Vision Graphics Looks Beyond Niches To Grow Into A Complete Communications Provider
Press release from the issuing company
Loveland, Colorado — Don’t talk about niches with Vision Graphics. The company’s plan is to expand beyond its printing business and grow into a full-fledged communications resource by providing its clients and prospects with complete solutions for their marketing campaigns.
In recent months, the company went a long way toward accomplishing that objective. It acquired a mailing house to add marketing distribution services to its agenda. It beefed up its postpress capabilities by installing a new Wohlenberg perfect binder. And it energized its pressroom with the addition of a six-color ROLAND 500 with in-line coating and UV capabilities, along with a new two-color ROLAND 700.
“In recent years everyone talked about finding your niche as the way to be successful in the graphic arts,” says Mark Steputis, Vision Graphics President. “But today corporate print buyers don’t want to do business with a niche player. They want people to say ‘yes’ to whatever they need and then deliver it.”
The impetus behind the trend is that corporate belt tightening over the past few years has left executives with little time and less staff to micro-manage their communications projects. “They don’t want to scroll through their contacts to find the CD guy, the packaging guy, the catalog printer, the mailing specialist,” Steputis contends. “They want to drop off the project’s elements at one location and know that everything is going to get done properly and on time.”
Vision Graphics started as a half size printer, but as soon as it built its 50,000 sq ft facility in Loveland, the company started broadening its horizons. A six-color ROLAND 700, a 41-inch press complete with in-line coating, was installed as the centerpiece of the operation.
“Our business grew quickly, thanks to the productivity of the ROLAND 700. So much so, that we soon discovered we needed a second one,” Steputis recalls.
But instead of acquiring another 700 from MAN Roland, Vision Graphics stepped up to a 56-inch ROLAND 900 — a six-color with coater. “It gave us greater capacity, as well as the ability to go after new markets, like packaging,” says Steputis.
Vision retained one of its original half-size presses — a 28-inch machine — but the system was lacking and speed and short on automation. Ultimately, the company replaced it with the ROLAND 500. It’s designated as a three-quarter-size press because its 29-inch format increases per page yield from four-up to six-up.
“The 500 allowed us to take smaller jobs from the 700 and put the work where it belongs, on a press with lower consumables costs, faster makereadies and a faster run rate,” Steputis says. “The immediate result was a reduction in overtime.”
Capable of producing at the rate of 18,000 sheets per hour, the ROLAND 500 is the world’s fastest sheetfed press. Vision Graphics reports that it often runs the machine at its top speed, and that the 500 typically averages 3,000-4,000 more sheets per hour than its other presses.
“Plus, it’s our operators favorite press to run,” Steputis says. “A lot of our people around here say we should get another 500 instead of a full-size press the next time, and they have a point. There’s not a big gap between the performance of the 500 and a 40-inch press.”
That’s not to say that Vision is dismissing full-size sheetfed presses. Its new two-color ROLAND 700 is rounding off its pressroom capabilities and taking the pressure off the company’s first 41-inch press. The company uses it for two-color catalog work and black on white printing, freeing its six-color 700 perfector for more colorful opportunities.
“The two-color 700 replaced a machine that didn’t have automation,” Steputis says. “it has the same software interface as our other machines so anyone who can run one of our presses can run them all. That makes our operators interchangeable and our scheduling more flexible.”
More importantly, Vision’s full range of press formats advances the company’s goal of being a total provider. “We don’t try to compete with the quick print shops,” says Steputis. “But once you get out of that model, we offer a complement of equipment that lets us do a wide variety of work in the most efficient manner. When a customer or prospect makes a request, we most likely have a way to fulfill it.”
The installation of the 500 brought UV printing to Vision Graphics, adding another page to its full-service menu. That capability led to a new business opportunity almost immediately. The company had been pursuing a prospect that required phone cards produced on a regular basis. Those plastic products call for the use of UV inks.
“We made sure we were comfortable with UV before announcing its availability,” says Steputis. “The day we said we’re ready, the prospect switched to Vision. Two weeks later, we were printing their cards and we haven’t stopped since. We didn’t buy the ROLAND 500 for them, but once we did, they became customers.”
The UV capabilities of the 500 are now being put to work producing maps on a synthetic stock for a national account. The ROLAND 700 and 900 are also employed for that project, producing maps on conventional paper stock.
The ROLAND 900 has been a business builder as well for Vision. Although the 56-inch machine requires a larger platesetter, folder and pallet system, Vision finds that the productivity and versatility of the press makes it all worthwhile.
The jumbo producer is particularly well suited to the higher volume corporate accounts that the company is increasingly attracting. “The ROLAND 900 is a very productive machine for that marketplace,” Steputis declares. “It prints as well as any press I’ve seen, and it delivers the same level of automation that our other MAN Roland presses provide. When a client comes in and wants to print 200,000 of this and 300,000 of that, the ROLAND 900 is the solution. It completes those jobs in half the time it would take on a 40-inch machine.”
According to Steputis, the 900 has turned out to be somewhat of a category killer for Vision. The company routinely prints paperboard packaging on the system to further extend its capabilities for its clients. The ROLAND 900 also equips Vision to take business away from web offset facilities in the region and outbid shops that run long perfectors.
All of Vision’s MAN Roland presses are monitored and controlled by the PECOM operating and automation system. That lets the company network all its main production engines and take advantage of the efficiencies of computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) That strategy is closely tied to Vision’s plan to evolve into a total communications provider.
PECOM JobPilot automatically sets all ink zones from the company’s Creo Prinergy workflow. Dozens of other makeready adjustments, including caliper settings and sheet size, are also automated. As a result, makeready for the next job on a MAN Roland can take place while the press continues printing its current project, maximizing press utilization.
“PECOM speeds up makeready and makes it more consistent,” Steputis says. “It also gives us feedback on such essentials on how our press operators are performing and tracks dozens of production details on every job. We get all the data directly from the machine interface. So our managers can find out how long the run will take, without running out to the pressroom.”
Vision is working to make its PECOM system even more valuable by developing a Graphic User Interface (GUI) that will work as a customized dashboard for its managers and press crews.
“You can’t manage if you don’t know the numbers,” Steputis notes. “PECOM gives us the ability be impartial and not to try to do it from instinct.”
Steputis is impressed with PECOM’s ability to provide data in real time, so any potential on-press problem can be rectified before it results in a costly chronic condition. “Press operators know calling in parts and service is an expensive proposition. But most don’t realize that running 3,000 sheets/hour slower because you’ve ignored the problem is even more costly. PECOM lets us know as soon as the curve starts to turn, so we can apply a solution right away.”
Vision completes its integrated approach to manufacturing with a Hagen OA management information system from EFI. Facility-wide scheduling, job tracking and cost accounting are all automated by the MIS solution.
To tie its customers into its CIM workflow, Vision is implementing Creo’s Synapse InSite, which facilitates secure Internet access to job files and proofs. And in postpress, it has added a 12-pocket perfect binding line from Wohlenberg, which is distributed and serviced by MAN Roland.
“We weren’t hemorrhaging profits by farming out perfect binding, but in many cases, you can’t get the order unless you do everything in house,” Steputis states. “With the Wohlenberg in our bindery, we don’t have problems controlling quality, timing and pricing.”
In October, Vision acquired a $2 million mailing operation, called First Class Direct, for similar reasons. Hot direct mail prospects were ignoring the company’s print production capabilities because they wanted the convenience and reliability of one-stop shopping.
On the other side of the coin, 30-40% of Vision’s print work was being mailed. “We’d drop it off at a mailing house and watch all that revenue slide away,” Steputis says.
With First Class Direct as an integral part of its operation, Vision Graphics will be getting print work from its mailing customers, mailing assignments from its print customers, and printing and mailing work from new prospects.
“When we bought the mailing house, one of our competitors told a local paper, ‘any printer can hire an outside mailing house to do that job,’” observes Steputis. “ But he’s dead wrong. We’ve encountered tons of prospects who will not give the order if you don’t complete all aspects of the project. A corporate production manager doesn’t want to use a printing specialist. He wants someone who can handle it all, so he can hold one vendor responsible for the entire project — printing, finishing and mailing. We have become that resource.”
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