Features Profiles
Spotlight: Derek McGeachie of Mi5 Print & Digital

December 14, 2018  By PrintAction Staff

Now in its 15th year of operation, Mi5 Print & Digital has grown into one of Canada’s largest privately owned commercial printing operations and has been recognized as one of Canada’s fastest growing companies nine years in a row on the Profit 500.

Two years ago the company moved into an 180,000-square-foot facility in the Toronto area, encompassing its litho, web, digital printing and wide-format departments, as well as its finishing, fulfillment and packing operations. Following a decade of strong organic and M&A growth and technological investment, Mi5 continues to strengthen its print power in 2018, most recently with its purchase of Markham, Ontario-based trade printer Boss Logo Print & Graphics, which went into receivership this fall. PrintAction spoke with Derek McGeachie, CEO and Founder of Mi5 Print & Digital, to learn more about the deal and the ever-changing nature of the print industry.

Can you tell us more about the Boss Logo purchase?
DM: We’re always looking and interested in new equipment and systems to help us produce more efficiently for customers. This acquisition is big news for us. We’re keeping about three-quarters of the equipment from Boss Logo and at the end of November, we auctioned off the remaining pieces. On the equipment side, the highlights of this purchase are a Heidelberg 6-colour XL and a Scodix digital 3-dimensional coating and foil machine. The Heidelberg XL is the latest technology offered by Heidelberg and the Scodix is the world’s best digital coating and foiling system. It takes print to the next level and makes marketing and packaging pieces look absolutely outstanding. By consolidating these systems and more into our facility, we’re absorbing the best parts of their operation and upgrading some older equipment. We’re projecting the move will be operational by mid-December. A number of former Boss Logo employees are also here too, and we’re very happy to have them.

What are your thoughts on the rate of consolidation in the print industry?
DM: Mi5 had about 300 reasonable-sized competitors in Ontario when we started 15 or 16 years ago. Now we’re down to maybe 30 or so. It’s a mature industry with decreasing demand so consolidation makes sense. The people who are best at it will continue to go on and those who are not as competitive will fall away. A lot of owners in this industry tend to be a bit older and become interested in slowing down or even selling. That’s the reality of a hyper competitive, challenging industry, but I think this happens less now than it is used to. We are also seeing less people coming into the industry. About a decade ago, maybe five new players would fire up every year and now it’s more like a new player comes in once every two years.

Related: Building a new print position: Visiting Mi5’s new 180,000-square-foot facility

What are some of the biggest challenges you see in the industry?
DM: It’s a very capital-intensive industry to be in. For us, we’ve invested about $25 million in equipment in the last 15 or 16 years and to remain competitive, you need to have very deep pockets and a huge appetite for capital investment. My motto is to invest in the company whenever I can — whether it’s the people, the equipment, the building or the infrastructure. Unless you only plan on a five- to 10-year horizon, you absolutely need to continuously invest, especially since the technology changes every few years. The high price of equipment is another reason for consolidation too, I think. Equipment today is more expensive than it’s ever been. If you want to buy a new piece of equipment – whether it costs $1 million or $4 million – you need a lot of jobs to pump through that system for it to make sense for your operations, and that speaks to consolidation.

What’s very cool and unique about this industry is that it centres on technologically advanced equipment that melds big iron with high-tech computing, all to produce a craft that has been around for hundreds of years. There aren’t too many industries like this where the Industrial age, so to speak, works intertwined with the computing digital age. It makes for a great and varied family of staff!

Related: Mi5 hosts tech tour for Humber students

Why do you think print continues to be relevant?
DM: If you look at winning, growing brands, they all use and support print to a great extent. Aside from a handshake, print is the only other communication medium that is a physical touchpoint with your customer so it is much more powerful and on a more human level than digital media. It is the only marketing method in existence capable of communicating to a mass audience in a tactile way, and it can be personalized. Even better, it sticks around. If you’re interested in something, you’ll keep the printed literature on your desk or kitchen counter. If companies want to market a product and remind potential customers of their products day in and day out, nothing beats print. 

This Q&A was originally published in the December 2018 issue of PrintAction, now available online.

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