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Productivity: Printing That's as Good as it Gets

Aug 1, 1997 12:00 AM

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When Jimmy Doar joined Wentworth Printing in 1969, "there were four people and not much business." Today, with 150 employees and $13 million in sales, Wentworth Printing ranks among the top five printers in South Carolina. Doar, the president of the company, attributes his organization's productivity to fellow printers, customer service, technology, quality and teamwork.

"Anyone who wants to grow their business should belong to a good trade association," suggests Doar. "We like to give credit where credit is due, and our association with the Printing Industries of Carolina (PICA) has helped us run this plant efficiently. You really learn from other members' expertise--it's a great help."

As for customer service, Doar explains, "We tell our customers, 'We're your printer and whatever you need, we'll do it, and if we can't do it, we'll find someone who can.' We want to do all of our customers' jobs--that's why we've kept our smaller presses. Other printers might have gotten rid of them after installing a 40-inch press," submits Doar. "That's their choice, but we believe it does a disservice to customers--we can't afford to do that."

This commitment to customers led Wentworth into a new line of business--a high-speed copying division was added last year and is expected to add $1 million to Wentworth's annual revenues. The division features two color copiers, a Docutech, one offset press and full bindery facilities. "We offer our customers the best of the copying and printing worlds," notes Doar. "A lot of these rush copy jobs later are printed conventionally using the same digital information. It's an additional service we wanted to offer customers as their commercial printer."

In 1989, Wentworth entered the age of desktop publishing. "It was a management decision to commit to computerized imposition," explains Doar. "We decided that if we were going to stay in the printing business, we had to be as good as it gets. We knew we'd have to spend some money to keep up with the technology. Our goal was to have one sheet of film per color so we could do imposition and stripping via computers. Moving to make one piece of film per flat rather than multiple burns reduced our errors, while dramatically raising our productivity.

"We'll never eliminate hand-stripping completely, but we've gone from having 18 strippers in 1989 to five today. Reducing the opportunity for human error has significantly raised our level of productivity. Everything always is straight, always fits and we've reduced the number of burns per plate.

"The majority of jobs go through our Mac world, are dumped into the Barco format and output to an Iris or dye-sub proof. This on-line proof is pretty close in terms of color--we make any necessary color manipulations before making contract proofs.

"We started in 1991 with a Barco 40-inch 3800 imagesetter and one workstation. Today we have three SGI Indigo II workstations running Barco software and two 40-inch 3800 imagesetters. The workstations are used for production only. One is reserved for color correcting if a job requires it; the other two handle imposition chores. We keep up with our local market and we don't know anybody who's as well-equipped and staffed in electronic prepress as we are."

Why did Wentworth choose Barco? "I'm probably preaching to the choir," responds Doar, "but we looked at some of the other equipment and thought Barco could create a better dot on a piece of film than anybody else. We still think that.

"We've got some techie people who could provide a more complex answer, but I prefer to use layman's terms--the language our customers understand," submits Doar. "Some of our 'artsy' customers get creative by intermingling graduated screens together. We found the PostScript world couldn't handle these high resolution jobs without banding and related problems. So our only option was a proprietary system. We tested them all--Barco had the best dot. The intermingling of the background screens was undetectable--that's what convinced us.

"We feel very strongly about Barco--it does a great job for us. We attribute our competitive edge to this equipment--it enables us to set the standards in our area. Everyone's trying to print as well as we can. But customers like what we can do with an image and they just keep coming back."

Wentworth isn't content, however, to have the best equipment--the company also wants to ensure it has the best processes in place. Toward that end, employees re-calibrate imagesetters, scanners, monitors and presses every day. "In the old days, we had six to eight years to develop a great craftsperson," relates Doar. "We don't have that kind of time anymore. So we're relying more on equipment that has the craftsperson built into it. For example, if we can run a printing press to the numbers--the settings predetermined by the manufacturer and our in-house experts--we'll get quality results. It takes about six months to develop a craftsperson this way."

Wentworth also has commissioned a manufacturing expert from the South Carolina Research Institute to help it achieve ISO9002 compliance. "If we have written procedures and full training for each operation within our plant, which everyone understands and complies with, we can expect a consistent quality product," explains Doar. "This will help eliminate errors, wasted time and remakes."

Doar adds, however, that quality begins with each and every employee. "We're fortunate to have dedicated employees--our products and services are only as good as the people producing them. We have long-time employees who have been offered more money to go elsewhere, but they don't go," he notes. "Money's not everything--they feel good about working here and it shows."

How does Wentworth foster employee loyalty? "Management has to interact with employees," says Doar, "and departments have to interact with each other. That's what makes us productive. You can have the best equipment in the world, but if you don't have people who are motivated and trained, you don't have much."

Supervisors at Wentworth are expected to know all of their employees--and most also know the names of employees' spouses and children. "If an employee says, 'My child is sick, I need to be off," and the supervisor responds 'Which one, Bill or Mary?' it makes a difference," claims Doar. "We try to promote that."

Wentworth holds quarterly all-hands meetings. Attendance is mandatory at these gatherings, at which management offers a brief overview of where the company is headed and answers employees' questions.

Wentworth's employees' skill and creativity apparently extends to other areas as well. "We've got peaches coming in strong in our area now," reports Doar. "Someone brought in 20 baskets of peaches Monday. We've had fresh peaches, peach cobbler, peach cookies, you name it. . ."

Location: Columbia, SC

Year founded: 1963

Number of employees: 150

Description: This $13 million sheet-fed commercial printing operation specializes in direct mail, newsletters and real estate publications. Wentworth also does work for the state government and several nearby universities.