Harland plans to consolidate its operations 32 facilities will close, but Rossville plant might be upgraded

Area evaluations continue

Baltimore-Philadelphia area is to have one of 7 regional centers

April 24, 1996|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

The John H. Harland Co., one of the nation's largest producers of checks and other financial documents, said yesterday it will shutter 32 of its plants and consolidate operations into seven regional facilities, including one in the Baltimore-Philadelphia area.

The company said it is evaluating whether to expand and upgrade its plant in Baltimore County, located on Yellow Brick Road in the Rossville-Essex area, as the Northeast regional facility, said Lynne Van Brocklin, a company spokeswoman.

Harland also is considering whether to replace that plant and another plant it operates in Howard County, by building a new plant in the Baltimore-Philadelphia region, company officials said.

The 21-year-old Rossville plant, where 120 are employed, specializes in mail order check printing and imprint services. The company's Howard County plant, located in Columbia, employs about 130, and specializes in traditional check printing services. That's an area of Harland's business that has been targeted for consolidation.

Ms. Van Brocklin said it is uncertain whether the Howard County and Baltimore County plants would be merged if the company decided not to build a new plant.

A decision on the Baltimore County and Howard County facilities should be made in about six weeks, she said.

"We definitely want a regional plant in the Baltimore-Philadelphia area," she said.

She said it was too early to disclose sites the company would be considering if it decided to build a new plant in the Baltimore-Philadelphia region.

Harland's consolidation plan, aimed at improving revenue and earnings, will result in the elimination of 2,500 jobs -- 36 percent of the company's work force -- over a two-year period.

The Decatur-Ga.-based company, which earned $8.4 million in the first quarter of this year, said it expects to save between $50 million and $75 million annually from the consolidation and work force downsizing.

First-quarter earnings were 34 percent lower than the $12.8 million in profits posted for the same quarter a year ago. Analysts had been expecting a much stronger showing.

"Our goal is to return Harland to double-digit revenue and earnings growth by 1997," said Robert J. Amman, president and chief executive officer for Harland, whose customers include banks, credit unions and brokerage houses.

Aside from offering its printing services, it also offers direct mail and software-based marketing services.

Mr. Amman said the company's lower earnings were the result of several factors, including price competition, high paper prices and investments the company has made in a direct marketing check division called the Check Store.

Mr. Amman, who joined the company in November, said his strategic plan for Harland involves "transitioning from a checks and forms printing company to a financial services marketing company," though check sales, he said, would continue to significantly contribute to Harland's cash flow.

The consolidation plan was outlined Friday to top company officials in Atlanta, although no public announcement was made. The company first announced its plans to reorganize in late January, but did not disclose any details at the time.

Under the plan announced yesterday, some employees will be transferred to the new regional plants, but Ms. Van Brocklin said the company hasn't determined how many would be offered transfers. About one-third of the employees to be laid off are in manufacturing jobs, while the rest are employed in sales, marketing and other service area, the company said.

Harland also plans to combine its sales and marketing functions. It also will contract out its customer-service and data-entry work by 1997.

The company's stock closed yesterday at $26.625, down 50 cents per share.

Pub Date: 4/24/96

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