Tourism is big business in Wisconsin, and La Crosse Graphics’ product portfolio reflects this segment’s size and diversity. La Crosse Graphics, a commercial printer established in 1987, has just completed installation of a 16-page Mitsubishi GCX heatset web press with eight printing units and inline signature folding capabilities. As a longtime user of Mitsubishi sheetfed and web presses whose first press was installed in 1991, Tim Morgan, president, said the most recent acquisition was aimed at improving the company’s competitiveness on larger runs and expanding the job mix.
“It was an easy choice to make,” Morgan said. “We took into account the areas of La Crosse Graphics’ business that are growing, total press capacity and jobs that had been out of reach because of run lengths. The GCX enables us to keep bigger jobs in-house and increase our sales.”
La Crosse Graphics is located in La Crosse, Wis., on the state’s southwestern edge between majestic bluffs and the Mississippi River. The picturesque city boasts a well-preserved historic district and three universities. La Crosse Graphics has benefitted from the area’s location and amenities, catering to the thriving tourism industry and academic institutions. The company also prints work for health care providers, manufacturers and ad agencies, among many other end users.
Colorful visitor guides, catalogs, marketing collateral and annual reports are the pillars of the printer’s business. Print communications for clients in higher education run the gamut from recruitment materials to alumni publications. In recent years, La Crosse Graphics has expanded into large-format digital printing of banners, signs and displays.
Employing 85 people, La Crosse Graphics occupies nearly 95,000 square feet of manufacturing space. Mitsubishi presses drive the printer’s sales. The equipment lineup here includes four Mitsubishi sheetfed presses and two Mitsubishi web presses, plus folder/gluers, diecutters, saddle stitchers and perfect binders. The sheetfeds are all 40-inch presses (three six-colors and a two-color) with coaters. A 2008 model brought in-house ultraviolet printing to La Crosse Graphics.
Starting in 2005, customers were given a high-volume printing solution in the form of a six-unit Mitsubishi Diamond 8 commercial half-web press. The Diamond 8 features a 20-inch web width and 23-inch cutoff. It prints at up to 1,500 feet per minute, the equivalent of 47,000 impressions per hour. Mitsubishi typically outfits the Diamond 8 with an automated changeover combination folder and a sheeter. Additionally, La Crosse Graphics chose an inline trimmer.
“The half-web press handles lighter-weight paper than we normally run on our sheetfed presses,” Morgan said. “People are always looking to save money. Customers save money on postage by reducing the paper weight. The standard on the half-web press is 40-pound to 50-pound gloss paper, although we consistently run thinner stock, as well as recycled paper.”
Morgan added that the Diamond 8 and the six-color sheetfed presses back each other up on certain jobs.
“In this day and age, reliable back-up capabilities are essential,” he said. “The Mitsubishi sheetfed presses are rock solid. They get up to color quickly and hold the color well. The web presses are the same way. They are durable, and the quality is phenomenal.”
The GCX is housed in an 18,000-square-foot addition about 100 feet from the main plant. The low-profile machine, designed for the high-end general commercial printing market, has a maximum web width of 38 inches and a 22 3/4-inch cutoff. Its top printing speed is 1,800 feet per minute. It features a pinless former folder, a combination folder and a sheeter. La Crosse Graphics currently is looking at trimming and gluing equipment. The company uses the press to print 8 1/2 x 11-inch or comparable size products in signatures of 16, eight and four pages.
“It is a fast and smooth-running press,” Morgan said. “The manufacturing efficiencies are huge. For example, we can print 300,000 catalogs at a competitive price in less time and with fewer press operators. The press easily accommodates lightweight paper, and there is very little waste with the gapless units and folder.”
Morgan is a great believer in redundancy. While the strengths of the full-web and half-web presses are not exactly interchangeable, Morgan knows he can move long-run projects to either machine if the need arises.
“However, it goes beyond the technology,” Morgan said. “Mitsubishi is a critical part of our team in every way. The Mitsubishi organization has a better can-do attitude than other companies. The service people know us. We always receive immediate, excellent support from them.”