Jeff Andolora has never been afraid of taking a chance. Alongside his father in the early 1990s, the Andoloras made the prescient move to enter the label converting business, and Adflex has never looked back. Now, with the prospect of entering the digital printing market, Andolora is taking another chance--emerging as the first US converter to install the Dantex PicoColour UV inkjet digital press. So far, the move has worked.
Jeff Andolora and his father, Joseph, made their first calculated decision less than a decade into their operations. Joseph and his partner took over Adflex, previously named Ad Service Corp, in 1978. At that time, Adflex served as a flexo platemaking trade shop, producing magnesium engravings and rubber flexo plates before the days of photopolymer plates.
"It was very interesting because we were growing through most of the early-to-mid 1980s, and then we started to lose some business to shops that we were producing plates for because they started buying their own platemaking equipment," explains Jeff Andolora. "There were about 10 label and narrow web printers locally between Rochester and Buffalo that we were servicing, and slowly but surely they all decided to make their own plates. My dad came up with the idea to compete with them, and we bought our first flexo press in 1990."
Adflex invested in a 5-color Mark Andy press with a central impression drum. The press was not a license to make money, however. According to Andolora, Adflex struggled in its label-printing infancy. "We were putting out good work and we had a good customer base, but we just hadn't learned how to make money yet," he says. "Plates were still going strong, and at the time it was still our moneymaker. But we knew looking forward that we wanted to grind it out and stay in the label market--because we knew that could eventually be our area of growth."
In 1996, Adflex recruited Fred Emler, a semi-retired industry professional who had worked in the region's Kodak label operation. He was hired to boost the label end of the business, and grow it he did. Fast forward to today, Adflex owns six flexo presses--with the most recent acquisition being an all-UV, 8-color Nilpeter FB servo press. Mark Andy 2200s comprise the remainder of Adflex's flexo machinery. In addition, Adflex entered the tissue paper converting market back in 2000, and Andolora has added three wide web presses meant to service that industry. Adflex now boasts nine presses, plus the newly-installed Dantex PicoColour.
"Our business has shifted, years later, from platemaking accounting for our...