Companies to Watch: The Label Smith
By Steve Katz, Editor
The Label Smith
904 Perla Road
Pasadena TX USA
For Tim Smith, when one door closes, another one opens, and this has been a recurring theme for himself as well as for his company. Aptly named The Label Smith, the converter is based in Pasadena, TX, USA, in the Houston metropolitan area.
Tim Smith began his career in the label industry right out of college, working as a purchasing agent for a local label company. He worked his way through just about every department, but was unceremoniously let go, when nepotism got the best of his employer. But Smith loved the industry, and the work he was doing.
“At the age of 25, I was the plant manager, and five years later, when they let me go, it was God shutting that door and opening up a new one,” Tim says. And in 2002, the new door God opened was the door to the Label Smith’s first facility, a leased, 4000 square foot plant.
The Label Smith started out, literally, as a one-man show, with one press. Tim’s wife, Stephanie, is co-owner, and an accountant by trade, so it was actually a two-person operation. The first few months were a struggle, though a loan afforded them an 8-color Propheteer flexo press. “That’s what we had in my old company, so I knew that if I had to print labels, I’d be familiar with the machinery and be able to do it,” Tims says, adding that he worked all facets of the business in The Label Smith’s early days. “I did everything – press operator, sales, rewinding, you name it.”
The Label Smith officially opened its doors for business in October 2002, and they almost didn’t make it. “We opened in October, and in December, my wife informed me that we had 1000 dollars left in the bank, then, at the last minute, we got a new client, with sizable orders, who pays on time. God must have given them to me, because we hit all our numbers, and while it hasn’t been easy, everything has worked out. And this customer kept growing with me,” he says.
From the start, Tim had a good feeling about The Label Smith. As they grew, they added equipment, and soon had outgrown that first leased building. “After five years, we found the facility in Pasadena, a 6000 square foot building just five miles from the original site. We went from 4000 to 6000 feet, but we knew it wasn’t going to be enough. We bought an AzTech rewinder, then a little Lederle tabletop machine, and also a used Kelly platemaker. I wanted to be able to make plates. In the case we had a press error, I wanted to be able to fix it in house. We also got ourselves an imagesetter and a film developer. The first time I had a customer say, ‘I need it tomorrow,’ I got goose bumps. It was just so awesome to be able to make our plates instead of waiting for FedEx to deliver them.”
For The Label Smith, it seems every five years they reach a growth milestone. In 2007, a second loan allowed the company to expand
its facility, doubling its space and making room for additional presses and capacity. “We continue to grow by double digits every year,” Tim says. “Thirteen percent is the lowest we’ve grown, and we even experienced strong growth during the economic crisis.”
Tim Smith attributes the company’s success to his dedicated employees, the markets he serves, going digital, and a high quality, competitively priced product. Including Tim and his wife, and three outside salespeople, there are 23 employees at The Label Smith.
Tim’s formula for success is to offer his customers three things – price, delivery and service. When the company began struggling with turnaround time, it became clear to Tim that a change was needed. In 2012, The Label Smith added a Xeikon 3500 to its four flexo presses – two Propheteers and two Mark Andy’s. Prior to the Xeikon installation, bottlenecks had become an issue. “We were really struggling with overtime and lead times. Our standard lead time had always been six or seven days, but we were looking at 10 days, working 6 AM to midnight or sometimes 2 AM. It was a very stressful time.
“We looked at our Label Traxx reports, and it clearly showed we had to go digital. When I decided Xeikon was the direction we needed to go in, not only were we able to go back to one shift, it opened up a ton of opportunities for us,” Tim says.
Most of the The Label Smith’s orders are high quality, short run work, with the majority from regional food and bottled water brands. “Food has been a great market for us, as has custom water bottle labels. There’s a lot of expiration with food, and the need for quick turnaround. Our digital press can knock out in 3-4 hours what was once taking 10 hours. High-end, short run jobs at a reasonable rate is how we have promoted ourselves. Prior to installing the Xeikon, we were dying with copy change after copy change. Xeikon showed me how the press can do all the things we needed to relieve our press load, and how things were easier to do the first time without making adjustments or second hits. One hit whites are beautiful, one hit blacks are beautiful,” he says.
As the company’s loyal customers succeed, so does The Label Smith. “We have been blessed with all kinds of great opportunities – doors closing there, doors opening here, and that’s also how it’s been for so many of our clients. I had a client start six years ago with a small kitchen, less than 5000 square feet, and they just moved to a new 90 square foot kitchen,” Tim says.
The plan for The Label Smith is to continue to grow, at a pace it can handle, and Tim Smith has plans for meeting his customers expanding needs. “We are going to continue to invest. I would like to do hot stamping, and I’d like to have a wider format,” he says.
The company has been approached multiple times about being acquired, but that is not in the plan – Tim loves his work. “We’ve had a few propositions, but I enjoy what I do so much, and I want to see this company succeed.”