – many who were excited to have the opportunity to work once again with the Abbotts. Jerry, who had signed a five-year non-compete agreement with Metro Label, waited until it ran out before getting involved with the new business. Today, he serves as Abbott Label’s director.
“Our first month of business at Abbott Label was the biggest month we had in our first year. We had a lot of contacts from our time as Metro Label and a really strong foundation,” John recalls.
Following its successful start in Dallas serving mostly local customers, which included being named the fastest growing label manufacturer in 2003, Abbott Label looked to the west for expansion and set up a distribution center near Los Angeles.
With a surge in business comes the need for people, and Abbott Label prides itself on the healthy relationships it fosters with its customers and employees alike.
“You’re only as good as your people, and we’ve had some great people working for us throughout the country – people that have worked for our family for years. When Abbott went into LA, we went in with people who had been with the family for double-digit years. We’re 11 years old, and there are people that have worked for our family for over 30 years,” Abbott says.
Abbott Label has a big heart, and is driven by a sense of family and community – a key reason so many former Metro Label employees were eager to return to Abbott once the new company took off.
Each Thanksgiving, every one of Abbott’s more than 100 employees receives a turkey courtesy of the Abbott family. And it’s not just any turkey, according to John. “It’s got to be a Butterball, between 22 and 24 pounds,” he says.
Abbott Label’s business model stands apart from your typical pressure sensitive label converter – they only sell to distributors.
Rich Standish, who heads up Abbott’s new business development, explains: “The rule is, if the label is coming off the liner at your facility and going on to a product, we need to refer you to one of our distributors. We would never sell to the public or to end users – only to resellers.”
These resellers that are Abbott’s customers number in the thousands and include packaging companies, brokers, printer hardware manufacturers, PTA software developers, data management companies, and even fellow label converters.
“We do business with some companies that specialize as a label company, but don’t manufacture labels. Other companies we do business with have small presses, and we can run some of their jobs more efficiently,” John says.
It’s a business model that works, and it only works if it’s strictly adhered to. “There’s no way a label manufacturer is going to subcontract to us if they think there’s a chance we may take their business,” adds Jerry Abbott.
Abbott Label mimics the same business practices successfully employed by Jerry for decades at Metro Label. “This was always the business model. The investment bankers that bought Metro couldn’t understand the importance of trade-only business practices. They started selling direct, and the company went into the ground,” Standish says.
Meanwhile, Abbott Label’s business is soaring. Since 2008, the company has experienced 10% yearly growth, including a whopping 41% growth surge in 2011, which coincided with the Atlanta manufacturing plant coming on stream in 2010.
John Abbott emphasizes that the company acquires business through hard work and dedication, and while he is mum on just exactly how the sales effort is organized, he points out that meeting all customer demands is critical.
“Our performance-oriented business practice attracts distributors with high demand end users. All three aspects of price, quality and service are covered, while other manufactures say ‘pick two’,” he says.
Abbott Label’s mantra is PURR, an acronym that stands for Performance, Urgency, Responsiveness, Results. Each of these terms plays a key role in servicing customers and driving the company forward.
Abbott’s PURR philosophy encompasses the coming together of several elements, notably logistics, quality and an extensive product portfolio. The company specializes in an array of custom label products, medium to long runs and also high-demand short run flexo jobs. Among its product offerings are stock thermal transfer, direct thermal, laser, EDP labels, pre-printed shipping labels, and also custom labels including but not limited to UL, UL-C, 4-color process up to 17-inches wide, 10-inch wide 8-color labels, labels for food/freezer applications, industrial labels, and labels for warehousing, shipping and receiving, as well as retail – and all labels “needed yesterday.”
Converting capabilities include roll-to-roll, roll-to-sheet and roll-to-fanfold, as well as flexible packaging, UV coating and priming, cold foil, and printing on both liner and adhesive. Abbott’s in-house art department and analog platemaking capabilities have been active since 2001. Computer to plate technology is used on all of the company’s 4-color process work.
Quality is king at Abbott Label, from the materials used, including those ISO-certified, to an extensive, proprietary system of checks and balances in place to ensure that what leaves the manufacturing facility exactly meets customers’ specs.
The “urgency” portion of PURR is evident in Abbott’s aversion to backorders and its proficiency in same-day and next-day delivery. John Abbott says, “Stock labels ship out the same day you place your order. We consistently address backorders as a major issue. We do not want backorders on any item. And our ‘run and hold’ program helps satisfy Just-in-Time delivery requirements.”
Smart, strategic warehousing is another integral factor. “We believe in the 80/20 rule. We know that 20% of our items make up 80% of our sales,” John says. “And we know that 20% of our items run on a lot of the same, common widths. So we have the materials we need warehoused and can have the products shipped in the same day,” he says.
Adds Standish, “Because we respond so fast, we attract distributors with high-demand end users. And short runs are not a problem for us. We end up getting people who have a need for urgency – because we are responsive.”
Facilitating both quality and efficiency is Abbott Label’s strong relationships with its most important suppliers. “We exclusively use the industry’s premier vendors, such as RotoMetrics, Mark Andy, UPM Raflatac and Fasson,” John says. “We warehouse more than 10,000 different-sized dies from RotoMetrics, with an enormous number of magnetic cylinders. We’ve been working with the same RotoMetrics customer service person, Terri Baumbach, for 32 years.”
The company’s press arsenal is primarily made up of Mark Andy machinery. In total, there are a 18 flexo presses at the it’s disposal – seven in Texas, six in California and five in Georgia.
Abbott Label has never had a down year, and has never stopped growing – even through the recession. In fact, the company has never in its history laid-off a single employee or experienced a cutback.
The secret to Abbott Label’s success is really no secret at all. The company prides itself on it’s responsiveness and ease of doing business, which is made possible by it’s structure and strategy. “We have always had a high sense of urgency which helps attract demanding distributors. When you take care of people that put demands on you, they reward you,” says Jerry Abbott, the company’s patriarch.
A key ingredient in Abbott’s formula is it’s three shifts, manufacturing labels 24 hours a day in multiple locations. “That’s important,” Jerry says, “Because there will be times when you get a job that’s exceptionally large, and if you run on one shift, you’re running that job forever. If you’re running a job for a week on a press, how are you taking care of your other customers? We like to make it easy for our customers to use us and we like to say ‘yes’ to them.”
Running nonstop in three strategic locations – at facilities that are equally capable – makes it easy for Abbott to say yes. Jerry adds, “We have competitors that have five locations, but they only manufacture in one or two of them. So if there’s a backorder on an item, they can’t handle the situation. So we avoid backorders. Throughout our entire organization we can run and ship the same day, and that’s a hard thing to do, you have to have a lot of consistency and size, and the confidence to run with no backlogs.
“You also have to have a lot of material in inventory, which is not exactly a fun thing to have, and we have it, and we’re able to perform very efficiently in doing that,” Jerry says.
Throughout the supply chain, a lot of people count on Abbott Label. “Not only are we supporting more than 100 employees, but also the many thousands of distributors we have, plus their families,” Standish adds.
While Abbott is big and business is booming, it is poised to grow even further. The company is in the process of completing the purchase of a new 86,000 square foot location in Dallas, just around the corner from its current 29,000 square foot space. In Atlanta, the building they own is 40,000 square feet and there’s another 25,000 feet of manufacturing space in California.
John Abbott says the company’s goals for the future include maintaining 20-50% increased revenue per year, five plants, strong digital capabilities, a larger flexible packaging offering, and retaining its high level of service.
The new building in Dallas has put on the backburner an imminent plan to expand in Chicago. “We had every intention of being in Chicago by the end of 2012, but when we decided to buy the new building, all our attention went there,” John says, adding, “We will be in Chicago no later than the second quarter of 2013."
A legacy of responsiveness and selling exclusively to resellers has this converter poised for continued growth.
By Steve Katz
Published January 23, 2013