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Cavanaugh Press: growing and prospering

Nov 1, 2002 12:00 AM

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We can thank Art Stowe, president of the Printing and Imaging Industries of Maryland (Baltimore), for suggesting this month's featured company. “It's been rough sledding for general commercial printers for well over a year,” writes Stowe. “Maybe it's time for a feature on a midsize, family-owned business in the tough 40-inch market that has continued to grow and prosper: Cavanaugh Press.”

George Atwell bought Cavanaugh Press from founder Frank Cavanaugh in 1983. With the help of his sons Jeff and Bob, Atwell has grown the company from a $1 million, 15-employee shop to a $15.9 million, 101-employee operation.

The elder Atwell, an industrial engineer, got his start working in that capacity for a bookbinding firm. Wolk Press, another Baltimore-area printer, hired him to do cost studies and eventually promoted him to comptroller. Since Cavanaugh Press formerly outsourced its high-quality work to Wolk Press, Atwell got acquainted with the other firm's management, including Tony Lorenzo, Cavanaugh's vice president of marketing. Almost two decades later, Frank Cavanaugh, Lorenzo and many other original employees remain on staff. We asked Bob Atwell to tell us more about this remarkable printer.

What makes Cavanaugh Press unique from other 40-inch shops?

We understand that quality, price or service alone aren't going to do it — you have to deliver all three. The ability to remain affordable while providing the other two ingredients has a lot to do with our dad's industrial-engineering background.

When did you and your brother join the company? How do you separate professional from personal concerns?

We both worked here while we were in school in the mid-1980s. We're business people first and printers second. Jeff's background is in accounting; mine is in finance and management. We bring different cards to the table. The fact that we're all partners and working toward the same goal makes it easy [to keep business and family issues separate].

Also, we each have a book of $2.5 million to $3 million in sales. We all have a vested interest in the company because we own stock in it.

Tell us about your crewing.

Our press operators work 12-hour shifts — we run 24 hours a day with two crews. Operators work three 12-hour shifts. They love it because they have four days off every week. The idea is to get the most productivity out of the pressroom with the least economic burden. We run straight time six days a week, 24 hours a day. Our only overtime day is Sunday.

What's in your pressroom?

In our small press department we have two Hamadas, a Ryobi and a two-color GTO. Our 40-inch equipment, all Heidelberg, includes two six-color Speedmasters, a six-color Speedmaster CD with seventh-unit tower coater, a four-color Speedmaster perfector and two two-color Speedmaster perfectors.

How long have you had CTP capabilities?

We started two years ago. Most CTP studies assume that every job coming in is new work. But in our shop, 25 to 30 percent of our work has some form of pick-up: an ad, a page, a side of a form or whatever. So two years ago, we began archiving and setting up a computer-to-film workflow. Once we nailed that down — archiving, retrieval and offline data storage — we knew we were ready. We just needed the right platesetter.

We thought Scitex had the best front end for trapping, RIPing and imposition, and that Creo had the best output device. So when Creo bought Scitex, we jumped for joy. We installed a Lotem Quantum Spectrum 800 in January of this year. We've been direct-to-plate for 11 months without a hitch — but only because we spent 18 to 24 months planning.

How long have you had your current MIS?

We've had the Printcafe Hagen OA system for three years and don't know how we would function without it. It handles everything from job management to job costing to budgeted hourly rates to billing. It's one large, integrated system.

What equipment would you most like to add?

Our next major purchase will be a halfsize web. It will let us get into a market we're not serving. It's another area for growth.

Where's the best place to eat in Baltimore?

McCormick & Schmick's.

If your company has an interesting story to tell, we want to hear from you. E-mail us at:, and give us a brief description of yourself and your printing firm. You could be the next profile in “Spotlight on…”.