By Barbara Pellow April 26, 2004 -- Global Group Inc. is a 100% employee-owned, visual communications company based in Fort Worth, Texas, providing multi-color printing from both sheet-fed and digital presses. Its sheet-fed printing department offers a variety of press sizes and capabilities, from single to multi-color, with aqueous coating and perfecting. Sheet sizes and stock capabilities vary from 8.5" x 11" to the larger 28" x 40" format. Digital production includes a NexPress 2100, two DigiMaster 9110s and a DigiMaster 9150. A critical success factor and profitability driver for Global Group has been its workflow. The company was started in 1971 by the current President and CEO, Jim Wolf. Today, they generate more than $20 million in revenue and position the firm as a business partner that has the ability to work with customers "From Concept to Fulfillment." This past week, I had the opportunity to talk with Jane Miranda, Vice President of Publications and Digital Operations to understand how digital printing technology is transforming Global Group's business. The background Global Group Inc. has its roots in technical publishing and focused initially on aviation companies in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, with a primary application emphasis on black and white offset printed technical documentation to support aerospace manufacturers. In 1980, the company began branching out into more traditional commercial print work, beginning to migrate from black and white to more color. According to Jane Miranda, "To stay in the printing business, you have to expand. We added high quality color for the production of marketing materials to our product portfolio." The company is also ISO 9001 certified. The Global Group also recognized that short run printing was a requirement for its customer base. Fifteen years ago, Global Group established a "quick copy" capability for its account base to meet a customer need for work requiring rapid turnaround and a limited number of prints. In 2000, Global Group Inc. made its initial investment in production digital black and white technology with the purchase of a DigiMaster 9110. Since then, the company has added another 9110 and 9150 as well as a NexPress 2100. the investment in digital has had a positive impact on all facets of the company's business. This digital investment provides Global Group with the capability to produce a range of applications, from short run technical documentation to sales collateral and support materials on demand. The customer base at Global Group includes Fortune 500 aerospace manufacturers, high tech manufacturers, retailers, and telecommunications firms. According to Miranda, the investment in digital has had a positive impact on all facets of the company's business. She said, "Our large traditional press operations were positively impacted by our digital investment. Our customers come in with sales support material or technical documentation that they need in a hurry…just enough to get them going. We use our production digital equipment to meet these needs. They also have a requirement for longer runs to satisfy future documentation demands. Once we have the digital file, we can redirect the output to a traditional press. The technologies are complimentary." A critical success factor and profitability driver for Global Group has been its workflow. According to Miranda, "We developed a custom workflow where our customers can place an order over the Internet and it can go directly to press with no manual intervention. We try to do this with as much of our work as possible. Limiting the labor required is critical to digital profitability." Global Group decided to pursue a custom-development path for its workflow, according to Miranda, "because all our clients are different, and we needed to integrate into their environments. Our objective is to make it as easy as possible for our customers to interface with us." Service, Service and More Service Global Group Inc. positions the company as a service provider from "concept through fulfillment." According to Miranda, "Our customers are looking for one-stop shopping and we want to deliver on that promise." One of its primary service offerings is data management. Global Group Inc. offers a cross platform system and Internet based solution designed to organize, track, retrieve and store all digital files from client specific databases for print and multimedia. The system incorporates search tools so that clients can view thumbnails or a tabular text report of their catalogued information. Global Group also has the ability to catalog, store, and retrieve digital information such as logos, photographs, illustrations, digital sounds, movie clips, Web and text files. Customers can reuse, modify, update, or share all media assets for whatever project they are working on. With Global Group's strong background in technical publications, the company supports its client base with more than 40 technical writing professionals, assisting clients in writing, editing, proofing, illustration and layout for everything from simple one-page handouts to multi-chapter manuals. Its full service finishing operations include die cutting; foil stamping; numbering; perforating; scoring; folding; padding; spiral, plastic comb, perfect or saddle-stitch binding; shrink wrapping; collating; drilling; poly-bagging; and automated gluing. Miranda states, "A key area of growth…especially with our digital print operation…has been variable data, mailing and fulfillment. Our customer demand for variable data is growing daily." Initially, the Digimasters were used for mail merge applications. The NexPress 2100's application set emphasizes materials using full color data driven graphics. With Global Group's ability to print variable data, a logical result has been the need to expand mailing and fulfillment operations. Business Results…The Future According to Miranda, the future at Global Group Inc. looks bright. The traditional offset business is holding its own; services are expanding and the digital printing business was up 50% year over year. The next major initiative is migrating personalized, customized applications to the Internet for remote sales personnel, agents, dealers and distributors. Miranda is in the midst of testing systems to offer this capability to one of Global Group's major retail clients. Miranda's perspective on the business is that more and more of Global Group's clients will be requiring personalization and customization and the company is preparing for the future. Lessons Learned Miranda has a tremendous perspective on the market and a great deal can be learned from her business approach. Global Group Inc. is committed to delivering value to its customers. The company works day in and day out to show its customers how proper application of traditional and new media technology can increase the customer's ROI. Listening to the customer and translating technology into a relevant solution to business problems is essential for effective delivery of technical documentation and sales and marketing communications. In the majority of applications that Global Group Inc. delivered to its client base, customers understood that they had a problem, and together with Global Group Inc., they built the solution. Ease of use and streamlining workflow is essential to profitability with digital technology. Jane's perspective of a work process that incorporates "hands free" manufacturing has been a key market differentiator for Global Group. Miranda commented, "The ability to provide Web based transaction and tracking systems that link from the customer's office to your production floor is an essential ingredient to any digital print operation." Managing the customer's digital assets is a key to success. The investment in systems that let clients catalog, store, retrieve and collaborate using digital assets has been extremely important in attracting new customers and retaining current customers. Finally, Jane convinced me that personalization is real. Over and over again, people say that the market isn't ready. Jane is seeing customer demand increasing daily for everything from mail merge applications to complex variable data solutions. It takes a good sales approach, an ability to demonstrate value and an easy to implement process. Her recommendation to other print service providers is, "You really need to envision your organization as a partner with your customer. You need to have a clear understanding of their requirements and what is driving their profitability. To the extent that you can provide solutions that help them meet their business objectives, the partnership will blossom and your business will grow."