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They came, they managed, they conquered, Part 2

Aug 1, 2005 12:00 AM

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Management Plus

The Sheridan Press, change champions Sheridan Press is all about change. Having evolved from a poultry magazine founded in 1915 to a printer of scientific, technical and medical journals, changing has become part of who the company is. "We’re a progressive company," says Sheridan’s president and COO Joan Weisman. "Many companies in the printing industry are [content with the] status quo, or they’re reactionary. We continue to change who we are, to dramatically improve our strategic thinking and our approach."

In addition to multiple Management Plus awards (Sheridan earned Gold this year), the 450-employee, $60 million company is in its sixth year of continuous sales growth: It also is adding 50,000 sq. ft. to its already 100,000-sq.-ft. facility in Hanover, PA.

For Weisman, the Management Plus program provides a useful benchmark. "When you’re filling out the form, you realize either you are or are not doing all the right things," she says. "It is a good test of how you run your business." Weisman attributes the company’s continued Management Plus success to a disciplined management approach. "[We’re] a success story one year after another because we focus on business basics which results in a focus on several priorities supported by employees and our management team."

When its time to change, you’ve got to rearrange
Thirty-eight years ago, the company underwent changes when Everybody’s Press, which printed Everybody’s Poultry Magazine, became The Sheridan Press. Champ Sheridan initiated this strategic change in 1967 after buying the company and shifting its focus to publishing scientific, technical and medial journals. In 1982, Everybody’s Press officially became Sheridan Press, and in 1984, the company launched Sheridan Reprints, its reprint division.

The Internet is among changes impacting Sheridan’s market. "This is one of the biggest issues for the scientific, technical and medical journals industry because the information can be life-saving and therefore needs to be readily accessible," says Weisman. "Doctors and researchers want fast access to this information. So every publisher has electronic access. That’s a challenge—as more information gets distributed electronically, it impacts the print." Sheridan offers its customers extensive SGML, XML and PDF expertise. Weisman nonetheless remains optimistic about print’s future. "Print will be here forever," she says. "It’s just going to constantly change, and that’s what we have to keep up with."

In 2003 the company added digital capabilities. "We saw it as a threat and an evolving service," says Weisman. "As [print runs] were impacted on certain publications, we didn’t want our customers to turn elsewhere. So we strategically decided to add digital printing as a service to our customers." Sheridan Digital was established in 2003. The company initially purchased a black-and-white Heidelberg (now Kodak) Digimaster about a year and a half ago and another in 2004. "It was within six months we had filled [the Digimaster] and we bought another one. Then we bought the [Xerox iGen in early 2005]."

Primarily, Sheridan Press is a MAN Roland shop. Recently the company purchased two Roland 700s—a two-color 702 and a six-color 706—as well as an eight-color press. The company also uses a Heidelberg DI press for article reprints. Sheridan recently purchased a previously-owned Roland 702 and plans to add more folders in the coming. "Normally we invest about $2 to $4 million a year into our plant," says Weisman. "We’ve done that for the about the past five years."

Read any good books lately?
Whether management or hourly, employee training is a priority. Four years ago, Weisman initiated a unique program among the 50 supervisors and managers of her communications team—a practice later picked up by Sheridan’s customer service department.

As an avid reader of business books, Weisman wanted to communicate each book’s message to her management team. She explains, "I was trying to figure out how—instead of just standing up and doing a leadership seminar—do you get people to understand this?" The answer was simple: Pick a book at the beginning of the year, take a half-day every quarter and discuss. "As we read it," she says, "we keep saying ‘how does this relate to you at the Sheridan Press? What are you going to do different tomorrow because of something you learned in this session today?’" Weisman’s favorite authors include John Maxwell and Jack Welch. She also likes "Good to Great" and Harvard Business case studies. "Our supervisors and managers have really grown in the last four years," says Weisman. "From where we started to where we are now, it has helped us focus on important business capabilities and personal leadership and management skills."

Sheridan plans to hire a full-time trainer. "We’ve all tried to do training in the company," says Weisman. "Several of us on the leadership team will do different training things, or we bring in facilitators. But I’d like a full-time trainer that makes sure we have training programs for every employee."

According to Weisman, ongoing training helps ensure employees are ready for anything. And at The Sheridan Press, that’s essential. "I’m always saying don’t accept status quo," notes Weisman. "Who we are today is not who were six months ago and it is not who we’re going to be six months from now."

Meet the Sheridan Group
The Sheridan Group was created when The Sheridan Press acquired Braun-Brumfield, Inc. in 1988. Over the years, companies have been added to The Sheridan Group—United Litho, Inc. in 1994 followed by Capital City Press and Dartmouth Printing Company in 1998. In 1999, Sheridan Books, Inc. was created by the merger of Braun-Brumfield, Inc. and BookCrafters, Inc. In 2004, Dingley Press was added to further diversify the Sheridan Group.

How Western won
When Tim Keran says convenience sells, he is not kidding. "We were built on a service philosophy," says Keran, president of Western Graphics (St. Paul, MN). "That’s our personality as a company. We’ve used that to grow the business."

Keran credits this service commitment with helping Western win a Gold Management Plus award. On the equipment side, Western standardized its pressroom and added digital print capabilities. E-commerce and flexible scheduling also make it easy for customers to do business with Western.

Beyond its equipment and services, Western stresses the employee factor—what Keran terms "getting the right people on the bus." "We [do] second and third interviews with just about everybody to make sure culture-wise we’re matching up," says Keran. "We’re pretty happy with what we’re doing and we want to make sure the people we’re hiring can fit that."

Tim’s father, Robert, purchased Western Graphics (then Western Design) in 1977, starting out as a quick-printer with only four employees and annual sales of $177,000. Today, the second-generation company has grown to 65 employees, with annual sales of $9 million.

Western Graphics’ 50,000-sq.-ft. facility specializes in one- to five-color, short to medium run length offset and digital printing. The company offers print-on-demand, variable printing, fulfillment and distribution, binding and finishing, as well as e-commerce services. As if that wasn’t enough, the company plans to add mailing capabilities soon.

A day in the life
Western Graphics started on the e-commerce track in 2001 when the company launched WestNet. WestNet is an e-procurement system that offers online ordering, distribution, order tracking and customized reporting. After evaluating four e-commerce programs, the company licensed the software technology from an outside company and internally developed the back end portion. According to Keran, online orders generally have small volumes—such as pick-and-pack, stationery or variable print jobs—but the number of orders are greater in quantity. "We’re on pace to do about 12,000 fulfillment orders through WestNet and 8,000 orders conventionally," he says.

Western excelled the e-commerce world during a time when many other companies trying the same thing failed. How did Western generate such success? "A lot of e-commerce programs failed because they tried to automate the relationship between print client and vendor instead of automating the transactions between print client and vendor," says Kearn. "Yes, e-commerce can help take time and errors out of the transaction, but it can’t replace the face-to-face communication that still needs to take place to buy most of today’s print projects. WestNet succeeded because we took time and cost out of the client relationship, but we didn’t try to take out the client contact."

There is no such thing as a typical day or job at Western Graphics. "Yesterday we got 43 jobs," says Keran, "which for a commercial printer is a lot. In a given day we will have a 100,000 run of four-color of a four-color ‘sell sheets,’ 8.5 x 11 inches. We’ll have a job for 75,000 24-page, four-color of a saddlestitched booklet. We’ll have 32 manuals, black-and-white training manuals that are spiral-bound with 150 pages and 16 tabs." On average, daily work is split evenly between offset and digital.

Keran began to streamline Western’s pressroom in 1996. Prior to that, Western operated 12 presses from five different manufacturers, a setup that Keran calls ineffecient. "It was already complicated up front with all the orders we were trying to do and all the deadlines we were trying to meet, we couldn’t have the floor complicated as well," he says. Keran began to re-organize, going down to five presses from two manufacturers: Heidelberg for offset work, Xerox for digital. Western began digital work in 1995 when it purchased a black-and-white press, adding digital color in 2000. The largest offset press is 20 x 29 inches; an iGen3 anchors the digital side.

To print and serve
Western’s service-oriented mentality has helped mold the company’s business philosophy. At Western Graphics, the customer really does come first. There is no such thing as an impossible job. Keran recalls a job that required 8,000 16-page, saddlestitched booklets to be proofed, printed and shipped in two days. "To me, that’s just-in-time," he says. Rather than refusing a job based on its manufacturing or scheduling challenges, Western’s employees will ask, "How can we get this job done in the time frame the client needs?" With new orders constantly coming in through the company’s e-commerce module, the company’s computerized schedule constantly is changing. "Western’s schedule is only as good as it was 10 minutes ago," Keran says. "The new jobs coming in ultimately change that schedule on the hour. We understand that the most efficient schedule is not the most client friendly. We move people during their shift to where the biggest need exists. We get the most critical labor done at the most critical time to make and meet client deadlines."

Keran says the company will continue to strive to reduce its costs while raising its level of customer service. Noting that it’s harder to look more than two years down the road, Keran says automation will pose the company’s biggest hurdle. "Our greatest challenge will be integrating all the technology," he says. "We don’t try to be on the cutting edge, but we do try to be on the client edge."

The wheels on the bus
Keran admits his nightstand is full of "how to" books on business, but "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t" by Jim Collins stands out because it puts forth a familiar business philosophy, one that Keran has used for years. "You’ve got to get the right people on the bus," he says, "and once you get the right people on the bus, you’ve either got to get them in the right seat or get them off the bus."

It is important to put people in jobs where they can shine, says Keran, even if that means a different position. Keran’s management philosophy is one that paid off at the Management Plus Awards. Though Western Graphics has participated in the competition since 1996 and earned six previous silver and merit awards, this is Western’s first gold.

2004 NAPL Management Plus Award Winners
William K. Marrinan Management Plus Hall of Fame Award

  • Friesens Corp., Altona, Manitoba, Canada; David Friesen, CEO (more than $25 million in sales).

Gold Awards

  • Action Printing, Fond du Lac, WI; Robert Carew, president ($10 - $25 million in sales; qualifies to bestow scholarship).
  • Omaha Print, Omaha, NE; Steven Hayes, president and CEO ($10 - $25 million in sales).
  • Pacific Printing, Fresno, CA; Brad Stiers, president & CEO ($5 - $10 million in sales).
  • The Sheridan Press, Hanover, PA; Joan Weisman, president & COO (over $25 million in sales; qualifies to bestow scholarship).
  • Western Graphics, Inc., St. Paul, MN; Tim Keran, president ($5 - $10 million in sales; qualifies to bestow scholarship).
Silver Awards
  • Bradford & Bigelow, Inc., Danvers, MA; John Galligan, president ($10 - $25 million in sales).
  • Classic Graphics, Charlotte, NC; David Pitts, co-owner ($10 - $25 million in sales).
  • Color Dynamics, Allen, Texas; Chuck Chalifoux, president (over $25 million in sales).
  • Litho Craft, Inc., Lynwood, WA; Brian Webber, vice president of operations ($5 - $10 million in sales).
  • Nies/Artcraft Companies, St. Louis, MO; James Finger II, president & CEO (over $25 million in sales).
  • Patented Printing Co., Inc., Dayton, Ohio; Dick Westfall, CEO ($10 - $25 million in sales).
  • Z3 Graphix, Lenexa, KS; Kelly Schoen, CEO ($1 - $5 million in sales).
Merit Awards
  • ALL-STATE Legal, Cranford, NJ; Robert Busch, president & CEO (over $25 million in sales).
  • Arbor Press, Royal Oak, MI; James Russell, president ($5 - $10 million in sales).
  • Bloomington Offset Process, Inc., Bloomington, IL; Thomas Mercier, president and CEO ($10 - $25 million in sales).
  • Daily Printing, Inc., Plymouth, MN; Don Bergeron, vice president of operations ($10 - $25 million in sales).
  • Dome Printing, Sacramento, CA; Tim Poole, president ($10 - $25 million in sales).
  • Hammer Lithograph Corp., Rochester, NY; James Hammer, president & CEO (over $25 million in sales).
  • The EPI Companies, Marietta, GA; William Woods, president & CEO ($10 - $25 million in sales).
  • Wordsprint, Inc., Wytheville, VA, Bill Gilmer, general manager ($1 - $5 million in sales).

All about Management Plus
Honoring executive excellence for more than 20 years, NAPL’s (Paramus, NJ) Management Plus program has recognized graphic-arts companies’ business excellence for more than 20 years. The two-part program requires entrants to first complete a comprehensive self-evaluation form which requests details on the company’s financial performance, internal control systems, marketing/sales plan, vendor relations, business planning, human resources, environmental concerns, quality control and community/industry affairs.

The second, optional part of the program involves submitting the results to the annual Management Plus competition. Entries are judged on how well they rate in the above areas compared to companies of similar size. Merit, Silver and Gold winners are selected based on their score. The William K. Marrinan Hall of Fame award is bestowed on companies that have won several Management Plus awards over successive years.

In addition to the award, the Hall of Fame inductee and the top Gold award winners in each category (there are five categories based on sales volume and one for in-plant printers) will present scholarships to the graphic communications schools of their choice. The scholarships are funded by NAPL and the Management Plus sponsors.

For more information, see

Carrie Cleaveland is the assistant editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at