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Hustle & Grow

Jun 1, 2007 12:00 AM


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Less than five years ago, 4Over Inc. (Glendale, CA) had a handful of employees working out of a 2,000-sq.-ft. building. The centerpiece of the new company was a circa 1988 two-up, five-color Heidelberg GTO.

Things were difficult at first for Zarik Megerdichian and his wife, Tina Hartounian, the cofounders of 4Over. The first two operators they hired couldn't print in register or achieve consistent color on the company's legacy press. But the third operator, Patrick Aristakian, a second-generation press operator, produced excellent work.

“Because of his quality work, 4Over's print customers started utilizing us more for their trade work,” explains Megerdichian. “With this work, we were able to afford our first new press, a six-color Komori Lithrone 28.”

Spectacular growth

After getting that first piece of new press iron, 4Over's growth has been nothing short of spectacular. Today, the $42 million, 250-employee company occupies five buildings totaling 120,000 sq. ft. As he operated that old two-up press a few years ago, Aristakian never imagined the company would change so dramatically. Megerdichian, however, always dreamed big and encouraged others to share his confidence. One of his favorite sayings is, “Nothing is impossible. Impossible only takes a little longer.”

As 4Over has evolved, it has added a pair of Komori Lithrone S40 perfectors — a six-color and a five-color with coater. The printer can claim bragging rights with North America's first 10-color Lithrone S40 Super Perfector with double coater. The company also recently installed a six-color Lithrone S40 with UV capabilities. Two Kodak Lotem platesetters crank out 32 plates per hour.

As for Aristakian, the former operator has been promoted — first to pressroom manager and, most recently, to head of the company's R&D department. “For Patrick, there are no weekends, or week days,” says Megerdichian. “During the recent start up of our [main] 72,000-sq.-ft. building, he was here almost every day coordinating all the setups and installations.”

Online sales

Megerdichian launched his career as a Web developer and graphic designer. His first real exposure to the printing industry occurred in the early 2000s after he created an Internet-based company specializing in business cards. Megerdichian handled the design end of the business and subcontracted the printing. Frustration with what he calls print brokers' “monkey business” prompted Megerdichian to buy his own cutter and, eventually, a small-format press.

Today, Megerdichian runs the marketing department, but there's no salesforce at 4Over. All sales are Web-based — the company specializes in short-run business cards, postcards, pamphlets, leaflets and brochures.

As the company's print expert, Aristakian ensures 4Over delivers the quality that its trade customers demand. Megerdichian, for his part, concentrates on streamlining production to achieve the speed and pricing that has helped the company thrive. When he evaluated the first of 4Over's two Komori LS perfectors, Megerdichian wasn't interested in discussing the gears or ink train. He says, “We saw it could do a seven-minute makeready, so we said, ‘OK.’”

The quest for efficiency extends to every aspect of the operation. A computerized time card system helps coordinate employees' activities across the company's five locations. Special bulletins pop up when employees log in, ensuring consistent communications.

Automaton is essential to 4Over as it serves a customer base that currently numbers 24,000. The company's top 100 customers account for less than one percent of its business. A proprietary batch-job processing system ensures that jobs are grouped together for maximum paper savings and productivity. It's not unusual for the 24-hour, five-day-a-week printer to process as many 85 jobs per day, with average runs ranging from 1,000 to 5,000.

Megerdician concedes the pace isn't the industry norm. “It's hard to find cutter and press operators. Most are used to doing four jobs per day — but here we're doing that many per hour.”

According to Aristakian, combining “the art of printing and mass manufacturing” is the secret to 4Over's success. The company reduces as many variables as possible — customers have a choice of five substrates, and the company doesn't accept custom work. “We know our sweet spot,” says Megerdichian. “We're not afraid to turn down business that doesn't fit our model.”

The business is cash only — the result of Megerdichian observing another graphic arts professional's collection travails. “He was a super guy, but he couldn't collect what he was owed.”

Room to grow

4Over is bursting with new developments. The company recently began promoting quick-turn booklets — customers get their orders the next day. Another new venture, “Diz4Biz.com,”offers print resellers, brokers and graphic designers an easy way to build their own Web portals. The template-based software package lets users quickly create their own Web sites, facilitating orders for business cards, flyers and brochures.

4Over isn't finished yet. The company is considering expansion options, and Megerdichian would like to double sales. “We will make $84 million this year,” he says. “My personal goal is $100 million.”


Katherine O'Brien is the editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at KOB@americanprinter.com.

Genius takes Manhattan

A postcard printer recently rounded out its sheetfed, web and digital capabilities with the installation of a KBA Genius 52UV press. The new press is part of 1-800-Postcards' (New York) multimillion-dollar expansion at its SOHO and New Jersey facilities.

The Genius 52UV press, reportedly the first in Manhattan, joins a KBA Rapida 105 41-inch, eight-color, 4/4 perfector and a KBA web press.

From soup to nuts

“Our plan is to offer our clients the newest technology to produce their jobs in the most effective and economical manner possible,” says David Moyal, president of 1-800-Postcards. “We've got every solution possible — from commercial sheetfed to digital to large-format to web. By installing the Genius, we give our customers the ability to produce short-run jobs on different substrates, such as plastic and lenticular. Now a customer can bring us an entire campaign — from brochures to trade show displays to marketing tools — and we can produce the jobs under one roof.”

Moyal estimates that the firm has spent from $10 to $12 million in this recent expansion phase. “The Genius 52UV fits our business model,” he says. “ It produces a high-quality, fast-turnaround, short-makeready job for the typical New York City customer who wants everything yesterday. We were attracted to the press because of its conventional workflow and Gravuflow inking system.”

Potential applications for the new press include credit cards, gift cards, plastic folders, marketing items and other high-end pieces.

Location, location, location

While most printers have fled Manhattan, 1-800-Postcards has maintained its presence on Varick St. The firm owns 50,000 sq. ft. of space spread out over five floors. In addition, the firm has increased its space by adding 60,000 sq. ft. in Jersey City, NJ, to accommodate its KBA heatset web press and other web presses, as well as a full bindery department. The New Jersey location has 38 employees, and the Varick St. location has more than 100 employees.

See www.kbavt.com.

High quality in half the time

Mpress (Kansas City, MO) recently became the first U.S. printer to install a six-color Speedmaster CD 74 with Prinect Inpress Control from Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA). Inpress Control, which debuted at Graph Expo 2006, uses spectrophotometry to measure color inline and controls registration on the fly even when the press is running at full operating speed (up to 18,000 sph).

Mpress produces high-quality work such as point-of-purchase materials and fine art prints. The firm chose Heidelberg's Speedmaster CD 74 press with Prinect Inpress Control at Graph Expo 2006, to upgrade the firm's technology. The main objective was to achieve consistent, heavy ink coverage on board stock for quality-minded customers.

No need to stop the press

“We do short- and long-run projects involving sensitive fine art and clothing reproductions, where you really want the first sheet to look like the 10,000th sheet or the 100,000th sheet. And it does,” says Ralph Myers, owner of Mpress. “Large, solid PMS colors look great, too, which is important for us because our customers use a lot of fifth colors.”

Integrated in the last printing unit or before the perfecting unit on a perfecting press, the Prinect Inpress Control system is designed for printers who change jobs frequently and are highly standardized in their printing process. The solution maximizes productivity because it eliminates the need to stop the press during the measuring process in makeready and production. The combination of Color Assistant, which helps optimize ink key presets, and Prinect Inpress Control enables the press to ink up faster and reduces the amount of waste.

“We produce twice the amount of work than we did before in the same number of hours,” says Myers. “Jobs that used to take a whole day now take a fraction of the time. In fact, this combination of the high performance package and Inpress Control is like having two presses.” Because of this efficiency, Myers says he now qualifies for a discount from his local power and light provider.

Additional benefits

“As you might imagine, if an equipment feature is too difficult to run or the results are marginal, the operator will turn it off,” says Myers. “Not the case here. We found an added benefit in that the CD 74 with Inpress Control allows us to go from 8,000 impressions per hour to 18,000 impressions per hour while still getting our ink and water right, regardless of our operating speed.”

Prinect Inpress Control is available on Heidelberg's Speedmaster CD 74 and Speedmaster XL 105 presses.

See www.us.heidelberg.com.

Double-digit productivity

Tucker-Castleberry (Atlanta) installed its first MAN Roland six-color press in 1995. Twelve years and 184 million impressions later, it's replacing the press with an identical model, a coater-equipped ROLAND 700. The old press was still going strong, but Tucker-Casteberry was eager to take advantage of the latest in press automation.

“These new MAN Roland presses are 20 percent more productive than the ones made just six or seven years ago,” says Tuck Tucker, president of the family owned and operated firm. “The new ROLAND 700 makes us even more competitive in going after jobs, and it will increase our profit margins, as well.”

Exquisite solids

The Atlanta printer prints on up to 40-pt. stock with a fleet of three ROLAND 700s, all with coaters. “Not only do the presses print exquisite solids, but they keep hickeys out with their unique delta dampening system,” Tucker says. “We also are able to store all the components of every job on the CCI computer in case a reprint or similar job comes up. This is the same computer that constantly monitors color and keeps it consistent throughout the press run.”

A printnet PressManager module lets press operators preset a variety of makeready functions for a forthcoming project while a current job continues to print.

Tucker-Castleberry used printnet to network its three presses, which expedites scheduling and facilitates moving jobs among the presses.

Latest & greatest

The extra productivity the new ROLAND 700 is providing has elevated it to lead press status. It runs three shifts a day, while the company's 2004 ROLAND 700 runs two and its 1998 model runs one. “The extra shifts available on the other presses allows overtime for increased volume and rush jobs,” Tucker explains. “We billed over $17 million last year with that scenario.”

See www.manroland.com.

Challenging specialty color made easy

Clear Image Printing (Glendale, CA), is a 9,000-sq.-ft., 15-employee shop that specializes in using different printing techniques, materials and designs to create colorful, eye-catching products. The tools in Clear Image Printing's arsenal range from metallic inks and pearl varnishes to magnetic paper and even a sewing machine. “We focus on printing that is visually interesting,” says founder Anthony Toven.

The firm has installed a six-color Mitsubishi (Lincolnshire, IL) Diamond 1000LS with coater for the bulk of its business. The 28-inch press features a spectrophotometer-based closed-loop color control system and ColorLink CIP3/4 server to transmit prepress data to the computerized press console.

“Maintaining this level of production control was an easy decision for us,” Toven said. “It pays off by reducing cycle times and providing consistent quality.”

Toven notes that Clear Image Printing frequently uses spot varnishes with tints, as well as dry trapping. “It isn't usual for jobs to pass through the press twice or four times to achieve the desired effects,” he says.

Toven points to makeready speed as one of the biggest advantages his new press. Clear Image Printing's press incorporates automated plate changing. ColorLink allows the press to automatically preset ink keys from plate data imported from prepress. The color-control system helps press operators make customer-indicated color changes and maintain those color values during the entire run.

“We can set up a six-color job in 10 minutes,” Toven says. “Our clients are amazed. The makereadies are so quick that we're competitive on long runs.”

Based on current print volume, Toven is optimistic that Clear Image Printing will realize between $2.5 million and $3 million in revenues in its first 12 months in business. In fact, he already is looking ahead to expanding the company's printing capabilities.

See www.mlpusa.com.