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From Ruin Comes Rebirth: Printing facility finds new home, new efficiencies after devastating loss

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Metal Architecture, Case Study, Butler Manufacturing, Creps United Publications, It all happened instantly in late October 2012. One minute Howard Creps was enjoying breakfast at home, the next he was rushing toward the ball of flames enveloping the building that housed Creps United Publications, a family printing business in Indiana, Pa., that he and his cousin Jake co-manage.

Five hours later, thanks to the work of a dozen fire departments, the blaze was extinguished. The building was lost along with all the equipment.

Creps United started in 1948 as a printer of weekly newspapers. Over time, the business expanded to become one of the nation's leading providers of retail circulars, retail store flyers and newspaper inserts, primarily serving the grocery industry. Creps United also provides point of purchase (POP) signage and digital printing services.

In the Indiana County area, Creps United has long provided jobs and economic stability. At the time of the fire, the company had more than 217 employees. In just one day, 64 years of business growth was gone, but the spirit of the company remained.


Moving On

When Dean Clark, sales manager for Butler Builder New-Belle Construction Inc., Belle Vernon, Pa., learned about the massive Creps United fire on the news, he wanted to reach out. In a letter expressing his condolences to Creps, Clark offered to help, and he told the owners not to hesitate to call if they needed anything.

"My heart went out to the folks affected by the loss of jobs, as well as the business owners," Clark says. "It was right before Thanksgiving and we sincerely wanted to help Creps in any way possible."

As Creps United prepared a rebuilding plan, it recognized an opportunity to improve workflow within a new building. Based on footprint needs as determined by a printing press manufacturer, Creps concluded it wouldn't have enough space to rebuild on the old site.

A conversation with the Indiana County Development Corp. introduced the potential for Creps United to build its new facility in a Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ), a state program aimed at driving business investments in designated zones by offering state and local tax incentives. Creps decided to take advantage of the KOZ program, and the rebuilding process was off and running.

During the bidding process, Creps invited New-Belle to present its building capabilities. At this meeting, the construction company stressed the importance of taking a holistic approach to a building, emphasizing that long-term operating costs are as important as upfront pricing.

New-Belle also shared information with Creps that showcased the customization possibilities for a building while highlighting the benefits of Kansas City, Mo.-based Butler Manufacturing's MR-24 roof system and the SunLite Strip daylighting system. The meeting gave Creps confidence that the new building would be much more than a square metal box.

"Butler buildings have a reputation as the Cadillac of steel buildings," says Creps. "Couple that with New-Belle's ability to manage both the design and build processes, and our decision was made."


Metal Architecture, Case Study, Butler Manufacturing, Creps United Publications, All Under One Roof

In its 64-year history, the company's growth required additions as well as operation expansions at other locations. Although the printing facility lay in ashes, Creps United could work out of its headquarters in another location and begin rebuilding while maintaining a revenue stream via its design work.

When it came time to start construction, Jim Kelly, president of New-Belle, focused the design process on helping the company bring all of its operations under one roof. By rebuilding the manufacturing space first, Creps United could get the new presses installed and operating. Getting the plant up and running as soon as possible would allow the company to stop outsourcing the printing process and start recouping much-needed revenue. New-Belle completed the construction on deadline in eight months.

Although the first phase centered on the manufacturing facility, Creps United wanted to make a statement with its new offices. By incorporating a brick-and-mortar feel to the exterior, the office area stands out from the rest of the building and welcomes guests into the two-story lobby that features a statement interior staircase.


Efficiency Benefits

Although the aesthetic beauty is prominent at the building entrance, the true marvels exist within the walls. Thanks to a recommendation from the press manufacturing company, Creps United now features an improved machine layout. The presses face each other so common labor can be used. As a result, the company is able to achieve higher production rates using just the four presses it now operates compared with six presses in the old building.

"The workflow is so much better in the new facility, it's unbelievable," Creps says. "The facility is really custom-tailored and as efficient as I think a printing plant can be." 

Efficiency doesn't stop with machining and employee output. The natural daylight that floods the facility, thanks to more than 70 SunLite Strip skylights, is another benefit of the new building. The skylights work in tandem with sensors to dictate electricity output needs and to reduce electricity costs.


Hot Off the Press: The Future

In the end, Creps United faced the tough reality of laying off 125 employees as a result of the fire, but it rehired many staffers once the new building opened. The new, streamlined process requires fewer employees than before, but production is up, and Creps United is competing for larger pieces of business, which could lead to larger facility needs and more jobs in Indiana County.

"We're building business back up to capacity," says Creps. "Once we get to that point, this building gives us the flexibility to meet the growing demand and even expand, if necessary."


Mark Ondeck is a senior area manager for Butler Manufacturing, Kansas City, Mo., and has more than 15 years of industry experience. To learn more, visit

PHOTOS: Chad Jackson Photography