Commentary & Analysis
Strategic Gamble on Production Inkjet Pays Off for Liturgical Publications
Facing typical offset run lengths of 750 or less, make-ready waste of as much as 50%, and with evolving customer expectations for more color and higher expectations of color quality and consistency, Liturgical Publications turned to production inkjet as a strategic gamble which has turned into a strategic advantage for this innovative publisher.
By Cary Sherburne
Published: March 10, 2015
This article is sponsored by HP’s Graphics Solutions Business unit.
Founded in 1972, Liturgical Publications (LPi) is headquartered in New Berlin WI with additional production facilities in Cleveland, Denver, Hartford and Orlando. The company, which was founded to produce newsletters and bulletins for Catholic churches, has more than 400 employees around the country. Today, the company has expanded its services to include a variety of communication tools for 5,200 religious and community organizations that include ad-supported bulletins and newsletters for churches, senior centers and governmental municipalities, as well as solutions for online donations, church websites, and communication networks.
“We have been operating with 2-color and 4-color offset presses,” says Joe Luedtke, Chief Operating Officer. “A typical newsletter is an 8-page saddle-stitched piece with a 4-color cover and 2- or 4-color interior. This involves printing one side of the color cover on a 4-color press and the interior of the newsletter on a two-color press. That already introduced color management issues into the process, but then multiply that across our five locations and it was a level of complexity that was getting difficult to manage.”
Add to that the fact that the average run length for a church bulletin is 750 copies, hardly an economical run length for offset production. “Because of our smaller runs and the inherent setup time of offset presses,” Luedtke explains, “for 4-color runs you’re talking about a nearly 50% waste factor. We literally throw half our paper out the window for runs of that size. While paper is a renewable resource, a waste factor of that size isn’t close to being green, and we wanted to change that.”
In order to address print quality and consistency challenges, LPi was in the process of converting all of its offset presses to UV-curable inks while keeping its eye on developments in the digital printing market. “Even though our offset production process was less than efficient,” Luedtke says, “it was still less costly than toner-based digital printing click charges. So when we started seeing significant improvements in the cost dynamics of production inkjet, we undertook an extensive evaluation of inkjet presses available on the market.”
Luedtke explains that LPi had looked at inkjet presses in the past, but found that they had not quite reached the level of quality and cost effectiveness that the company required. “That has all changed now,” he says, “and now seemed the time to get into inkjet.”
With that in mind, LPi did a thorough evaluation of offerings from three different companies and ultimately chose the HP T230 Inkjet Web Press, which was installed in its New Berlin, WI headquarters in November of 2014. “We felt that HP had the proven installations in the U.S. as well as the quality and technical competency in its team that we required. We felt more comfortable with the level of pre-sales support we received from HP than that we received from other vendors.”
LPi installed the HP T230 in a roll-to-roll configuration with two finishing lines that each consist of an IBIS SB-3 Plus HS and Tecnau/Lasermax 1550 dynamic perf unit, unwinder and cutter for saddle stitch booklet making. “We considered inline finishing,” Luedtke remarks, “but we really needed the throughput and redundancy of two lines to keep up with the T230’s output.” LPi has determined that Domtar’s ExpressJet inkjet-optimized paper line is the best match for its substrate requirements.
What started out as what Luedtke describes as a “strategic gamble” is turning into a valuable strategic advantage for the company. “Some of our competitors are behind the times,” he says, “with some not even deploying full color yet. The HP T230 Inkjet Web Press is a game-changer for us in terms of our ability to offer a full color product for an increasing number our customers that is more attractive, with a lower environmental impact, and at the same time more efficient to produce.”
LPi has a somewhat unusual business model. Luedtke explains, “The vast majority of our print customers receive their publications absolutely free. We sell advertising to cover the cost of production , which is the source of our revenue stream. We have about 100,000 advertisers around the country, with the majority being small, local businesses.”
“Our customers and advertisers are quite pleased with our new full-color offering,” Luedtke says. “It really sets us apart in the marketplace and is opening up an entirely new range of products that we can offer.”
Direct mail pieces and personalized newsletters that are mailed directly to organization members rather than being shipped in bulk to the organization
The addition of calendars and member welcome packages to the company’s portfolio of product offerings
“We believe there will be lots more innovation to come,” Luedtke concludes. “It is very exciting for our staff to be on the leading edge of technology with our HP partnership and the T230 Inkjet Web Press. It should be the first of several presses that fits nicely into our geographic expansion plans.”