Narrow Web Profile: Inovar Packaging Group

By Leah Genuario | July 19, 2005

A Texas converter with a diverse customer list and a wide range of capabilities.

The company is located about a block away from The Ballpark in Arlington, home to the Texas Rangers. The label, right, was printed by Inovar.
Inovar Packaging Group Inc. is not exactly a typical narrow web converter. While it does print labels, tags and decals, the company adds a twist to its image by also printing bumper stickers, POP displays, political signage, banners and even countertops for Home Depot.

Add to the mix the company's other business endeavors — owning a catalog division called Dot-It and distributing OEM machinery — and Inovar, based in Arlington, TX, emerges as anything but a typical narrow web converter.

As one might already have guessed, Inovar Packaging Group Inc. isn't exactly a typical flexographic printer either. While the company has flexographic capabilities (both UV and water based), the twist is the other capabilities the company possesses: screen printing, hot stamping and embossing, variable imaging capabilities, and digital printing. Dismissing the idea of carving out a specific niche, it is this diversity both in products and in capabilities that has catapulted the company into an industry leader.

"We have no limitations," says Gary Cooper, the company's general manager, "It's also the reason we're growing. We're able to say yes to so many things."

The company posted sales of $13.5 million last year, an 11 percent jump from the previous year. There are 82 employees. With the exception of five sales people located in Tulsa, OK, and one salesperson in Shreveport, LA, all employees work in the Arlington facility. The company also does business with a small roster of brokers.

The Arlington complex features two plants, one flexo and one screen, and an office building. Touted as "Fun Central" in the visitor's guide, Arlington is home to The Ballpark at Arlington (where the Texas Rangers play), and Six Flags. Both attractions are a stone's throw away from Inovar.

Jim Sowell is the owner of the company, and Alan Brown is chairperson. Gary Cooper, general manager, says the dedicated staff is "the reason for the success today."

Other staff include Steve Krakosky, who serves as sales manager. Russ Huff is the flexo plant manager and Linh Nguwen is the screen print manager. Ben Nicholson works as the Dot-It division manager.

A 7-color 10" UV flexo Roto Press
Margaret Fuller is CFO, overseeing accounting and human resources. Darryl Parhan is the customer service manager. Sonya Ayers handles estimating and job planning and Bridget Nelson is in charge of job scheduling and purchasing. All serve under the company's mission statement that proclaims, "The customer is our boss."

If the name Inovar Packaging Group doesn't sound familiar, there's good reason for it. Formed in 2001, it is the product of a merger between Craftmark Label of Dallas and Labels One of Tulsa, OK.

Craftmark was started in 1964 by the Conti family with one primary client: Bell Helicopter. Because the company was printing a wide gamut of materials for Bell Helicopter, it was decided in 1982 that Craftmark would split and form several different specialty companies. One of these companies was Craftmark Label.

In 1999, Craftmark Label was bought by Sowell Companies, which had already owned Labels One. Craftmark Label was involved in flexography, screen printing and hot stamping. Labels One was a flexography shop with variable imaging thermal printing capabilities. In 2001, the decision was made to combine the two plants at the Craftmark Label location and Inovar Packaging Group was born.

"The reason for the merger was to combine the technologies into one location," says Cooper.

Pictured is an 8-color 10" Roto Press with video inspection .

The Conti family is no longer involved in the business endeavor, but many current Inovar employees originally worked for Craftmark Label. The list includes Cooper, the general manager.

Markets & Capabilities
"We're really diverse and we serve a lot of the industries," says Steve Krakosky, sales manager. The company produces printed materials for customers in numerous industries. From food and pet supplies to cosmetics and industrial applications, its client list reaches to both ends of the spectrum.

The industries Inovar prints for are varied, and so are the products it creates. The company is a virtual "one-stop-shop" for many of its clientele. Not only can they print labels, they can also handle other aspects of the marketing, such as static cling and POP displays.

Inovar Packaging Group owns 10 flexo presses, including one with UV flexo capabilities. The presses range in width from 6.5" to 10" and from three- to eight-color capabilities. Two are Mark Andy presses, three are from Roto Press, and five are Webtrons.

As for supplies, the company has 6,000 flexo dies in stock, the majority coming from Wilson Manufacturing. Inovar recently switched to a bar code system in the materials warehouse.

Cooper estimates that the company prints about 30 percent film and 70 percent paper, foils and fluorescent materials. The majority of the film is purchased from FLEXcon. Avery Dennison Fasson Roll North America and Wausau Coated Products provide the company with most of the paper.

Inovar also has a Franklin hot stamp press, four flexo slitters/rewinders, and a number of sheetfed screen printing presses and equipment. The company owns a small tabletop digital printer, an Impressa 4, which is used for short runs, samples and prototypes.

The company is moving to an all-digital workflow. Pictured here is the prepress department.

While that is the extent of digital printing for now, the company is open to the idea of someday buying a digital press.

"We'd do digital printing in-line with current processes before we'd actually buy a digital press," remarks Cooper.

Currently, Inovar Packaging Group is ushering in the digital age by upgrading other capabilities.

Inovar already boasts a top-notch prepress department. The company has five Macintosh graphics stations, one PC graphics station and a host of other software and equipment, including Color Blind color management software. Recent upgrades in the platemaking process and a new imagesetter have also strengthened prepress capabilities.

The company prides itself on its "ad-agency quality" artwork and its ability to make art out of just about anything ("We'll take sketch-on-a-napkin artwork or e-mail," says Cooper.). What's more, the prepress department is about to undergo a major facelift.

The company is investing $600,000 to implement an all-digital workflow, using DuPont's Digital Thermoflex, and Creo's Prinergy Powerpack, InSite Workflow Management and PrinterSite. Implementation will come in three phases and will take approximately 12 weeks to complete.

The investment, which includes both software and hardware, provides a variety of benefits: advances in the quality of flexo printing, improved turnaround times, and advanced trapping, to name a few. Creo's PrinterSite software will enable a customer to enter job specifications and allow for online estimating and online invoicing.

Maintaining good turnaround times is an area of focus for Inovar. Last year's average turnaround for orders, including both new and repeat orders, was 4.5 days. "Craftmark, prior to the merge, really grew by saying yes to the lead times people were requiring. Our focus lately has been keeping the lead times and improving the quality," says Steve Krakosky.