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Sep 1, 1998 12:00 AM

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In 1987, TechniGraphix consisted of six employees and some copiers occupying 6,000 sq. ft. "Basically we were a copy shop," reflects co-founder and president, Jack A. Tiner. "We did that for a few years and we grew about $1 million a year."

In the 1990s, however, TechniGraphix decided to radically reinvent itself. It would no longer be a copy shop--it would become instead an on-demand book printer.

The company created one of the earliest electronic book publishing systems by running papers originally designed for an offset press through five Xerox DocuTechs. While the concept worked fine, TechniGraphix had to work hard to win over customers--moving from its copyshop roots to on-demand book publishing meant an 85 percent change in its original customer base.

Terminology was the first stumbling block facing TechniGraphix. "Customers refused to let us 'copy' a book," recalls Tiner. "If we used the words 'copy' or 'photocopy,' we wouldn't get any business. So we just said 'Let us print your book.' We didn't say how we were going to print it and we built a nice business."

Tiner hastens to explain that you won't find TechniGraphix books at Barnes & Noble. "We're not printing Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October or something like that," he laughs. "The difference between us and a traditional book printer is they're using web presses. We're using cutsheet printers and our digital web presses as we call our two Oce DemandStream 8080DIs. If you need 10,000, you go to a book printer. If you need 500 to 2,000, you come see us."

Many of TechniGraphix's customers publish medical or legal reference books that require fast turnaround as well as frequent updating. One job for a medical publisher for example is a total of 2,500 pages in four volumes. TechniGraphix stores the book electronically, changing pages as necessary for new customers, while printing supplements for existing clients.

"Don't print what you don't need," is the pitch TechniGraphix makes to its customers. "We've got a lot of customers who used to print 2,000 to 3,000 books and that would last them two years," explains Tiner. "Some might be associations selling these books to members. What we can do is print 200 copies a month for them--eliminating the need to store that inventory."

Currently, TechniGraphix features a few cutsheet systems and two Oce 8080DIs. The 8080DIs were installed late last year as part of the book printer's competitive strategy. Traditional book printers had started to cut their run lengths to challenge TechniGraphix. Also, despite running six cutsheet digital printing systems at maximum capacity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the company still found itself struggling to keep up. "We needed to find a way to satisfy current demand while boosting our ability to handle larger volumes," Tiner explains.

TechiGraphix evaluated other equipment, but ultimately chose Oce because of its speed, print quality and ability to handle different stocks. The 8080DI offers 600 dpi print resolution at print speeds up to 500 ipm. The system's high-efficiency toner and LED PLUS technology permit images to be reproduced at lower temperatures, allowing a variety of media to be used. This was particularly important for TechniGraphix--many of its legal and medical customers use extremely thin paper to maximize the number of pages in their books.

"We've tested 30 lb. paper," reports Tiner. "Our goal is to be down to 27 lb. offset, 980 pages per inch (ppi) by October. We have numerous customers waiting for us to be able to run thinner paper. Today the only place you can do that is on a traditional web."

According to TechniGraphix managers, turnaround time for an average run of 500 books, 30 to 500 pages each, was five to 10 days prior to using the Oce printer. Since the installation of the high-speed devices, that time "has been cut significantly. Having one Oce is like having four cut-sheet digital printers, speedwise," offers Tiner. "The DemandStream 8080DI was the ideal solution to our dilemma."

TechniGraphix has certainly changed since starting out with those six employees. Today, the $7.5 million printer occupies 25,000 sq. ft. and employs 43 people and the company is contemplating expanding to accommodate customers' growing requests for fulfillment services.

"The biggest problem we've had over the past six or seven years is change," concludes Tiner. "Everybody's been doing the same thing for 75 years. At first, to get people to try this was like pulling teeth--you're not photocopying my book,' is what they'd say. But now they're starting to accept it because we maintain the quality. People arelooking at the big picture."