Labels & Systems
Company Name: Labels & Systems
Customer: Michael Felitti, Owner/Manager
Label Traxx user since: 2001
- Felitti wanted a manufacturing management software program and not just an estimating program
- A small team meant the business needed to be as streamlined as possible
- Needed to be able to analyze customer buying habits
- Label Traxx provides one end-to-end system that handles the whole business from estimate to accounting
- Customers can speak to individuals who have cross-functional capabilities and are able to quote, track job status or view schedules
- Analyzing customer order history in Label Traxx helps to make decisions about whether to stock items
To say that Labels & Systems, a label producer in Tampa, Florida, is an unusual company is a bit like saying that a platypus is an unusual animal. But unusual does not mean unsuccessful, in either case. Labels & Systems operates in a carved out space in the warehouse area attached to a beautifully restored old cigar factory near downtown Tampa. There are no signs to indicate that a $1 million plus per year label producer is in the building, and the parking lot is a patch of grass near the loading dock. But the story gets better.
Labels & Systems has only one press and just four employees—a press operator, a graphic designer/prepress specialist, a winder/inspector, and Owner/Manager Michael Felitti. Their manufacturing floor space consists of 2500 square feet. The two small offices would fit inside a good sized suburban living room. The debt-free company ships to customers in 49 states and the occasional Caribbean island and Mexico. A bakery in Alaska relies on the company for its labels.
Felitti, opened the doors at Labels & Systems in 2001. Felitti’s first foray into the printing business, however, was in 1973, when his father hocked the family 1968 Dodge station wagon to let him buy a 1250 Multigraph offset press and an 8x12 Gordon letterpress. Felitti set up shop in his home and later moved the equipment to commercial space. Business was good through the 1980s, but in the early 1990s Felitti’s customers began failing and he folded the business in 1994. Not about to leave his customers stranded for product, he began brokering pressure sensitive labels. He continued to sell work for label printers through 2000. But by 2001, Felitti thought he could print labels and serve his customers better than the printers for whom he was brokering, so he and two partners opened the doors at Labels & Systems.
It is important also to understand Felitti’s perspective on technology. In his offset and letterpress business, he did a lot of forms work, including insurance and bail bond certificates. He was an early computer adopter, using a Compugraphic line input typesetter and some of the first Apple computers. Felitti is one of those rare birds who moved from hot type to cold type to today’s digital printing world, and loved every minute. Today he uses both Macs and PCs in his business.
Felitti and his partners started Labels & Systems with an $800,000 investment. Before they ever opened the doors, they made two significant purchases—a brand new Mark Andy press and Label Traxx print business management software. Felitti had investigated several software packages before he bought, and says: “Most of the programs I looked at only did estimating, and were more like computer calculators than manufacturing management programs. But Label Traxx is a comprehensive package that lets me manage every aspect of the business.”
Customers who call Labels & Systems find themselves dealing with the a person who has access to every detail of the manufacturing process, and in many cases can get a quote and production schedule for their job while they are still on the phone. Some customers prefer to fax in a rough sketch of the label they require, confident that Felitti will get them a firm quote by return fax the same day. One key to this responsiveness lies, of course, in the total lack of bureaucracy in the process, but equally important is Felitti’s absolute reliance on Label Traxx to provide a complete and comprehensive job history for each client. And with so few employees operating in a confined space, production often begins within an operating lead time that most companies would find truly amazing. The Labels & Systems approach led to the company motto: “We ship before others begin.”
Felitti also prides himself on his knowledge of his customers’ businesses, and their label needs. He establishes naming conventions for each customer’s labels that are based on the way the customer describes the labels or inventories them. This enables him to quickly establish a dialog when the customer calls.
Felitti relies on happy customers to recommend his services to others. As a result, the company operates with no outside salespeople and does not rely on brokers. Inquiries almost always result from customer referrals, or from people who discover the Label & Systems website. Says Felitti: “We are picky about whom we do business with, and a transaction must work equally well for both parties. We take a greater interest in the customer’s business, we get involved, we can steer them to sheets or rolls (whichever suites their needs better), and we don’t try to sell people more labels than they really need. Customers that are treated this way recommend us to others.” The extensive job history and customer records that Felitti maintains in Label Traxx also prompt him to actually go out on a limb, a tactic that often forges an unbreakable bond with the customer. By carefully looking at customers’ buying habits and reorder practices, Felitti may run an extra few thousand of a particular label for a customer. Then, when the customer reorders, he can ship immediately from stock. The result: the lowest possible production cost coupled with the fastest possible shipment, and a grateful, loyal customer. Says Felitti: “Printing on spec for customers based on our knowledge of their label needs is often a win-win situation for both of us. It also lets us occasionally lower our costs by moving a traditional thermal transfer customer to flexo, based on our knowledge of their buying history.”
Felitti uses most of the Label Traxx modules, including accounting. “Label Traxx is the only business software in the building. The small size of the business and the fact that everyone knows everything about every job means that formal data collection is not used. Talking about his experience with Label Traxx, Felitti comments: “We have never had a crash, so system reliability is not an issue. The technical support is fantastic, and we maintain an active presence on the Label Traxx user group, which lets us compare notes with other users and take advantage of their experience.”
Labels & Systems may be unusual, but so is the service they provide to customers.
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