Modern Litho in Jefferson City, MO recently celebrated its 75th anniversary with the purchase of a Speedmaster XL 105 8-color perfector with CutStar sheeter, Inpress Control, and AutoPlate XL. The new press has logged more than 6 million impressions since it went online two months ago, and is significantly more productive than the three aging Heidelberg presses it replaced, making the company more competitive on the shorter runs (<5000) that are a target of its long-term growth strategy.
“We used to beat the work out of here by throwing more time and labor into the effort,” company president Darrell Moore acknowledged. “Needless to say, our speed and quality improved immensely after we installed our first XL 105 in 2007. Recently, however, we’d experienced the need for more capacity, due to increased demand from our customers. We had maxed out the quality on our 5-color XL, and it also was getting hard to manage our scheduling and training. Capacity would have become a major long-term problem had we declined to invest.”
Let Us Count the Savings
The results of the company’s most recent pressroom upgrade were immediate and impressive. “Our print quality and running speed have much improved, “ said Moore. “We are up and running within five minutes, and up to color in less than 100 sheets. Nor do we hesitate to run certain stocks on the new perfector, up to and including the 60-lb gloss we use in a significant portion of our publication printing.”
The company also transferred the CAN-operated CutStar sheeter originally installed on its 5-color XL 105 to the new 8-color perfector, where it is responsible for about 10 percent savings on the cost of paper. Modern Litho also realizes 15 percent savings on ink and additional labor savings by purchasing ink by the drum for the InkLine Direct automatic central ink pumping station that feeds both the new press and the company’s existing 5-color Speedmaster XL 105. The company already operates the new Speedmaster XL 105 twenty-four hours a day, 6 days per week, while taking its 5-color XL from three shifts to one shift per day.
“As a bonus,” said Moore, “We are now on one plate size, which has streamlined our prepress to some degree. It is so nice to see a machine perform as advertised, with our run speeds at or near the rated perfecting speed of 15,000 sheets per hour on most jobs.”
Growth Through Technology
Modern Litho bought its first Heidelberg press—a used SM 102 6-color model—in 2000. “It was around that time we began to understand that we could grow the business by increasing our running speeds and adding more automation,” Moore said. That realization led to a steady stream of improvements in other departments: The company added a POLAR cutting system and fast, flexible TH-82 Stahlfolder to its bindery in 2006, followed by a 6-pocket Stitchmaster ST 450 in 2008.
“A pattern was emerging,” Moore observed. “As we replaced our older manual equipment, we began to see our turn times going down and our efficiency going up.”
Buoyed by success, Modern Litho has invested “well over $15 million” back into the business over the past 13 years, said Moore. The company is currently on pace to grow at around 12 percent in 2012, with anticipated sales revenue in the $16 million range, attributable in part to the new Speedmaster XL 105 perfector.
“With the new press in place, we can be more strategic in our business planning,” said Moore. For example, “We could go up in run length, but what this press really does is to make us more competitive on shorter runs than the next guy.”
One thing the company refuses to do is to capitalize on its newfound efficiency at the expense of its employees.
“We’ve never had a layoff at Modern Litho,” Moore said. “We feel strongly that our operators helped get us to where we are, and we honor their loyalty and their contribution to our success. We’ll trade a little short-term pain for long-term gains in quality and productivity.”
Nor is Modern Litho interested in leveraging its pricing to drive business. “We could do that with the new XL 105,” said Moore, “But we’re more focused on meeting our customers’ demands by increasing the value of the services we provide and shortening the delivery cycle.”
“Head-and-Shoulders” Above the Rest
Like any prudent investor, Modern Litho did its homework before choosing a long perfector from Heidelberg, consulting a number of competing vendors before making a final selection. Ultimately, however, it was Heidelberg’s winning combination of features, functionality and professionalism that proved decisive.
What impressed him as much as anything, Moore said, was “the way Heidelberg personnel in the U.S. and Germany handled themselves. Their obvious competence, expertise and industry knowledge were outstanding.” Installation, he added, was “near perfect. Heidelberg personnel were at the top of their game. We were up and running on our own within five weeks, including on-site training.”
Modern Litho recently marked its Diamond Anniversary in 2012 with an open house to introduce new branding, web site, and, of course, the Speedmaster XL 105 8-color perfector. Heidelberg personnel were among those on hand to celebrate the milestone, as well as Jefferson City Mayor Eric J. Struemph, who declared May 24, 2012 “Modern Litho Day” in honor of the company’s 75 years in business. The commercial printer is a Certified Woman-Owned Business Enterprise offering services ranging from high-performance offset print and distribution for publications and marketing collateral, to production and mailing for variable direct mail and digital print marketing materials, as well as web-to-print. Markets include agriculture, animal and automotive; banking, insurance and finance; education, healthcare and medical; government and law enforcement; and sports and recreation; as well as hobby and collector clubs, and professional and trade associations. It also operates Brown Printing, a digital and small-format sheetfed shop located in downtown Jefferson City.