A member of the Chicago Tribune Media Group, Tribune Direct is headquartered in Northlake, IL, and comprises five facilities strategically located in major markets (Chicago, Los Angeles, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, and Allentown, PA). Clients also rely on Tribune Direct for consistent creative, relevant messaging, and coordinated delivery of multi-channel direct-marketing campaigns.
Given the nature of the business model and clientele, one can imagine the enormous volume of print (in addition to electronic communications) Tribune Direct produces—seven million pieces of direct mail every day, to be precise.
“Our print lengths are getting smaller, but the frequency for many customers has increased. And they’re producing even more highly targeted advertising. Our cut-sheet business has been up almost 100% over the prior year,” says Tim Street, Director of Operations, Tribune Direct.
The company produces a diverse product mix. Clients’ jobs include everything from one-to-one direct mail packages to simple postcards and shared mail inserts.
“We don’t have any litho presses,” says Street, “but we have made a tremendous investment in digital color. We have two Kodak NexPress digital color printers, and in our other operations, we have Xerox DocuColor 5000 digital color presses—cut-sheet printers.”
With color so in demand by Tribune Direct customers, it became prudent to invest in a color version of a continuous-feed printer, Street explains. In May of this year, the company installed its first Kodak Prosper 5000XL at its Illinois headquarters.
To complement the new press—and to help Tribune Direct keep pace with customers’ turnaround expectations—the direct marketing firm also invested in some Standard Hunkeler pre-/post- and Standard Horizon near-line finishing equipment.
Speeding up the process
The Kodak Prosper is helped along with a next generation Standard Hunkeler UW7 Unwind module, and the RW7 Rewinder, which is capable of attaining speeds of up to 220 meters per minute.
A second near-line Standard Hunkeler UW7 Unwinder feeds media to a TECNAU Dynamic Perforator before moving swiftly along to a Standard Hunkeler CS7, a rotary cross cutter with register-control software. Setup is simple via the control panel, and dynamic changes in cut length are driven via barcode. The CS7’s integrated diverter separates waste from production output.
A Standard Horizon AFC-744AKT Folder, placed inline after the Hunkeler, helps Tribune Direct meet ambitious turnaround times. Controlled by a simple user interface and touchscreen, operators may choose from 14 pre-set folds, or up to 100 custom folds that may be stored in its memory. The folder was designed to be an unflappable workhorse for even the most challenging production environments, attaining speeds of up to 36,000 sheets per hour.
The wide width of the Prosper press, combined with the flexible and reliable finishing complements, allows Tribune Direct to create new print products as well as manage its diverse range of direct mail print products.
“We can do it all,” says Ray Hoshell, Production Manager, Tribune Direct. “We’re running 18" rolls, 25.5" rolls, 23" rolls. Our product configurations change all the time. With these new investments, we’re able to do 32-page booklets. We can print four-up postcards, and postcards represent about 70% of the direct mail pieces we’re producing today.”
“One of our plans with the finishing technologies is to create our own version of a coupon card or gift card,” Street adds. “A lot of those cards are now printed with big, inline inkjet printers that are doing millions of them. With our Prosper press and our rugged Hunkeler and Horizon finishing solutions, we’ll be able to create cards and grow that business.”