QP: Tell us about INX International Ink Co.
Clendenning: INX International Ink Co. is the third largest producer of inks in North America and a global supplier as part of Sakata INX worldwide. We are headquartered in Schaumburg, IL, a suburb of Chicago, and have more than 20 facilities in the US and Canada. We also have a world class R&D technology center located in the Chicago area that has developed many new products and technologies. Combined with INX Digital International Co., we will present some new offerings to an international audience of commercial and digital printers this year at drupa.
QP: What is your background and how did you get involved with INX?
Clendenning: I started in the ink industry in 1971, so for 41 years I have been involved with the same company for the entire time. I first joined Acme Printing Ink, and it was the first ink company in a series of acquisitions made by Sakata INX that began in the late 1980s. When I started at Acme, I worked the night shift as a tub washer and mill trainee because I was finishing my last two years at the University of California-Fullerton. When I graduated with my business and marketing degrees, management asked me to stay with the company and work in the laboratory. I did, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
QP: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in this market?
Clendenning: I consider myself very lucky to learn this business from the ground up by doing every job within our industry. As I travel and visit our facilities today, it gives me a great deal of creditability with my colleagues. They know I once was in their shoes and I understand exactly what they experience day in and day out.
I feel fortunate to travel worldwide and believe I have accomplished many things in my 41 years, but my greatest achievement is having worked hard to learn every aspect of this industry and building trust of the great people who work at INX and being their leader. I’m honored to be in my position today.
QP: If you could change anything, either about your career your company, or the market, what would it be and why?
Clendenning: Two things come to mind. First, my business and marketing degrees have helped me throughout my career, but I wish I would have tried to get a degree in chemistry. I may not have been as successful in college if I had done so, but in our industry technology today is extremely important. With a chemistry degree, I could help more in this area.
Second, because of my background and having learned an industry I love from the ground up, I try to practice promoting from within the company. It is difficult to motivate and keep talented people in our industry today because we can’t promote them fast enough or provide them with enough incentives to stay. Our industry is so competitive that we really don’t make enough on the returns that we earn and deserve. That’s an important factor why it’s difficult for us to attract and keep good people today.
QP: What do you consider to be the greatest challenge for the industry right now?
Clendenning: With the competitiveness and over capacity situation in the ink industry today, the biggest challenge for us and other companies is making the proper return on what we do so we can continue to invest in the future for the good of our employees, customers, and shareholders. The largest cost factor that goes into developing our products is raw materials. In 2011 we saw unprecedented price increases that really cut into our bottom line. We could not keep up with our own increases to customers as swift and often as the material prices changed. Raw material costs will continue to be our biggest challenge this year.
QP: What do you consider to be the greatest asset for the industry right now?
Clendenning: There is no doubt the best asset our industry has are the many fine men and women that work on our behalf and with our customers every day. At INX, over 25 percent of our workforce is stationed in the customer’s workplace and function as an in-plant employee. They do it every day and are on call 24/7. That’s dedication to the job and beyond.