Commentary & Analysis
BR Printers Colors the World of Black & White
BR Printers discusses how production inkjet printing is changing the way the company does business and opening up new business opportunities in a highly competitive marketplace. This article is sponsored by HP.
By Cary Sherburne
Published: April 21, 2015
This article is sponsored by HP’s Graphics Solutions Business unit.
BR Printers was founded by Rich Brown and Chris Rooney in 1992. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the company was founded as a digital-only operation focused on the just-in-time production of books, manuals, and other publications and continues in that mode today. BR Printers has now expanded to two additional locations: Independence KY and East Windsor NJ, giving it a national footprint.
“We got our first production inkjet press about three years ago,” says Hugh Loveless, Vice President of Business Development. “We consider ourselves an early adopter of important new technologies in the book printing space, and production inkjet was clearly a must-have for our business.”
As BR’s business grew, another production inkjet press became a necessity. Loveless states, “At the time we were making a decision, we were having difficulty running our preferred substrates – a 45 lb. and 60 lb. matte – on our existing inkjet press. The primary issue was around drying. So we decided to take a look at other options in the now-burgeoning production inkjet space.”
Measuring the Competitive Playing Field
After a significant amount of market research, including testing of their own files on preferred substrates, BR Printers chose the HP T230 Inkjet Web Press. “With high ink coverage and high speed, the drying process for inkjet is complicated. It’s hard to manage ink and drying without completely cooking the paper. It seemed to us that HP had the drying issue dialed in.”
BR also preferred the way that HP handled printhead nozzle issues. “With our first system, if there was a nozzle failure of any type, the line-out shows almost immediately, whereas the HP press seems to accommodate the issue much better.” Loveless points out that, especially during the firm’s busy summertime season with heavy textbook volumes, if the press operator is deep into a run, the last thing he wants to have to do is stop the press to change out heads. The associated waste of doing so can significantly impact costs. “Margins are slim and we try to keep waste to a minimum,” Loveless states. “Considering all of these things, the HP T230 was the best choice for us.”
BR Printers began its life primarily printing technical documentation for high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. As that market eroded, the company moved into other types of book and booklet printing, including educational materials and corporate publications.
“We also do a lot of rebind work that larger printers don’t want to deal with,” he explains. “That has carved out an interesting niche for us. Also, we are the only West Coast book printer using production inkjet, which gives us another competitive advantage.”
BR Printers is producing books in a roll-to-book-block workflow with an inline roll-to-sheeter and a nearline Standard Horizon perfect binder.
The Future is Color
Another advantage of BR Printers’ HP T230 Inkjet Web Press is the fact that it brings the cost of full color pretty much in line with monochrome printing on toner or offset presses and much less expensive than color on those devices. “We’ve gotten good traction lately in going to customers that have traditionally been monochrome because that was all that was available to them,” Loveless states. “We can usually beat the price point they are getting from other suppliers in monochrome with our color inkjet pricing. I love going into a non-traditional BR customer and talking with them about, as an example, their training manuals. It’s great to be able to tell them that they can let the printed piece be what it wants to be, and that’s usually color! We are at pennies per page versus dimes per page using toner.”
Loveless also appreciates HP’s outreach to Silicon Valley customers, explaining the value of the technology and the ease and cost-effectiveness of incorporating color. “This helped create pull-through for us,” he says. “It’s great to have a vendor partner that is willing to make that kind of effort on your behalf.”
As market dynamics have changed over the years, BR Printers continues to reinvent itself and offer new products and services. With its new HP T230 Inkjet Web Press, the company is once again looking at adding new applications to the mix. Loveless says, “We’re looking into producing custom newspapers and short-run magazines for smaller organizations. As we begin to gain momentum, we will also upgrade our nearline stitcher to better handle these new applications. The HP T230 is the ideal platform upon which we can build these new businesses as the market again evolves to demand for an increasing array of applications printed in color and on demand.”