Monday, March 7, 2011

NRI, Thomas Repro and CallPrint "LINK" together to form new company


Two of the strongest and largest reprographics companies in the U.S. – Thomas Reprographics (TR) and National Reprographics (NRI)and one of the largest reprographics companies in the U.K. – CallPrint join forces to offer “Managed Print Solutions” nationally and globally.

Their new venture is called “LINK Document Services Group” (LINK DSG).

I found this out when I visited NRI’s web-site, just a few minutes ago. While I don’t yet know all of the nitty-gritty details, I do have some comments to make about this very interesting turn of events.

I will do that when I update this post, sometime this afternoon.

For now, here’s a link to the web-site they must have just recently launched:


And, here (no pun intended) is a link to the Press Release that “LINK DSG” issued.

LINK DSG has acquired SepiaLine!

Joel’s comments:

This “new development” is a very interesting one, for sure!

I just received a copy of the “Press Release” that was issued March 1st and noticed that LINK DSG HAS ACQUIRED SEPIALINE.

Those of you (in the reprographics business and industry) who know me know that my first company was one of the “founders” of an organization then referred to as ReproCAD. At the time we founded ReproCAD (back in late 1983), there was another organization known as MiniMAX. My first company was also a member of MiniMAX. At some point (and I don’t recall exactly when this happened), ReproCAD and MiniMAX “merged” and became ReproMAX. My first company was a “partner-member” of ReproCAD. When I came out of retirement in 1997 (and in October 1997 joined NGI), I lobbied ReproMAX to let us become a member, but because there were “territorial conflicts”, it took several years before we (NGI) were allowed to join ReproMAX. And, even when we were allowed to join, we had to join as an “associate” member, instead of as a “partner” member.

Today, ReproMAX is a force in the reprographics industry. This is not new news; ReproMAX has been a force in the industry for many years. Nowadays, there are over 100 “member” companies who belong to ReproMAX, and a few ReproMAX members are, on their own, very large enterprises. Rick Bosworth, who has been President of ReproMAX for several years, and who is a long-time reprographics industry veteran, having been President of Service Reprographics (now known as Endocs) for several years before he took the role of President of ReproMAX, has done an outstanding job growing the ReproMAX organization.

However, in spite of the size of ReproMAX (collectively, the combined annual sales of ReproMAX member companies reportedly exceed ARC’s annual sales), ReproMAX, in my opinion, has long been at a disadvantage to ARC (and to ABC Imaging and to Service Point USA) when it comes to proposing “national deals” to very large (national) A/E/C customers. (To a certain extent, this includes “international” A/E/C customers as well.) For years, I’ve been openly critical of this disadvantage, both when I attended ReproMAX meetings (when NGI was a member and I had the opportunity to participate in ReproMAX meetings) and, later on, in articles I’ve written for “Reprographics 101” (i.e., this blog.)

The formation of a new company, LINK DSG, by three very formidable reprographics companies changes, to a certain extent, the “disadvantage” situation, and, in my opinion, represents increased competition for ARC, ABC Imaging, and Service Point Solutions for “national” (larger) A/E/C account deals. Three of ReproMAX’s largest member companies, Thomas Reprographics (TR), National Reprographics (NRI), and Callprint, have formed a company to, together, pursue “national” (and international) deals.

Thomas Reprographics is a large, very well-respected player in the reprographics industry. Thomas Repro’s operations are in Texas (pretty much throughout Texas), in Arizona, in Minnesota, and in Florida. Thomas Repro is led by Bryan Thomas, its CEO, and Bryan is the son of Bill Thomas, one of the smartest (and nicest) guys you will ever meet. Bill Thomas was a very large minority shareholder in ARC and, over time, sold his ARC shares for a ton of money. Bryan did not fall far from that tree; he, in his own right, is a very, razor sharp (and nice) guy, passionate and aggressive. There are other members of the Thomas family who are heavily involved in Thomas Repro’s business, including Kent Long, Bill Thomas’ son-in-law. Brianna Thomas-Long, Bill’s daughter and Kent’s wife, who is Director of Marketing for Thomas. Some (or all) of the former owners of “A/E the Graphics Complex” (a company that Thomas Repro acquired a few years ago), I’m speaking of the Gremillon family, participate in the management of Thomas Repro’s business, and like Bryan, Bill, Kent and Brianna, the Gremillon’s are very, very sharp people – and well respected “players” - in the reprographics business and industry. Taken altogether, Thomas Repro is an outstanding company, well respected by its customers, and has one of the most formidable management teams to ever grace the reprographics industry. Thomas Repro is more than 50 years old. Thomas Repro is not an easy company to compete with. (As to the latter, I know that from my own, personal experience; in other words, that’s not just an opinion.)

Similar to Thomas Repro, National Reprographics (NRI) is also a large, very well-respected player in the reprographics industry. NRI’s operations are in Boston, in New York, in New Jersey, in Philadephia, in Washington, DC and in San Francisco. NRI is led by Ellen Feuer (Chairperson of the Board of Directors) and by Doug Magid, President. Doug is a graduate of Duke and earned his master’s degree from the Wharton School of Finance (Univ of Penn). Doug is one of the reprographics industry’s brightest stars, razor sharp, passionate and aggressive. His father and reprographics-business-mentor, Sol Magid, was the prior President of NRI, and like Bill Thomas of Thomas Repro, Sol is very smart and very well respected by all who know him. Like Thomas Repro, NRI has a very deep, very experienced management team. NRI has very long-standing relationships with its key accounts. NRI is more than 100 years old. NRI is not an easy company to compete with. (As to the latter, and just like Thomas Repro, I know that from my own, personal experience; in other words, that’s not just an opinion.)

About Callprint … while I’ve met Steve Cheek (Callprint’s Managing Director) on a few occasions, I, admittedly, know very little about Callprint’s operations or reputation, but I did visit Callprint’s web-site to see what “they say” about their company, and here’s what I found on Callprint’s web-site: “Callprint was established in 1992. Its original founders, Terry Rutter, Alan Cheek and Norman Krangel had previously held executive roles in major UK reprographic companies and with their guidance Callprint has evolved into a well established, socially responsible and customer focused organisation. Callprint has grown organically and by acquisition to its current turnover in excess of £16,000,000 (approximately $26 mil USD). With over 220 employees, it now has Twenty One branch locations plus twelve FM sites of which six are fully equipped and manned Reprographic Centres.” Since I’ve personally met and talked to Steve Cheek, I am aware that he is a very sharp guy. And, he has a deep team supporting him in his efforts to grow Callprint’s business in the U.K. I’m not sure of the “rankings” of reprographics businesses in the U.K., but I think that Service Point’s U.K. operations rank #1 in size and that Hobs Reprographics and Callprint are the other major players in the U.K. reprographics marketplace. But, all in all, Callprint is formidable player in the U.K. reprographics marketplace. (Note that both ARC and ABC Imaging have acquired companies in London, but it’s my understanding that ARC ‘s and ABC Imaging’s operations in the U.K. are considerably smaller (in sales revenues) than Service Point, Callprint and Hobs.

Thomas Reprographics, NRI and Callprint all have extensive experience in the “FM” business, an important segment of the A/E/C reprographics business. Thomas, NRI and Callprint have all grown both organically and by acquisition. The combination of these three firms to form the nucleus of a venture (a company) to pursue “national” (and “international”) deals with larger A/E/C industry firms (and I would imagine they will pursue deals in the non-AEC sector as well) is a brilliant one. Well, folks, that’s simply my opinion, of course. As I said earlier, their venture will, I think undoubtedly, represent increased competition for ARC, ABC Imaging, and Service Point Solutions with respect to the pursuit of “national” (and “international) deals with larger A/E/C customers.

Both ARC and ReproMAX have announced, and are in the process of “rolling-out”, products that are geared towards A/E/C “document management” and “project collaboration.” ARC is rolling-out “PlanWell Collaborate” and ReproMAX is rolling-out “cMAX”. I’m not the right person to compare and/or evaluate PlanWell Collaborate and cMAX. But, I would be willing to publish an article on my blog that compares these two products and invite ARC and ReproMAX to send me their “talking points” for an article. Anyway, it will certainly be interesting to see how these two products “stack up” against one another.

In the “FM” business, it is both necessary and critical to have software (and hardware that complements the software) that “tracks and accounts for” output generated on equipment the FM-MPS-Vendor-Reprographer installs at customer sites. It was a brilliant move on ARC’s part to develop “Abacus PCR”. And, from what I’ve heard, Abacus PCR is an excellent product. ReproMAX’s members (and others in the reprographics business who offer FM services) have relied, for the most part, on the two other “primary” software products developed for “tracking and accounting for output”, SepiaLine and Technesis. At my former company, we had an extensive FM business; early on, we used mostly Technesis, but, later on, we relied mostly on SepiaLine. A recent rumor in the reprographics industry put forth that ARC was interested in acquiring SepiaLine. Had that happened, all non-ARC-reprographers would have been at a disadvantage to ARC. Had ARC acquired SepiaLine, ARC could have simply discontinued selling SepiaLine, forcing non-ARC reprographers to switch to Technesis’ product or to ARC’s own Abacus PCR product. [EFI, the creator of the popular family of “Fiery” RIP products, has, over the years, acquired several, of not most, of the companies (Management Graphics, ColorBus, Splash, to name a few) who sold competing RIP products. In my opinion, EFI’s “consolidation” of the RIP business, reduced competition and was not good for reprographers (or printing companies or copy center businesses)]. And, if ARC had acquired SepiaLine, that same opinion would have applied. Okay, the rumor that ARC was interested in acquiring SepiaLine is, as I said, just a rumor. Now, that does not matter. We now know that LINK DSG has purchased SepiaLine. Smart move.

“Healthy competition” is good for the A/E/C marketplace. When A/E/C customers have “choices” (competing vendors), they benefit from that. And, anything that benefits the reprographics industry’s customers benefits the reprographics industry as well. It will be very, very interesting to see how LINK DSG affects competition going forward!

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