Thoughts on Going Digital

By | December 9, 2008

WhatTheyThink ran an interview series last week with executives from three successful printing companies: John Edwards, President/CEO of Edwards Brothers, Robert Keane, President/CEO of VistaPrint, and Mike Graff, President of Sandy Alexander. All have implemented a variety of digital systems and processes into their company offerings. Here is what they had to say.

John Edwards, President & CEO of Edwards Brothers on his companies digital business:

We’ve been in the digital business for over 10 years — it was a natural extension of what we were already doing for publishers. We could see that print runs were getting lower and lower and digital equipment allowed us to meet changing customer demands. We currently run eight digital printing operations, one at each of our plants in Michigan and North Carolina, as well as six digital remote sites throughout the U.S and the UK that are in publishers’ warehouses. These relationships are unique because they compress the supply chain where we are producing virtual or nearly virtual products, allowing our customers to minimize inventory exposure and risk yet meet their customer demand almost immediately. This complements our offset offerings and our other plants as well. In 2008 we produced over 100,000 digital orders and it’s growing all the time.

Mike Graff, President of Sandy Alexander on how Sandy’s eSA Solutions business is helping clients produce targeted multichannel marketing campaigns:

eSA Solutions is an area of tremendous growth for us. Its volume has tripled since we acquired it less than two years ago and it is still growing, in spite of the economic downturn. Instead of printing millions of impressions on the web, our clients are now printing targeted digital and purchasing a whole range of associated campaign products like PURLs.

We have not lost any clients in this economy because we offer our clients total solutions. Sandy clients who once printed sheetfed or web are still Sandy clients: they are now printing digitally or availing themselves of other digital technologies to achieve their marketing objectives.

Robert Keane, President/CEO of VistaPrint on the use of offset and digital printing to meet client needs:

Our view on digital has not changed over the past decade, but we recognize that our view point is very atypical. The theoretical advantage of digital is radical reductions in set up times, which in turn lowers the costs of short run printing. But for most short run lengths, VistaPrint has already achieved these reductions using offset presses and our aggregation technology, but with much lower consumable costs. So we only use digital for ultra-short runs: units of one, ten, 50 or sometimes 100.

Xerox, Kodak, Xeikon, HP and others all make good quality, productive digital presses, and all are highly competitive with one another. We have presses from each one of those suppliers: we chose one versus the other based on negotiations with suppliers, and sometimes on the specific needs for a given production line.

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One thought on “Thoughts on Going Digital

  1. Bob Raus

    I am intrigued by the comments from each of these executives. It confirms there is more than one way to succeed in today’s competitive printing marketplace. It’s clear that workflow optimization is the key to 1) efficiency, 2) adaptability to job/client requirements and 3) overall output flexibility. The Internet, high-speed networks (FTP, file storage, revision control systems, reprint), variable data composition systems, RIP farms, and automated order processing are clearly paramount to success here.

    In other words – success is less about the specific print engine than ever before.

    Clearly, each company here has developed specific workflow capabilities via customized programming – and as expected, these result in unique capabilities and competitive advantages. Vista in particular appears to be bucking the (digital output default) trend for short run production and driving super-efficiency by combining and outputting jobs to CTP and THEN to offset.

    All three of these companies – and many more out there – are successful, growing and prove that the market is still there. We need more examples of success and innovation like these in the press to counter-balance the constant doom and gloom we get from the media.

    My advice: Turn off the radio, TV and stop reading the newspaper. Then, lets get down to innovating our way out of this economic mess like these leaders have done.

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