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Jul 1, 1998 12:00 AM

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Cedar Graphics, Inc., located in Ronkonkoma, NY, close to Long Island's busy MacArthur Airport, is a showroom printing facility with more than 250 employees and annual sales of $30 million. On highly industrialized Long Island, it is the area's 10th fastest growing private company. A winner of many local and national awards, Cedar also ranks high on the list of manufacturing companies headed by women.

The company was started in 1976 by the husband-and- wife team of Joanne and Robert Herman. Launching with a $2,000 family loan and operating out of a rented basement, Cedar opened its doors as a prepress service company providing color separations and plates. One can only speculate if the founders could have imagined the size and reputation their tiny enterprise would attain over the next two decades.

>From the beginning, Joanne, a graduate of the School of Visual Arts, served as president, handling front-office responsibilities. She is now the administrative executive head. Robert, now vice president, and partner vice president Mike Clark (who joined the company in 1987) take care of production and manufacturing.

With a reputation for quality service at a fair price, it was not long before acquisition of a press by Cedar Graphics had to be considered in order to meet press proofing and high-quality color printing demands. Moving into an industrial building and the installation of a four-color press constituted the first step to ongoing growth and expansion.

Gaining more and more clients, many of them in New York City, became the impetus to establishing a satellite plant in Manhattan in 1987. This Cedar Graphics arm handles complete prepress and printing services. Today, both plants operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, occupying a total of 130,000 sq. ft.

Calling Cedar Graphics a commercial printer is like calling a Rolls Royce a car. Determination to produce the best has resulted in a well-earned top-quality reputation. Textiles that ask to be touched, butterflies that look ready to fly off the page, and finely textured boots and belts that almost exude the smell of leather. Producing high-quality brochures, catalogs, books and annual reports, Cedar Graphics caters mainly to the tri-state (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) market.

The basis for achieving such outstanding quality is several years spent mastering the intricacies of waterless printing. Today, Cedar Graphics claims to be the largest waterless sheet-fed printer in the United States. Clark led this effort and has served as president of the Waterless Printing Assn.

Full digital workflow is another achievement of Cedar Graphics. The firm believes that its filmless approach eliminates time-consuming steps from the production process, drastically reducing turnaround time. In some instances, it is possible to go from photo shoot to printed piece in just a few hours, a process that involves only three operators.

Being a full-service printer, Cedar Graphics employs 14 sheet-fed presses ranging from two-color to seven-color, plus a Heidelberg Quickmaster DI press. This equipment diversity extends to the finishing area where it is necessary to support a more diverse customer base, speed turnaround times, and control workflow and scheduling. The finishing department is fully equipped with cutters, MBO folders, saddlestitching, diecutting and ancillary equipment.

Early in 1997, it became evident that more saddlestitching capacity was needed to keep up with the growing demand for stitched products. Cedar Graphics ultimately ordered a Bravo-T saddlestitching line from Muller Martini.

"You can say that when it comes to selecting equipment we look beyond engineering," comments Cedar Graphics' Robert Herman. "In addition to technical specs, reliability, documentation, proven service and parts availability rank high on our list. Also, the Bravo-T fit well into our investment budget based on 75 percent utilization of the saddlestitcher."

In June of 1997, the Muller Martini saddlestitching line was installed, along with automatic signature feeders, folder feeder, stitcher and three-knife trimmer with belt delivery. Options selected by the printer include a free-standing trim removal system, fourth and fifth knife and a three-hole punch for the trimmer.

Start-up and training went smoothly as Cedar Graphics management arranged for the operator to attend a hands-on training seminar provided by Muller Martini at its nearby facility. Even better, the seminar is provided free of charge.

After nine months, bindery manager Bill Douglas reports that the Bravo-T has fully met expectations, with most jobs running at about 10,000 cph (which is close to the rated top speed of 11,000). Douglas is favorably impressed with design features that keep the operator in mind--wrenchless settings coupled with digital readouts and PLC (programmable logic control) assistance. These features speed set-up and changeover.

The newly designed fourth and fifth knife can now be installed in 15 minutes, a feature Douglas describes as "fantastic." Due to the increasing volume of orders, utilization of the saddlestitching line is now close to 100 percent.

The Bravo-T features flat pile feeders, with gripper and vacuum opening, that can be timed individually and have individual 1:1 and 2:1 capability. Integrated adjustable compressed air and vacuum facilitate processing of difficult (lightweight) stock.

Operators are pleased with the low-silhouette design that allows waist-high loading, which reduces fatigue.

An electromechanical caliper and missing stitch detector are integral parts of the line, and the three-knife trimmer handles a wide range of book thicknesses. The Bravo-T can be expanded up to 14 signature feeders; folder feeders for cover and/or bound-in cards, counter stacker, trim removal system and loop-stitching heads also can be added at any time.

However, it is not just the combination of cutting-edge technology and good equipment that makes Cedar Graphics unique. It is human skills and the pride of achievement, plus management's ability to instill co-workers with the motivation to give the best possible customer service. To this end, emphasis on quality and competence is paramount throughout the organization.

As technological demands require higher-level skills, Cedar Graphics puts strong emphasis on extensive in-house training, even going outside its own operation to encourage interest in skilled job training through local schools. To describe Cedar Graphics' modus operandi, it is best to quote vice president Clark: "In order to remain successful, we must use every technology and resource we can find to make sure our customers are getting the best product for the best price possible."