Cohber Press President and CEO Eric Webber and Chief Technology Officer J. Chris Bowen sat down for a discussion with the OutputLinks Group on their business, their operation, their technology roadmap, their recent acquisition of one of the USA’s first AccurioJet KM-1 digital presses, and its effect on their business.
ABOUT COHBER PRESS
Founded in Rochester, N.Y., amid the Great Depression, Cohber has a storied history as a commercial printer known for exquisite craft. Family owned for three generations, the $13+ million company has earned a reputation as a trusted, impeccable commercial printer. The company has led the way in adopting dramatic advances in print technology through every chapter of their story. As far back as 1997, Cohber was embracing the world of data-driven, digital printing. Today, the company’s 76 craftspeople produce and deliver a full spectrum of projects using both offset and digital printers.
"We realized that the KM-1’s speed, print quality, and cost effectiveness allows us to streamline our workflow to pick up production time that was previously lost to the extra prep steps."
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Cohber’s longstanding reputation for speed and quality isn’t the only thing that sets the company apart. Ingrained in its culture is a passion to cultivate long term partnerships with clients. Cohber does so by maintaining a remarkable ability to handle much of their clients’ marketing needs in house. Strategically. Intelligently. And with significant return on their marketing spend. When it comes to digital, Cohber leverages data and software power to provide clients with highly targeted, relevant communications to their audience.
TWO MINDS, ONE MISSION
CEO Eric Webber and CTO Chris Bowen are enthusiastic about Cohber’s future, to say the least. They’re champions of both print technology and the highly trained staff whose work contributes to this longtime printing powerhouse. Eric, a third-generation Cohber executive, works from the core of the company’s strategic roadmap. And Chris is a 20-year print industry veteran. The two have learned the business from the inside, each having held multiple positions within Cohber.
MODERN CAPABILITIES, TIME-HONORED CRAFT
Clients turn to Cohber for its combination of fast, high-quality output and competitive pricing. Their current mix of print business is about 65% offset and 35% digital. To live up to clients’ expectations, Cohber continually invests in the latest technology, like the AccurioJet KM-1 UV Inkjet Press, to make good on the company’s promises.
ONE MAJOR ACQUSITION, TWO ANGLES
Eric and Chris both considered the KM-1 as the catalyst for an accelerated digital expansion. At the same time, the two of them were thinking about the acquisition from complementary perspectives.
- Eric considers how a prospective investment can better serve existing customers. Will it help deliver higher-quality, lower cost, and more flexible solutions that will keep Cohber a vital part of the client’s communication strategy?
- Chris determines technology acquisitions as platforms for future growth. He thinks about how new equipment or software will help Cohber build on its rock-solid platform—and whether new technology is compatible with a vision for smart, lean manufacturing.
They both knew that to stay relevant to their existing customers they needed to continue to win on quality, speed, and price. This newest KM-1 acquisition will accomplish that and drive the potential for an entirely new generation of capabilities. More flexibility, More capable of premiere output. “A genuine market disruptor”.
LEADING UP TO THE ACQUISITION
Listen. Empower. Take charge. And do the right thing, even when no one is looking. These are just a few of the values that define Cohber’s unique culture. The values that have cultivated a workforce passionate about the craft of their business and a business focused on adapting to changing times with enthusiasm. So, it made sense that, when a breakthrough digital platform appeared, Cohber was already listening to the market.
Through Cohber’s routine trend-spotting habits, which include regular conversations with consultants, industry experts, and respected colleagues, a pattern soon emerged. The team began hearing about the AccurioJet KM-1. The B2 sheet format was high on their wish list, and inkjet seemed like a smart move. Many of the team’s contacts were encouraging them to take a closer look at Konica Minolta. So they did just that.
A BIG DECISION
Cohber’s local Konica Minolta office connected them with the AccurioJet KM-1 leadership team, and their journey began. The investigation phase took Chris and Eric to Germany last June for drupa, the print world's leading trade show, where Konica Minolta formally announced the AccurioJet KM-1 UV Inkjet Press. Cohber, true to its leading-edge reputation, immediately signed up for one of the first systems.
“Konica Minolta’s Executive Team was aligned with our company values, which is a big consideration for Cohber,” Eric says of the decision.
“It’s about trust. Building relationships,” he adds. “I think first and foremost that's what we focus on, and we're excited to partner with Konica Minolta.”
“We continually invest in our people, technology, and equipment to benefit our clients.”
A BIG STEP FORWARD
In the AccurioJet KM-1, Cohber found everything they’d been looking for to advance their capabilities—and more.
“The deeper we looked, the more impressed we were,” Chris says. “The larger format B2+ size fits six 8.5” x 11” full bleed images and the UV ink is impressive from both a durability perspective and an output productivity perspective.”
He points to the combination of a proven offset press paper path and the Konica Minolta UV Ink delivery system.
“It’s a beautifully simple combination. It’s not electro-photographic, which has a lot of moving parts and requires a lot of attention to maintain image quality. The AccurioJet KM-1 is clean, simple and easy to support. It reduces the amount of labor, and fewer moving parts means fewer things that can go wrong,” Chris adds.
The KM-1 also means Cohber can take an industry-leading position, Eric says.
“The opportunity to be the first commercial printer to put this new technology into production really appealed to us. We knew there would be some risk, but there are rewards for being an early adopter.”
“Everything we do is cut sheet, both on the offset and the digital,” he added. “The idea of a cut sheet B2+ format fit our workflow, our post-press setup, and was perfect for our operation. We had been waiting for inkjet to be ready for prime time for over five years. The AccurioJet KM-1 was the answer—and at a price point that we could cost-justify. Most importantly, we projected a good ROI in the short term, rather than the long term.”
THE AccurioJet KM-1 STIMULATES APPLICATIONS
Since then, the installation of the KM-1 at Cohber has meant full training mode for staff. The team is already impressed by the quality the system produces—high praise from a company that’s been in the commercial print business for 85 years.
The AccurioJet KM-1’s capabilities has the Cohber team excited about developing new offerings to acquire new customers. But, true to form, Eric goes back to what the system can do to enhance the current customer experience.
“We are primarily a B2B company,” Eric says. “We support the whole range of MARCOM needs, from brochures to postcards, mailers, and posters. Whatever clients need, we’ll produce. In today’s model, they might order 40,000 pieces of collateral, but only need 10,000 at a time.”
Before the KM-1, Cohber would print the whole 40,000 pieces, ship 10,000, and warehouse the rest until the client needed them.
“Under that scenario,” Eric says, “we had to deal with inventory, obsolescence, billing on shipment and all the costs that come along with that process. With the KM-1, we can tell our clients we will print just the amount they need, deliver it when they want it, and at the highest possible quality at a competitive price.”
This fits into Cohber’s lean manufacturing program, Eric adds. “With no excess inventory to worry about, we stay competitive and relevant.”
A SIMPLIFIED SUPPLY CHAIN
Happily, the AccurioJet KM-1 can use the same paper stock as Cohber’s offset equipment, so there is no need to use special digital paper stock or to pre-condition the paper. Simplifying the paper provides many benefits in multiple areas of the supply chain and inventory management.
That also provides opportunities to take full advantage of Cohber’s capability mix, Eric says.
“For instance, we realized that the KM-1’s speed, print quality, and cost effectiveness allows us to streamline our workflow to pick up production time that was previously lost to the extra prep steps,” he says.
“That means we can shorten our turnaround times,” Eric adds, “so we can continue to meet and exceed our client’s expectations.
Chris is also excited about the flexibility and simplification opportunities the new platform brings.
“It’s a digital device, but the KM-1 is a strategic combination of the latest UV ink with a proven cut sheet press delivery system, similar to our offset presses in size, paper path flow, and finishing requirements,” he adds.
“Our digital operators are mechanically smart, so they understand how the system runs,” Chris says. “Our offset team recognizes the similarity of the operation, so they aren’t put off by the fact that it’s a digital technology. As we move through the next few months, we want to bring the two departments closer together for enhanced efficiency. The AccurioJet KM-1 will help get us there.”
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ELIMINATING DIGITAL SPAGHETTI
Chris prefers not to think of Cohber Press as separate digital and offset operations. Instead, he sees a company with capabilities to produce all sizes and volumes of static and variable print.
He sees the KM-1 as a long-term foundation that will help Cohber seamlessly tie together the pieces of their operation. It will help the company rethink the entire workflow, regardless of the specific technology. This workflow reintegration will extend throughout the entire business, from supply chain, prepress, print, and finishing and will support the same level of digital/offset quality. All while maintaining Cohber’s 100% on-time delivery promise.
As Cohber integrates the KM-1 platform more deeply into their business, he predicts a consistent flow of new business opportunities—to do more complex and more profitable work.
The Cohber team is already plotting new business opportunities to pursue. They’re particularly interested in flexing the KM-1’s variable substrate capabilities to move into highly profitable applications like lightweight packaging.
A SOLID INVESTMENT
Eric and Chris both express confidence in the decision to invest in the KM-1’s leading-edge capabilities. They see it as a key technology that will keep Cohber vital, relevant, and ahead of the competition, well into the next generation.
We appreciate Eric and Chris sharing their experiences with the AccurioJet KM-1. Our review of the AccurioJet platform will continue over the coming weeks as more KM-1 customers share their pre and post acquisition experiences. They will share their thoughts on the system and the results they have achieved with this high-end production inkjet system. We will also include interviews with Konica Minolta’s key AccurioJet thought leaders.
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Thank you for reading,
The OutputLinks Group Team
Seeing is believing.
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