Complete Design & Packaging
By AICC Staff
March 25, 2019
Sometimes tragedy can spur us on to be our best selves and to accomplish more than we thought we were capable of.
For Howard Bertram, the events of 9/11 provided a new perspective—realizing the delicacy of life and the need to pursue more ambitious aspirations—to take the leap from employee to owner. After 13 years in the industry, he decided it was time to stop watching and learning and to open his own business.
“You’re always going to learn—17 years later I’m still learning, but at some point you have to get in the game,” Bertram said. “[9/11] is what got me in the game mentally. It encouraged me to get on with it.”
Bertram, co-owner and president of Complete Design & Packaging, started the company from scratch. He says the days following 9/11 were good in two ways: 1) They gave him the courage to move forward, and 2) many markets crashed after that event, and with the economy dropping off, there was affordable equipment available and plenty of empty buildings around to rent. With no backing, funding, or loans, Bertram made the leap and opened up on April 1, 2002. It was a jump that paid off in a big way for him.
“We have grown from just a small mom-and-pop startup with five or six people, including myself, to 110 people and a large facility with a house full of equipment,” says Bertram. “We are very much in a continued growth mode.”
Complete Design & Packaging created a model of being ultracreative and cutting-edge. It was a model that became their reputation. Bertram says visitors are often amazed at how quickly they got to where they are—a company that owns state-of-the-art equipment and competes by taking risks that allow them to do more for their customers.
One of the latest examples was in December 2017 and January 2018, when when they were the first in the country to install a single-pass digital printer made by EFI.
“That’s a very cutting-edge and high-risk/high-return proposal, and we did it. We’re a one-off independent, and yet we were able to pull that off and do a business deal with an outfit like EFI.”
And they’ve continued to do business with EFI, a relationship that grows to the benefit of both. In January, they installed an EFI VUTEk h5—a multipass digital printer.
“We’ve been able to add a lot of new business and stir up a lot of industry attention,” Bertram says. “We are continuing to put ourselves out there as a leader in the Southeast region of high-graphics digital print design. We’ve been able to add a lot of jobs.”
While Complete Design & Packaging strives to keep up with the latest technology, Bertram says it isn’t just the equipment and “toys” that others don’t have. Instead, what sets them apart—and he emphasizes that it sets them apart in a good way—is the culture that they have and the way the company lives.
Bertram says that those who work for Complete Design are a cohesive bunch and that they look out for one another.
“Our vendors, our customers—they feel it and comment on it when they visit here. They see our folks with their heads up and chatty attitudes,” says Bertram. “The way we live our life, our culture here, is what makes us really different.”
He says they try to always treat people the way they want to be treated and to encounter everyone with trust and respect, especially among those who work there.
“We can have all our fancy stuff all day long, but at the end of the day, it is how we behave,” Bertram says.
Complete Design & Packaging has been in the digital print field for seven years, but their new printers have broadened the scale of what they do. They’ve had to hire new people and train those they have to new skills and equipment.
It’s an endeavor that he says has their employees invested and excited.
“They’re ecstatic,” Bertram says. “They see our name out there. We’ve had a tremendous amount of traffic of guests and vendors. They’re seeing construction in the building. It’s exciting for our employees. They’re used to seeing us moving and shaking. But it is thrilling for everyone from top to bottom to see the changes and the new bodies coming in.”
Virginia Humphrey is director of membership and marketing at AICC. She can be reached at 703-535-1383 or email@example.com.
On the Cutting Edge
A company that always tries to have the latest in technology for its customers, Complete Design & Packaging recently invested in Esko’s Kongsberg C64, a digital cutting system with a feed and camera recognition system.
“That is another state-of-the-art feature,” says Howard Bertram, owner and president of the company. “We have created a print and production lab with the EFI VUTEk h5 so that we’ll be able to run digital print for small-run orders and then cut them on the C64.”
The C64 features:
- Carbon composite traverse. It is equipped for high speed and fast acceleration, and it maintains consistent accuracy on all materials.
- High-powered 3kW milling. The Kongsberg tables are the only ones with this unit on a superwide finisher. The tables can be configured for applications ranging from small runs with light materials to lengthy jobs with heavy-duty material.
- Down force for creasing. The heavy-duty tool unit offers 110 pounds of down force, which allows the user to crease even challenging materials at a large diameter (150 mm).
- Tool calibration. There are integrated tool tip height sensors that allow for tool, bit, or blade exchange at a fast rate.
- Table mapping. The dynamic table-mapping procedure provides a real-time update to exact field conditions.
- Ergonomic design. The workstation is designed for operational ease, comfort, and safe use. It includes a joystick and operator panel and can be installed wherever it best meets the needs of the user.
- Auxiliary control panel. Production speed is increased by an auxiliary panel at the end of the traverse so the operator can make adjustments.
The C64 has a work area of 126.37 inches by 126 inches. The max material width is 126.5 inches.
“Why is that special?” Bertram asks. “You’re cutting at a very high speed, and you can accommodate customers who couldn’t have high-graphic displays before. We can offer it without the high cost that was associated with it.”
He gives the example that while, before, a display may have cost $25, there was another $20 in tooling costs. Now businesses can have the same display cost, but no tooling charges.
“That puts your regional markets and your smaller customers in the game,” Bertram says. “They now can participate in the display category, where before they may have had to be generic. Now they get a customized print and cut display without all that tooling.”