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 user 2010-01-25 at 11:04:56 am Views: 38
  • #23154

    InkCycle gets second crack at growth,Recession helps push, but experience shapes it
    Like its recycled products, InkCycle  is undergoing a rebirth.
    The printer cartridge remanufacturing business, started in Rick Krska’s garage in 1992, peaked at 790 employees in 2006. But the loss later that year of a national account to remanufacture Hewlett Packard cartridges for retailer Staples caused the Lenexa-based company’s employment to drop to about 210.

    But the company is growing once again, thanks to the environmental movement and the recession putting a spotlight on its products’ cost savings.InkCycle President Krska said that revenue rose 100 percent in 2009 and that he expects it to double again this year. The company hired 100 employees in 2009, reaching 330 full-time employees.

    This time, Krska is using the lessons learned during the company’s previous roller-coaster ride to manage growth.“You always face problems and challenges, but we don’t want to face the same issues as before,” he said. “Ultimately, we had a customer concentration issue, with a lot of business all going to one customer. So we’ve worked very hard to diversify our business. If you look at us now compared to four years ago, we’re incredibly diversified.”

    Instead of focusing heavily on remanufacturing Hewlett Packard products, the company also reworks Dell, Lexmark, Canon and other products. And instead of just selling to big-box retailers, InkCycle also has built a sales base among independent dealers, a business Krska said grew 1,000 percent in the past four years.“Our new motto is that we want to be a servant to many and a slave to none,” he said.

    Angela Walton, vice president of sales for North Kansas City-based Office Products Recycling Associates, said cost savings are opening new doors for remanufactured products. High-quality remanufactured products sell for about 25 percent to 35 percent less than original equipment manufacturer (OEM) products.“The average homeowner is now going into stores and buying remanufactured products instead of OEM products,” Walton said. “You’re also seeing large sales, especially with government agencies and corporations who have had their belts cinched and need to look at every way of saving a couple bucks.”She said several OEMs raised prices by 15 percent in the past year, further boosting sales of remanufactured products.

    InkCycle also grew about 20 percent thanks to last year’s launch of a line of environmentally friendly products. The line, called grenk (as in green ink), assures customers that all metal parts from returned cartridges are recycled, that all the packaging is recycled content and that any plastic parts that are no longer useful are ground into fuel pellets for the cement kilns at LaFarge North America. Grenk was voted Recharger magazine’s Reader’s Choice Winner for Best New Product of 2009.Brad Roderick, InkCycle’s executive vice president, said the company had an engineering firm look at the “green” factors of all its products.“It allows us to give validation to companies that they’ve not only saved money with our products, but lessened their impact to the environment,” Roderick said. “What a lot of the Fortune 500 firms need is a way to validate their claims that they are being good stewards for the environment.”

    More than 350 million toner and ink cartridges are sent to landfills in the United States each year, said Tom Fricke, CEO of nationwide franchisor Cartridge World.“OEMs need to consume about a gallon of oil for every cartridge they make,” Fricke said. “When you’re talking about hundreds of millions of cartridges being consumed during a year, that’s a huge impact on oil consumption in the U.S.”Fricke said environmental benefits pique the interest of many companies and, combined with cost savings, are a powerful marketing tool as long as the quality is there to back it up.

    Krska said InkCycle’s new products and programs rejuvenated the company, injecting a renewed sense of energy. He said the company hired engineers to help expand production in smarter ways — looking to do more with the resources at hand rather than increase the company’s footprint.“The last time we were growing, it was happening so fast,” Krska said. “Our drop-off gave us a chance to drop back and punt a bit. This time, we get to grow in a better way. We’re being more strategic and planning things out.”^2769861