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Doing what you do best: East Coast printer focuses on high quality perfecting assignments

Apr 1, 1996 12:00 AM


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Boulder Dam was finished; Gone With the Wind was published; and in Washington, DC, Franklin D. Roosevelt was re-elected. It was 1936 and America was recovering from the Great Depression.

A few miles from the White House, in the basement of his home, entrepreneur John Jarboe began a small printing business. It was no hobby - he didn't have spare time. He had been working two jobs a day as a printer since high school, and with the new shop it would be three. However, he looked ahead to the day when his company's profits alone would be able to support the family.

Believing "you have to do what you do best," he reasoned that all that stood between him and his vision of a prosperous future was putting into force his willingness to work hard, please his customers and plow earnings back into his firm to buy the best equipment.

Although competitors have come and gone during the past 60 years, Jarboe Printing has endured, grown and prospered due to its founder's simple, yet powerful philosophy. "We work for our customers," insists Jarboe. "We listen to their needs and capitalize our business to meet those needs. We invest in our future by giving our employees what it takes to service our customers best."

As a printer with a gift for rapidly sizing up the value of technology, the company has a long history of good judgment calls. When it switched to printing offset, "a number of shops in Washington stayed with letterpress," states Jarboe. "They wouldn't invest in new equipment and openly pooh-poohed the idea of an offset press printing a decent black. Meanwhile, we immediately saw offset's potential and got on board."

Another advantage of moving to offset was the chance to upgrade its operation. "We saw how we could scale-up from small to larger presses," comments Jarboe. "It's hard to pay a decent commission on $40 printing jobs. We wanted to attract new customers and the best salespeople, which meant investing in new, larger equipment."

By putting earnings back into the business to purchase new equipment and keep quality and competitiveness constantly at peak, the shop attracted government, business, industry and trade association customers. All were looking for a competitively priced printer that could handle high volumes and color. Therefore, two-color 25 x 38-inch presses and 38 x 50-inch presses replaced the firm's earlier units.

However, Jarboe Printing didn't stop there. When management detected a local need for competitively priced book printing, it saw perfecting as the answer. "We were doing $1 million a year when we moved to our present building in 1975 and installed our first perfecting Planeta press," relates Jarboe. "Two years later, we were doing $6 million with it."

The Washington market now demands top multicolor print quality and fast job turnaround at competitive prices. "When a major shift in the character of the market occurs, you have to be ready with exactly the right mix of press technology and personnel skills to give customers everything they want," explains Stephen Jarboe, president and chief operating officer, as well as a 26-year veteran in the business his father founded.

"You cannot meet today's needs with yesterday's solutions. If you hope to have a future, you must invest in equipping your business to succeed today. Only then will the company and your employees be able to do what they do best."

Currently, the organization has electronic prepress and Macintosh workstation capabilities, allowing it to partner with customers and designers, manipulating files in their native software formats. It houses five PowerMac and Mac Quadra workstations, a Scitex Iris Realist digital proofing system, Fuji Scanart 30 II (black-and-white scanning), Scitex Smart Color scanner, Dolev 400 imagesetter and Star Station for digital imposition and full automatic trapping. Also on hand are conventional prepress cameras, film processors, vacuum frames, step-and-repeat units and plate processors.

Stepping into the pressroom at the 45,000-sq.-ft. plant, the investment in multicolor printing and perfecting ability is evident. Five KBA-Planeta sheet-fed presses are featured, from 28 x 40 inches to 38 x 50 inches, plus a six-color 17 x 22-inch web press. Three of the sheet-feds are 28 x 41-inch Rapida 104 presses - all purchased and installed within the past two years. The 15,000-sph presses offer in-line coating and drying, automatic blanket and roller washing, remote control inking, automated feeders, impression presets and remote register technology. These features reduce make ready time by offering remote control of major press systems.

The shop's five- and six-unit Rapidas automatically convert from straight printing to perfecting at the touch of a button on the Colortronic consoles. Thus, the six-unit press can print six colors straight or perfect four-over-two, while the five-unit Rapida prints five colors straight or three-over-two in perfecting mode. The third press, printing six colors straight, went on-line in July 1993, while the second six-unit Rapida started up three months later. The five-color press went on stream in 1994.

"Designers marvel at the Rapidas and take full advantage of all that these exceptional presses can do," declares Stephen Jarboe. "When printing at 15,000 sph, inking and compensation are superb, and the print quality almost defies description."

Time is saved by doing more from the press console. "We can finish a run on the Rapidas at 15,000 sph and be well into make ready on our next job, while other printers with less automation and slower presses still are plodding through their first job," asserts Stephen Jarboe.

One example of the fertile partnership possible between printers and a press is the company's recent educational brochure for The Wilderness Society. The intricate, 20-page plus cover, 9 x 12-inch oblong piece uses 13 colors and two coatings. It celebrates the vision of Robert Marshall and eight conservationists (who founded the society) in a retrospective combining excerpts from their writings with color scenes from U.S. national monuments, parks and forests.

The brochure was printed and in-line coated on one of Jarboe's six-color machines. The job's 13 colors, and matte and gloss varnishes required 70 plates, and 100-lb. recycled gloss cover and text were used. Eight Pantone Matching System colors, three of which were metallics, and two varnishes were used to print the front and back of the cover. Text pages feature 11 colors, including the four process colors, black applied by touch plates, four spot colors and two varnishes.

"The brochure's design was highly sophisticated," comments Tim O'Connor, plant superintendent. "It entailed laying down the four process colors first, running blind registers in a number of cases and touch plates, followed by pastels and varnishes. The text sheets and cover each went through the six-color unit four times. There was a considerable amount of precise fit and register in every pass."

The sheets were completed a side at a time, dried in-line by the Rapida's IR drying in its delivery extension. "The unit is built to handle this kind of demanding, complex production with ease," points out O'Connor. "It's stable and designed to hold very tight register. Even with many passes through the press, we weren't concerned about what would happen to the sheets. The Rapida's feed and double-size transfer system safeguards sheet quality - there is no chance for smears or marking."

John Jarboe adds a final word. "I attended an industry conference in which one question was, 'Why do so many printers go out of business?' The answer was that too many firms try to be God's gift to every customer. They accept too many different kinds of jobs, waste time and lose too much money because they are not doing what they do best. Do that often enough and you will be out of business.

Here, our motto is, 'Do what you do best.' We focus on doing only top-quality work. We have the finest people and we invest in the best equipment. That's what built Jarboe Printing and it's why we're different from other printers."