2022 Top Suppliers: Another Record Year for Diversified Labeling Solutions
As part of Print+Promo Marketing's 2022 Top Suppliers list, we asked some of the top-ranked suppliers about how they managed to continue to grow and bounce back from the pandemic, their thoughts on where the industry stands, their future plans and more.
Read on for our conversation with Jim Kersten, CEO of Diversified Labeling Solutions, the No. 16 supplier on our list. Or, download the full Top Suppliers resource for the complete interviews, detailed stats and analysis for the Top 65, and results for our 2022 Supplier Excellence Awards.
Diversified Labeling Solutions – No. 16
2021 sales: $85.7 million
260 employees, five locations
Established in 1985
Diversified Labeling Solutions is having a record year. The company reached $85.7 million in sales for 2021, a nearly 26% increase over 2020 revenue. However, that success didn’t come without challenges. Early in 2021, the label industry was hit hard when a winter storm swept through the Gulf states, leading to a shortage of chemicals needed for adhesives and coatings. Then, in January 2022, the strike at UPM mills in Finland further exacerbated already existing shortages of liner stock and semi-gloss face stock in the U.S. According to Jim Kersten, CEO of DLS, when the nearly four-month strike ended, one of DLS’ raw material suppliers said as much as 25% of the U.S. liner supply had been affected.
So, how did DLS come out on top? “We refocused our efforts on taking care of current customers versus prospecting for new business,” Kersten says, “Our industry became more creative.”
For DLS, that meant several things, starting with finding alternatives for hard-to-get materials. These substitutes included rethinking material configurations — for example, changing from paper liner to polyester liner, or gloss varnishing matte face stock to replace semi-gloss face stock. Business conditions also required DLS to look internationally for materials that were no longer available domestically, rebalance its inventories of raw materials and modify the size of labels to increase overall yields.
Future Plans: With the company growing so quickly, DLS needed additional staff. Finding talent for the office and especially the production floor was tough, but it’s the accomplishment that makes Kersten most proud.
“We put together an internal group comprised of senior management, HR and department managers who all worked together to develop a recruitment action plan,” he says.
Through an aggressive recruitment strategy of social media outreach, word-of-mouth, referrals, networking, search ads and employment agencies, DLS found its people while making sure current employees felt appreciated and compensated.
“As we plan for 2023, we are establishing realistic goals, ensuring we have the proper equipment and personnel to run our business, and the necessary automation in place to properly service our customers in an efficient, cost-effective manner,” Kersten says. “With the market uncertainty, this is not an easy task, but one that we take seriously as we establish our financial, operational and marketing plans for next year.
The supplier will be moving toward these goals without Kersten, who recently announced his plans to retire at the end of 2022. Current Chief Operating Officer Bill Johnstone will succeed Kersten as CEO, effective Jan. 1.
Kersten is excited for DLS’ future — no matter who is at the helm. “We are committed to our industry and to continuing to grow DLS to better serve our distributor customers,” he concludes.