A reputation for tight registration and exceptional color quality have enabled the Jefferson City News Tribune to build and stabilize a commercial printing revenue stream even in the face of a down economy. Attraction of commercial work began 5 years ago when the paper made a major investment in plant and equipment.
Today there are no major capital investments in sight, but that has not deterred the company from bringing its printing performance up to a new level by focusing on good maintenance practices and using certified manroland printcom consumables that improve performance while reducing operational cost.
In 2009, two and a half years after the Jefferson City News Tribune installed a manroland UNISET 75 press, its base of commercial work had tripled. That growth was accomplished by word of mouth advertising without the benefit of a commercial sales person. The press, which included 4 reel stands, 32 couples and a 2:3:3 manroland folder was part of a new $14 million production facility.
The News Tribune has been able to protect this aggressive investment by maintaining existing commercial customers and bringing in new ones. In October of 2011, the company, still without a commercial sales person, handled 230 commercial jobs in addition to the newspapers it prints.
While the UNISET press has allowed the News Tribune to achieve new levels of quality, productivity and commercial competitiveness, it has also raised customers’ expectations to levels that are harder to live up to consistently. According to Production Manager Mark Wiethaupt, this became painfully evident when some of the consumables he used couldn‘t perform at a level suitable for commercial printing. He cited blankets as an example.
“These are difficult times, and we had gotten in the habit of purchasing blankets and other consumables based on their unit costs. Using some subpar consumables had a ripple effect, not only in terms of the cost of the product itself, but also added labor as well as eroding customer confidence,” Wiethaupt said.
“In the case of blankets, there were a number of times when the blankets failed before we expected and we were not able to hold registration while a customer was waiting to press-check his production. I would have to tell him that there would be a two to three hour wait while we changed the blankets. That was very embarrassing and totally unacceptable.”
A few experiences like this one led Wiethaupt to work with manroland to review their pressroom consumables and, where it made sense, purchase printcom products. In the case of blankets, News Tribune wound up paying a slightly higher unit cost for blankets that performed better and longer.
“I was getting between 20 and 24 million impressions with the original blankets. Today I get up to 40 million impressions using printcom blankets. I was buying blankets as needed and my yearly costs were almost double what I spend now. manroland set me up on a quarterly plan where they automatically delivered the blankets I would need at a fixed price every quarter. Excuse the pun, but their blankets have become a huge comfort factor for us.”
“Our General Manager, Mike Vivion, has expressed a great deal of trust in manroland and he has given me the leeway to investigate other consumables and do whatever I think best to substitute certified performance products into our processes. Although the results have not always been as dramatic as with blankets, we have been able to achieve significant improvements with manroland’s certified machine lubricant and washes. All of these substitutions have given us better performance within the framework of our existing annual budget.”
Word of the News Tribune’s high performing commercial business continues to spread to customers in more than a half dozen surrounding states where it would have been easier to to choose a more local commercial printer. These customers are doing everything from inserts to magazines to prayer books. Some of this work means dealing with runs as short as 450 copies. However the press can be changed over quickly and commercial waste is under 3 percent (and about 1.5 percent for the newspapers) so pricing remains competitive
Today there are no embarrassing waits for press-checks. Wiethaupt said he recently did a 56 page full-color homecoming section for the University of Missouri. “The press-check took 20 minutes. The customer was impressed and said the product looked great. And that means a lot.”