Since 1928, Rossini has supplied the printing sector with a complete range of rubber rollers, printing sleeves and equipment and has been a major, well-respected player in its industry due to its impressive after sales support, which, 90 years later, still remains unmatched.
Also known as “Rossini Spa,” the B2B roller and sleeve designer/manufacturer provides OEM customers with cutting-edge solutions to help them achieve high quality results in gravure, flexographic, and offset printing, and even designs and produces auxiliary machinery through its equipment division. It has two production facilities in Italy where it was originally established, as well as in Spain, Romania, Brazil, India, and as of 20 years ago, in the U.S. These facilities also house sales groups and it has dedicated sales offices in Germany, the U.K., France, and China.
Rossini employs 600 people worldwide, who work together to produce high quality, value-added products within reasonable lead times, thereby providing Rossini’s customer base with the ability to meet their expectations, both from a print quality standpoint and in a timely manner. The company is known internationally as the go-to sleeve supplier for OEM printing press manufacturers.
In 1996, the Italian company expanded its business to North America, and began manufacturing on the continent in 1998. Today, Rossini’s North America facility in Suwanee, Georgia (just a 40-minute drive to Atlanta) employs 79 people, and is busier than ever.
In this issue of Manufacturing in Focus, we asked Sales Director Michael Bell—who is also one of Rossini North America’s co-founders—about the future of the business.
Rossini has just finished an expansion of its U.S. facility, and plans to continue to modernize with increased automation. Interestingly, this North America subsidiary has consistently been expanding since its founding, which occurred shortly after Bell met Rossini’s Owner and CEO, Felice Rossini, at a trade show in 1995. Bell was then in an engineering role in the textile finishing industry, but was seeking a new opportunity in a progressive industry with a foreseeable future. At the time, Rossini had only two manufacturing facilities, and both were in Italy.
“I was involved in the founding of Rossini North America in January of 1996. Initially it was an agreement to simply market and sell the products manufactured in Europe. There was an agreement with Felice Rossini that if we reached a certain sales level, we would build a factory and start manufacturing here in the U.S. for the North American market. We reached that point very quickly, within two years. True to his word, we started looking for where best to set up the operation,” Michael Bell recounts.
Because Rossini North America would have to receive raw materials and many basic as well as complex sleeve products, Atlanta was chosen as a good facility location over other metropolises like New York City and Chicago due to its excellent international airport. In fact, the ATL Hartsfield-Jackson is famously known as the busiest airport in the world.
Rossini’s initial U.S. location was in Buford, part of the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta Metropolitan Statistical Area. Its first manufacturing facility was a small, 6,000 square foot facility that produced basic fiberglass sleeves. Rossini quickly outgrew the facility, and in 2001 expanded threefold to about 18,000 square feet when it began producing more complex sleeves, including those with urethane materials. Three years later in 2004, the facility underwent another 6,000 square foot expansion, adding a rubber covering operation and bringing it up to a total of about 24,000 square feet.
Bell tells us that this entire time, Rossini North America had been utilizing the services of another company to represent the business externally. “We had a company representing us up until 2001. At that point, a decision was made that it would be best to set up our own internal sales organization and we hired a seasoned salesman with deep knowledge of the printing industry. We hired three additional sales people at the end of 2005 and went into full-fledged sales and production, marketing ourselves from out of a new facility in Suwannee, Georgia at the beginning of 2006.”
2006 was an eventful year for Rossini North America, in which it moved from Buford to a newly built, custom 56,000 square foot facility in Suwanee, with 3,500 square feet of office space. “In order to meet continued growth and demand in the market, we recently completed the investment in an additional 15,000 square feet of production space and 1,000 square feet of office space. That expansion was completed as of April last year,” says Bell.
Rossini’s modernized, 71,000 square foot Suwanee facility now contains much more automated equipment in order to meet market demands and exceed customer expectations. “We recognize that automation is going to be a big part in the next five years at Rossini,” remarks Bell. “We have introduced some CNC equipment, which can complete five or six steps in the sleeve production that in the past was done by individual pieces of machinery and individual employees. Through the automation process, we are putting ourselves in a position to become leaner and provide a more consistent product in a faster period of time.”
As Rossini produces its own processing machinery, this new equipment is developed internally in Italy. Bell informs us that the focus of the Rossini headquarters over the next few years is to continue to automate the system to the point where the only things that need to be done manually are programming the equipment and loading a base sleeve into the machine. “We hope to have that developed, proven, and installed in our facility by the end of next year,” he says.
One of the reasons that Rossini North America has been required to expand and update so many times is because of this market demand. The company experiences 10 to 15 percent growth in revenue per year, which Bell attributes to its unique product portfolio. Rossini’s products are able to meet demands of high line-screen printing that most printers need to supply to their customer base today.
The most recent sleeve that Rossini has released is the StarGreen product. “It follows the dimensional stability of the Everglass sleeve product, but includes a surface that is much more cut resistant,” says Bell.
The StarGreen sleeve is designed for high definition printing, and its surface is reinforced with a fiberglass layer. It boasts high mechanical strength, constant dimensional tolerance over time, and is solvent and humidity resistant. The product builds upon the innovation of the EverGreen sleeve, a plate sleeve designed for Flexographic printing applications using both water- or solvent-based ink systems. The fiberglass base sleeve is coated in polyurethane layers of variable thickness. Both the StarGreen and EverGreen products are high-longevity, built to last.
Additionally, Rossini’s product portfolio also includes engineered Carbon Fiber bridge sleeves and compressible bridge sleeves, another recent introduction. “And, we will soon be unveiling a hydraulic bridge at this year’s Flexographic Technical Association Forum in Indianapolis,” Bell adds.
The theme of the Flexographic Technical Association’s event for this year is “bringing it all together.” Held this May, the forum will be focused on the rewarding moment of success that comes from the marriage of all the planning and work the industry puts in, regardless of position in the flexographic supply chain (prepress, printing, converting, design, etc.).
Rossini’s growth over the years isn’t solely due to its consistent release of top-of-the-line patented products, but also the business’ dedication to customer service. Rossini North America has focused on hiring top salespeople since its decision to work solely with its internal sales force in 2005. Press OEMs and printers that choose to purchase from Rossini North America can rest assured that not only are they purchasing durable, quality products from a knowledgeable sales staff, but that the staff will be there after their purchase, should the customer run into technical issues. “We are known in the industry to be the only sleeve supplier that will actually work with customers and resolve issues after the sale,” says Bell.
As Rossini North America continues to grow and expand, Bell looks for sales people with a very specific skill set. The person must be technically inclined, passionate about the product and printing industry, and enjoy travelling. “We’re looking for people who are self-starters and have an extremely hard work ethic. In what we do, there is a lot of travel and the sacrifices that come along with it. It’s a challenge to find somebody who is prepared to travel as much as our sales people do, which typically is three weeks out of every month, and who is also as detail-oriented as the product requires to ensure it is made correctly. It’s a very detail-oriented product and the industry is extremely demanding.”
If the role sounds challenging, Bell clarifies that it is not a hard job per se, though finding that one-of-a-kind person Rossini recruits can take effort. “It isn’t a hard job, but it is hard to find people who can fill the role in the way that it needs to be filled.”
But it is finding and retaining exceptional individuals that has made Rossini the leading sleeve manufacturer it is today. The upper management of the company, from Felice Rossini to Michael Bell and other sales management professionals, is constantly working with press OEMs to further their relationships. Treating OEMs well has led to a humbling amount of customer appreciation, growth of the Rossini business through recommendations, and also the featuring of Rossini equipment in its customers’ showrooms and facilities worldwide.
“Whenever people go to visit OEM factories and do press check-outs, they see Rossini everywhere. The benefit that provides us and our subsidiaries throughout the world is phenomenal. It’s not something you can really describe,” concludes Bell.