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Readers respond to re-invention challenge

Mar 1, 2001 12:00 AM


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Two months ago, I invited readers to share their stories of how they are re-inventing their businesses. Respondents ranged from ASAP Printing (Anchorage, AK), a $327,000 quick printer, to Quebecor World, one of the world's largest printers.

“Going full-color digital has really helped,” says Doug Johnstone, owner of ASAP, a six-year-old, three-employee operation. About a year ago, Johnstone added a digital color copier. He's also recently installed a toner-based CTP device.

In the early days of ASAP's existence, Johnstone found himself competing in an overcrowded market including “tons of people working out of their houses.”

He ultimately survived by carving out a niche in menu printing. While this volume printing paid the bills, Johnstone says the future lies in short-run digital printing.

He's ordered a new pricing guide, too. “If we want to grow, we're going to have to raise our prices.”

FROM 4 TO 14 OVERNIGHT

A targeted investment in equipment and personnel helped Creative Printing Services (Wilkes-Barre, PA) grow. “Here is the short version,” says Wayne Oplinger, president. “In 1998, my partner and I had a very small quick-print shop: Four employees in a 2,100-sq.-ft. downtown location doing approximately $210,000.

“WHEN WE BOUGHT THE BUSINESS, IT WAS BLEEDING MONEY. WE TURNED IT AROUND IN LESS THAN TWO YEARS AND MADE IT PROFITABLE.”

“When we bought the business in 1996, it was bleeding money, according to our accountants. It had two employees plus a part-time press operator. That's right, a part-time press operator. But we turned the business around in less than two years and made it profitable.”

Oplinger says the key was to transition from a dying market (duplicator and analog copy work) to short-run, four-color printing, digital color and black-and-white jobs.

In 1999, the company bought its largest competitor, gaining experienced employees, more equipment and more than 16,000 sq. ft. of space. “We went from a four-employee to a 14-employee shop overnight,” Oplinger recalls.

The company's equipment includes high-speed color and black-and-white printers, two- and four-up presses, an imagesetter and an information management system.

“In the end, even with all the changes we have implemented, we have grown 20 percent and will be profitable this year,” reports Oplinger.

Responding to its clients' changing needs, Quebecor World formed Que-Net Media (Arlington Heights, IL) a year ago. Targeting catalogers, retailers and publishers, its products and services for both print and the Web include creative services, digital and conventional photography, traditional and digital premedia services as well as software applications for automated publishing and content management.

BEYOND INK-ON-PAPER

“We are adding to our core premedia services by developing new technology tools and systems to speed and improve our customers' publishing and promotional efforts,” says Marie Poppy, Que-Net Media vice president of marketing. She cites digital photography and content management as two strong growth areas. The company will open four technical centers this year.

SpringDot (Cincinnati) (www.springdot.com) was founded 96 years ago as Sidney Printing Works. This past April, it changed its name to reflect its new position in the market place. “We are now a Message Facilitator,” explains Thom Deutsch, president and CEO.

The company hasn't scrapped its presses — but has broadened its focus by deployment of its clients' messages to also encompass Internet delivery. One product is e-messaging via MessageMaker from Twelve Horses (www.twelvehorses.com).

This e-messaging is more powerful than generic e-mail, since it can include a live Web page and embedded digital versions of data sheets, brochures, etc. “There are personalized, specific calls to action that can be placed in the message to move the sales process along,” notes Deutsch. “Also, being real time, it's more effective than a mass-mailing campaign.”

SpringDot envisions e-messaging being combined with print to form a hybrid delivery channel. “You always need paper,” says Deutsch, “but there are some people who only want to be touched electronically. We can bring a higher value to our client base by showing them we can design and execute a message deployment solution that is more effective than mass mail and e-mail blasts.”

How is your company re-inventing itself? Let us know. You can e-mail me at the address above, or give me a call at (312) 609-4274.