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Jan 1, 2003 12:00 AM

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Service Press was founded by Ralph Laffler in 1963. His son and current president and CEO, Tom Laffler, came on board in 1966 after graduating from Rutgers University. The Metuchen, NJ, printer serves a variety of commercial, industrial and political clients, including Commerce Bank, Prudential Insurance, Johnson & Johnson, Citistreet, Wyeth, Dow Jones, Smith Barney and The New York Times.

Early on, Service Press turned to technology to distinguish itself from other multicolor printers. Its pressroom features a six-color perfecting Harris M110 heatset web press; a Miller five-color, 40-inch perfecting press; a Heidelberg Speedmaster 74; and its newest addition, a Mitsubishi six-color, 40-inch press with tower coater.

On the prepress side, the company recently installed a Fujifilm Saber Vx-9600 platesetter. The eight-up, violet-laser device reportedly can produce up to 32 plates per hour at 2400 dpi.

“Now we don't need a person dedicated to just burning plates,” reports Todd Laffler, Tom's son and the company's digital prepress manager. “Before, one person could burn about 15 plates an hour — now we're burning 27.”

When asked why the company opted for a violet-laser device rather than thermal or UV, Jeff Jones, vice president and general manager, cites lower operating costs and cleaner chemistry. We asked the exec to tell us more.

Describe your workflow prior to going CTP.

We were a film-based plant using a Fuji Sumo eight-up imagesetter — all proofs and plates were made from film. With the new platesetter and a digital contract proofer, we are 90 percent digital. Our efficiencies, quality and productivity have all improved as a result. There's a definite competitive edge.

Service Press has an interesting client base. Can you give some examples of the type of work you do?

Our commercial work ranges from marketing pieces such as pocket folders, brochures and sell sheets to the direct-mail world of inserts, business reply cards and conversion envelopes. As a union shop, we have developed a solid base of political customers and are adding to this base every year.

We also have a long-standing relationship with a top diecutter located in a building adjacent to ours. This strategic alliance enables us to compete in the box/packaging world. The diecutter has some new high-end folder-gluers that are allowing us to expand our business — not just the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, but anywhere printed cartons or boxes are needed.

Any plans for a digital press?

We have explored the digital-press world extensively, especially the variable-data products. We've decided to focus on traditional offset equipment and to partner into digital when necessary.

Some printers report growing customer acceptance of inkjet proofs for contract proofs. Do your clients expect a digital halftone proof for contract purposes?

Our contract proof is the Fuji FinalProof. It's a high-end “dotted” proof that has replaced our film-based proofs.

Are you doing any remote proofing with your clients?

We have been using RealTimeImage's proofing system. This post-RIPed file is a great tool for today's fast-paced print turnaround.

What service or equipment would you most like to add?

We're concentrating on growing our customer base, and have no plans to change our equipment mix. We are adding salespeople to expand our half-web business.

Are there any challenges unique to serving political customers?

It can be unpredictable — in 2002, Bob Torricelli withdrew from the U.S. Senate race 30 days prior to the election. The new candidate, Frank Lautenberg, didn't have much time to get his printing done. While this didn't specifically impact our business, it did have a cumulative effect.

Where's the best place to eat in Metuchen?

The Metuchen Inn, a terrific restaurant in a turn-of-the-century-style building. Our customers love the food, and the owners have created great warmth and ambience that brings people back.


Company: Service Press, Metuchen, NJ

Executive: Tom Laffler, president/CEO

Year founded: 1963

Annual sales: $10 million

No. of employees: 60

Sq. ft.: 50,000

Specialization: Printing for political and commercial clients

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