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CASE STUDY: The on-demand advantage

Jan 1, 2002 12:00 AM

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Despite having to compete against a dozen printers nearby and dozens more just 20 to 30 miles away in Nashville, Copy Solutions (Brentwood, TN) boosted its annual sales by 50 percent last year.

Owner John Woodbury has managed such growth by providing customers with rapid delivery of high-quality, digital print-on-demand services, and by keeping his eyes open for new opportunities. Copy Solutions primarily produces black-and-white manuals with selected color pages, forms, product literature, and internal and external corporate reports. Advertising and public relations agencies, health care companies and accounting firms make up the client list.

"Many companies are switching to on-demand production for some of their largest applications," says Woodbury. "We have positioned ourselves as leaders in this market, so we are able to capitalize on this opportunity."

To take on this market demand, Copy Solutions recently purchased four black-and-white digital production systems from Danka Office Imaging (St. Petersburg, FL), an independent supplier of office imaging equipment and related services.

These investments have not gone to waste. The 12-employee printer is currently running one million impressions a month on a Heidelberg Digimaster 9110, and an additional 300,000 images each on two Canon imageRUNNER 550s and one Canon imageRUNNER 600. (The digital print engine of the Digimaster 9110 is also available through Heidelberg, Canon and IBM. Danka and Heidelberg sell the Digimaster 9110, Canon offers it as the imageRUNNER 110, and IBM employs the engine in its Infoprint 2000 solutions.)

The printer also operates Canon CLC 2400 and 1000 color laser copiers. Capabilities on the finishing end include GBC, coil, Fastback tape and comb binding, and collating through an offline Duplo collating system.

With these digital production systems, Copy Solutions has been able to anticipate and satisfy customers’ changing needs. One client, for example, is a large health care company that previously ordered large volumes of brochures printed on offset equipment. What used to take five days to produce is now delivered in just 24 hours, using the Digimaster 9110—reportedly without sacrificing image quality.

"Quality was a primary factor when we evaluated high-end digital production systems," Woodbury explains. "Many of our customers were used to offset production and would not accept a noticeable difference in image quality. The Digimaster 9110 system generates exceptional text quality, and screens and halftones."

Woodbury adds that Copy Solutions is the only printer in Brentwood with a Digimaster 9110 system, which he considers a competitive advantage.

In addition to the production quality, Woodbury says the system is compatible with third-party software that expedites the compiling and editing of manuals and other large jobs. The system can also print onto tab pages and on the tabs themselves.

Copy Solutions’ operators used to spend a lot of time manually designing pages, compiling sections from different sources and collating tabs into a job by hand. Now these tasks are handled electronically, using third-party software supplied by Danka. With this software, operators can electronically control the layout of each page of a document, including insertion of photographic images and line drawings. It also enables the staff to de-skew and edit scanned images to maximize image quality, merge scanned pages into a digital file, repaginate the document, and reduce or enlarge images.

Tabs are also easily positioned electronically, according to key operator Colby Heston. "Some manuals require images or text on the tab pages, along with printing on the tab itself. Thumbnail images of each page allow us to work quickly even with documents that are 300 to 400 pages long," he explains. "Our manuals average 200 to 250 pages in length, and we regularly run one manual that is 850 pages with 60 tabs," adds Heston. "Being able to simultaneously assemble one document while printing another is essential to maintaining staff productivity and rapid throughput."

Copy Solutions has been doing so well, it has earned a spot on American Printer’s Top 50 Fastest Growing Printers competition in 1999, 2000 and 2001. To continue this record of growth, Woodbury plans to add two more designers to his staff and expand his offset color capabilities.

"Several of our customers do not have in-house design departments, so we are designing their documents as well as producing them," Woodbury explains. "Our design sales are 10 times higher than just a year or two ago, and I anticipate continued growth."

Copy Solutions’ offset color volumes tripled last year as well. The printer currently operates A.B. Dick and Ryobi 3302 presses, augmented by an HP DesignJet 5000 for large-format color output. Woodbury is considering adding another color press to the lineup.

Ultimately, these investments allow the printer to be a single-source solution for companies that have eliminated, or are evaluating the possibility of eliminating, their in-plant facilities. "We recently took over all document services for a large health care company," Woodbury explains. "Our proposal demonstrated that outsourcing the work to us was less expensive than producing it in-house. And, we are able to offer better quality and turnaround."

After almost a decade in the business, Woodbury believes that flexibility is the key to the future. "I cannot be committed to just one segment of the market because I might miss important opportunities in other areas," the exec notes. "I also need equipment that that is extremely flexible. In just a day, Danka can install new software and train our key operator, and I can begin offering new services to my customers. That’s very attractive when you are trying to be a full-service provider and you don’t know what’s around the corner."