Packaging Is A Printers Specialty

January 16, 2004
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HOLLAND — Pharmaceutical package printing represents about 35 percent of overall sales for the SVH (Steketee Van Huis) Group.

It’s also a growing part of the company’s business, and a growing share of its $20 million in annual revenue. 

The packaging manufacturer and commercial printer designs, prints, folds and glues small boxes for the over-the-counter pharmaceutical industry. It also specializes in the printing of software packaging, greeting cards, high-impact catalogs and annual reports.

Ted Etheridge, president and CEO, said SVH provides pharmaceutical package printing services to four companies in West Michigan, including Perrigo Co. of Allegan.

Etheridge is part of the firm’s fourth-generation management team.


He and partner Bill Ockerlund assumed ownership of SVH late in the last century.

Etheridge is involved in day-to-day operations along with the former management team of a company previously known as Holland Packaging, which was founded in the 1920s by the Steketee and Van Huis families.

In addition to printing non-prescription pharmaceuticals boxes, SVH prints ancillary materials for them: items such as pharmaceutical inserts, security tabs, brochures and point-of-purchase materials. 

SVH Group offers engineering design, using a CAD system to create cartons to client specifications. Clients usually supply their own artwork, Etheridge said.

“All of our content is controlled digitally — mainly direct-to-plate, direct-to-press computer technology, along with CPC24 spectrophotometry,” he said. The CPC24 spectrophotometer reads the actual printing image to manage color.

The company uses SBS 14- and 16-point board for added durability of OTC drug packages.

Color is a common component of non-prescription drug packaging; in fact, a lot of the runs are eight color, Etheridge noted.

The company also has special policies and procedures in place for the printing and handling of pharmaceutical packages.

“There are a lot of standards the FDA requires for the packaging and printing to ensure quality and that the cartons are delivered.

“We have individual bar codes on every carton to track them so we know where they are in the plant.”

Clear communication of safety information for both prescription and OTC drugs is paramount in the pharmaceutical industry. SVH and the OTC pharmaceutical companies for which it prints packages share responsibility for proofreading and computer scanning to ensure accuracy of the text, he said.

The higher level of requirements for such packages, however, doesn’t necessarily drive up the cost for clients.

“It’s absorbed as part of the technology you need to have to be in this market,” Etheridge said.

The company acquired its first generation of modern packaging technology in the 1980s when it decided to expand into thenational market. At the time, it invested in a high-end multicolor Heidelberg press plusstate-of-the-art die cutting and folder/gluer equipment


Etheridge told the Business Journal the company is staying abreast of technology. “In offset, we have four of the newest presses in the area,” he said.

One of the company’s most recent additions is a Heidelberg Quickmaster DI Pro, which combines the quality of offset printing with the speed of a digital workflow.

The new digital Heidelberg allows data to be loaded directly into the press, eliminating costly and time-consuming intermediate steps, such as camerawork, film development, plate burning and assembly.

Instead, digitized pictures and text are directly transferred to the plate right in the press so that printing can begin immediately.

The technology is touted as the quickest, most direct route from idea to finished print product.

What today is called SVH Printing and Packaging has been through three generations of ownership and four generations of managers.


After founding the company, the two families incorporated the firm in 1928. They managed the local printing company through the Depression and the deep post-war recession of the 1940s. It grew strongly during the 1950s.

In the 1960s, a second generation of family members — Cornelius Steketee and Donald Van Huis — assumed day-to-day responsibility, changed the name to Holland Packaging and began producing folding cartons.

During that period the business expanded to become a supplier throughout the Midwest.

About that time, the company purchased the Old News Printery, a small job shop dating to 1879. This arm of the business, nows known as The Printery, continues to provide offset printing services in a separate facility.

With the retirement of Steketee and VanHuis, three long-term employees — Robert Kapenga, Michael Elms and Dennis Brewer — bought the firm, assuming the respective posts of president, vice president of production, and vice president of sales.

Before handing off to the current partners, the trio renamed the firm SVH Printing and Packaging and positioned it for the pharmaceutical, educational, software and high-end paperboard packaging and point-of-purchase materials.

The company’s two divisions have grown to include 125 employees working three shifts in facilities totaling about 70,000 square feet.

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