Published in Recycler Trade Magazine issue July 2009
2009 marks 30 years for worldwide distributor, Densigraphix. The company has evolved quite a bit over the past 30 years, but this year, it’s about “Giving Back” to the company’s loyal customers and setting the company up to continue down the same prosperous path for another 30 years.
Densigraphix was founded by Camille Cotran in 1979 as a supplier of electrostatic paper to copier dealers. There was a large market for the paper at the time; however, there were not many companies that provided it in Canada. With an eye for opportunity, Camille decided to take advantage of this rising trend.
Since then, Camille has continued to see opportunity and has adapted his company to reflect the changes in the market, changes in consumer needs and wants, and changes in his own company. As a result of this, the company has withstood the test of time and is weathering this recession without a glitch in business. “We see this as a very opportunistic time for us. We’ve always done well during recessions,” Camille said. “We have diversified our revenue stream so that if one dries up, we have something else coming in.”
The company’s beginnings
Densigraphix was started in a 2,000 square-foot building with the production and distribution done by Camille and his best friend Sam Bahous, who has been with the company for over 28 years and is currently senior vice-president of operations. Although the beginnings were not very glamorous, Densi was successful in providing electrostatic paper, and eventually decided to expand its product offerings. In 1983, Densigraphix introduced generic toner for plain paper copiers that dealers were selling and servicing. But in the late 1980s the laser cartridge remanufacturing business was increasing and Densigraphix saw potential in this sector of the industry. To keep up, Densi expanded its product line, and in 1999, it acquired Sel Drum Corporation, a company that provided replacement copier parts like drums, blades and fuser rollers, making them a one-stop shop for toner and copier parts.
Throughout Densi’s history one thing that has remained consistent is family. Camille knew that his first priority was providing for his family. His second was teaching his family how to provide for themselves by teaching them the business. Camille’s daughters Nathalie Cotran, Tanya Cotran-Bodnar and nephew Robert Cotran “were here in the beginning – filling cartridges and now they are taking over,” Camille recounted.
In order to keep family at the forefront of the business, in 2008 Camille promoted son-in-law, Daimin Bodnar executive vice president. Daimin has worked with Densigraphix for the past four years and brings a fresh and young business approach to Densigraphix. Daimin now leads key departments of the company including sales, finance, marketing, operations and IT. “[Daimin, Tanya, Nathalie and Robert] are the next generation for Densi. They’re young. They’re ambitious. It’s a family business and it’s a great team,” Camille said.
The company has been quite busy not only expanding at its international headquarters in Saint-Bruno, Quebec, Canada. It has also invested in expanding in other regions of the world. Densigraphix recently acquired New-Tekk, a supply company based in Dusseldorf, Germany, in order to meet the needs of its European customers and to grow its European business.
New-Tekk has been in business since 2004. The company was started by Oliver Kremser and is a well known supply company in Europe. New-Tekk and Densigraphix were a perfect match. “Since New-Tekk was already implemented in the European market, it was a good fit. Together we can both strengthen our business in the global market,” Kremser said. “I think Densi can achieve their goals with my territory here.”
In addition to European expansion, Densigraphix has seen growth in Latin and Central America, the Middle East, Africa, the United States and across Canada. Instead of having an office in each of these regions, Densi established a strong “customer care” team located at its international headquarters with extended hours and region specialists that help each customer, no matter where in the world they are located, feel like a part of the Densigraphix team.
“Customers say, ‘We’ll call Densigraphix,’” said Sami Touma, vice president of export. “We do the research. We offer the support. We know the industry and the suppliers. Our customers rely on us.”
Densi has also expanded at its international headquarter facility. The facility is currently 100,000 square feet, and even that ample amount of space is not enough. “Expansion here just finished last year, and it’s already packed,” Camille said.
Blending remanufacturing and technology
Densigraphix has found a way to blend remanufacturing and technology for close to seamless business practices for tasks from the “C” level executives down to the production floor. Densigraphix uses software systems that were built and customized from scratch by Camille’s nephew, Robert.
Robert started working for the company in 1987 when he was only 13 years old. He knew how the company was run, what worked and what didn’t. Now, 22 years later with the title vice president of operations, Robert can say, “I can make this better and more efficient,” he said.
The custom-built software helps every side of the business. In the marketing department, one application is used as an evolving task list. Each member can go through, read all the notes, add notes and update the task as necessary until the project is completed.
Another application helps the administration side of business as each employee can tell everyone in the 100,000 square-foot facility if they are in the building, at their desk, available, or unavailable with a click of a mouse. “It’s not so we can monitor each employee,” Robert explained. “It’s so we can easily communicate with each person when needed.”
From the sales standpoint, another application allows each sales representative to customize a PDF of the company’s catalogue that is current up to the minute with the latest products and includes each customer’s prices.
Home grown software also helps the production side of the business. Products in Densi’s warehouse are bar coded and labelled. The bar code and label can then be linked and followed through from the time Densi receives the raw material through quality assurance testing through the time the finished product hits the customer’s door. “Our technology is always pushing the envelope,” Robert said. “We built the whole system beyond what we actually needed, so we can always do what we need it to. It saves money and gives us control, so we can fix anything internally.”
Densigraphix today is still a blend between the copier side and laser side of the industry, so everyone on the production floor and in research and development is cross trained on both copier and laser products. “We’ve serviced copier dealers and rechargers for the past 30 years, so our staff has become experts on both sides of the industry,” Daimin said.
The company has over 6,000 skus and runs by its mandate to always be innovative and develop new products. But in order to achieve this goal, Densi has placed extreme importance in its lab and quality assurance department.
During the expansion last year, the lab was expanded to double its original size to keep up with the inventory. “Quality assurance is extremely important,” said Mitch Schwartz, director of research and development and quality assurance. “The thing everyone has to understand is that as a Quality Assurance Department we have no control over the product output. What we have control over is assuring that they are quality products, by formulating and implementing controls for the production department, and then retesting the finished product. That’s what we do here.”
Because of the intensive bar coding software, Schwartz and the rest of the R&D team can trace the genealogy of each product. They can access who did the test, where it was done and why. “There’s no CSI on it. Everything is traceable, right down to when it reaches the customers,” Schwartz explained. “Everything we receive is also tested, so there are no problems when the product hits the customer’s hand.” Densigraphix does all testing to recognized standards including STMC and ASTM. But, the OEMs are constantly changing the rules, Schwartz said. And when products do change, extensive work is done to make sure that nothing goes wrong with any products. The R&D team will do an assessment on the product and see if there are any weaknesses. They then write a full report. The team looks for trends every month, communicates those trends with the sales team and works closely until there is a resolution. “This is a living thing,” Schwartz said. “You constantly have to rewrite.” And the proof is in the products.
Most importantly, Densigraphix is full of employees that help the company succeed in the industry. Most of the workers have been with Densi for many years and are like family. They have become experts in the industry and have moved around and up in the company. “My company is my people,” Camille said. “This company is family driven from the staff to the head.”
“Camille gave me the opportunity to be a part of the Densi success story. We were proud that no matter how many employees we had – either 10 or 50 – in the beginning, we were able to get the orders out,” Bahous recounted. Proof of this came during the ice storm of 1998 when the company lost power for 13 days. Employees came to work on their own volition and packed orders using flashlights. “This shows the heart of the company,” Bahous said. “That January 1998 represented the biggest month in sales at that time for Densi.”
Densigraphix has seen considerable changes and success over the past 30 years, and it is celebrating its success this year with each other, with its customers and with the industry. This year, Densigraphix motto is “The Year Densi Gives Back.” And in order to give back Densigraphix has arranged a few events. Densigraphix will hold a big company Bar-B-Que. The party will be open to all employees and their families and will provide an atmosphere for the company to relax, have fun, eat and play games. The company will also be hosting a cocktail party for its customers. Customers will be invited to tour the facility and share a day with Densigraphix. And finally, the company will host golf tournaments for employees as well as customers across Canada.
Another way Densi is giving back is by launching monthly promotions to its customers. Each month Densi will provide something special as a small thank you to all Densi’s customers. And the company has designated a special part of its website called “Remember When.” In this section, viewers can access a 30 year timeline of the company, the industry and the world.
The next 30 years
Densigraphix has had a strong run these past 30 years, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Camille has built his company on family and has never been afraid to try something new. He has instilled his business values into his family and is confident that they can take Densigraphix to their 60th anniversary with just as much, if not more, success. “We’re not resting. The future looks good for us, and we want to be around for the next 30 years,” Camille said. “Daimin, Tanya, Nathalie and Robert are the next generation for Densi, and it will be great.”