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Meet Brown Printing

Oct 31, 2001 12:00 AM

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Brown Printing Co. was founded in 1949 by Wayne “Bumps” Brown in Waseca, MN, as an offshoot of his father's newspaper printing operation. Catalogs, auction bills and other publications were produced on flatbed letterpresses.

In 1969, Bumps sold the company to Bemis Corp. (Minneapolis). Gruner+Jahr AG & Co., one of Europe's largest magazine publishers, bought Brown Printing in 1979.

Brown acquired its Woodstock, IL, division in 1997. Formerly known as Graftek Press, it began its operations in 1968 in a remodeled horse barn. Today, it is a 400,000-sq.-ft. facility that prints more than 200 weekly, biweekly and monthly business and consumer publications, catalogs and commercial work. Print runs range from 20,000 to 1.5 million.

We spoke with Volker Petersen, vice president and general manager of the Woodstock facility, for a closer look at Brown's operations.

How are you staying state-of-the-art?

Over the past three years, we have installed four Heidelberg Sunday presses: two 57-inch-wide, double-web presses; one 38-inch-wide, double-web press; and one single-web, 57-inch-wide press. Our entire pressroom is short cutoff (21.5 inches) so we can provide our customers with the maximum paper savings. Two presses are equipped with a Web Printing Controls (WPC) closed-loop color-control system. We've also added four perfect binders and two polywrappers. Our prepress department has gone computer-to-plate — we produce 85 percent of our plates digitally.

What paper grades do you run?

We run a wide variety of different stocks ranging from 32-lb. supercalendared A-grade (SC-A) stock to 60-lb. No. 2 or No. 3 grade stock. Runability and reproduction qualities are our main concerns. We typically experience a double-digit increase in ink consumption on SC-A stocks.

How much paper do you typically keep on hand?

We keep an inventory of about 73 days worth of paper.

How do you track waste and spoilage?

Our division sets makeready and running waste goals semi-annually based on the prior six months' history. Actual performance vs. goal performance is tracked for each job — we review performance results with the employees who ran the job.

How is your company coping with a slowing economy?

Our division has grown significantly, so we have been able to avoid layoffs. The current slowdown, however, has made our business much more competitive and even more challenging.

Where's the best place to eat in Woodstock, IL?

Harvest Moon — a restaurant located on the city square.


COMPANY: Brown Printing Co. (Waseca, MN; East Greenville, PA; Woodstock, IL)


ANNUAL SALES: $300 million


SQ. FT.: 1.8 million (all facilities)

SPECIALIZATION: Publication and catalog printing