Posts Tagged ‘Sheet-fed offset’

If You Ask, Paper Info. Comes, & Comes, & Comes . . .

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

When I first began selling sheet-fed printing in the early 1980’s, my company Progressive Printing, printed an announcement flier for me. Before then I didn’t have much experience with paper other than commodity sheets used on web-offset presses. Think of magazines, catalogs, and newspapers. In the sheet-fed business a whole new world of paper opened up. I was so ignorant of paper that I didn’t understand that the paper my announcement was printed on was an expensive sheet. I didn’t know it until the office manager looked at it and said, “Wow, they must really like you because this is Cranes Crest.”

“Huh,” I said, “What is Cranes Crest?”

It turns out that Cranes Crest is made from 100% cotton fibers and is most often used on upper end letterheads and such.

Nothing more was said about my flier paper, but I realized that I had a whole lot to learn. Luckily for me a paper specifier from Zellerbach Paper Company conducted a mini-seminar in our offices. He covered paper fundamentals. His name was Mark Lander and even though he is no longer in the business I can still recall almost word-for-word some of what he taught us that day. Some of the lessons I’ve adapted and use as 60 second sermons when a customer needs to understand one aspect of paper or another.

I learned about paper because I felt I had to learn to do my job. Most people, including graphic designers find paper stocks they like and pretty much stick with them. There is nothing wrong with that approach. After all we can only hold so much information in our heads at one time. Because I took mastering of paper seriously, I found that my customers trusted my opinions and sought my advice.

If you are one who would like to know more about paper and don’t know where to go to get educated, let me give you some ideas.

  • Check the yellow pages, or call a printer to find out who your local  local paper merchant’s are.
  • Ask the paper merchant if they hold educational classes and attend if you can.
  • Be sure to get swatch books and begin building a library of paper options. If you are a frequent user of printing papers they may be willing to furnish you with a whole paper cabinet, at no charge. Ask.
  • Find out how they treat new paper introductions. Do they hold paper parties or bring mill reps around to the various buyers. Ask if you can get on the invitation list.
  • Research paper on the Internet, some specialty papers may not be carried by your local sources.
  • Many of the paper mills have websites that allow you to sign on to their news-feeds. Sign up, this will keep you ahead of the pack.

One service provided by most paper merchants that I’ve found to be particularly helpful is their willingness to create paper dummies. If you have a project with multiple pages there may be weight issues to consider. Your choice of paper could cost or save you a ton of money in postage expense. I’ve often had dummies made and taken them to the business services department of the post office to have it weighed so we would know for sure if we would pay a higher or lesser price. Often postage on a direct mail campaign will cost more than the printing and design of the pieces.

In a future blog I’ll get into paper weights and finishes, so hold on more is coming.

Is Witholding Information the Same as a Lie?

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

I am, and have been, a self-employed print broker for twenty years. I began doing this because I believed then, and still do, that customers need to know what their options are. It all started for me when I was working as a sales representative for a small sheet-fed company. I was very good at my job and when my company announced that they were buying the best new press on the market I took that as a signal to get customers lined up to try it. The biggest advantage the press had was it was the first in our area to come equipped with a CPU (Computer Processing Unit). Until then all ink setting, plate adjusting, and other corrections were done by hand, by the lead press operator or one of the assistants. This really was the dawning of a new age in printing. If the press could get dialed in sooner, more jobs could be printed in less time. Wow.

Did it work? It sure did, and today some 30 years later, you would be hard pressed to find a multi-unit press without a CPU. Was that the only advantage of the new press? Well, no. The press had perfecting capability. Perfecting, by-the-way doesn’t mean that everything coming off the press was perfect, it is a term used in the industry that refers to the ability of the press to turn the sheet over and print on both sides in one pass through the press. Most sheet-fed offset printing still prints one side at a time.

Perfecting was not new technology, it had been around, but it was new to us and it was new to most of the customers. It has taken me awhile, but now I’m getting to the point of this story. I was asked to bid on a job for a political candidate that would print 2/2 (two colors, both sides). Almost a perfect fit for us. I say almost because the quantity was large enough that it should have printed on a web-offset press instead. I knew that we would get the order because the other two printers bidding on it didn’t have perfecting capability, and weren’t web presses.  I was feeling guilty because I knew a better way to do the job that would cut costs by half, so I went to management and asked what I should do.

I was asked, “What is your job here?”

I said, “To sell printing for this company.”

“Which company?’

“This company.”

“Right, so why do you want to send the job to someone else? Forget about your qualms, go get the job, and bring it in.”

What choice did I have? None, so I did as I was told and felt uncomfortable ever since. We got the job, we printed it, delivered it on time, and it was a nice piece. The customer was none the wiser, so all’s well that end’s well, right? Not really–not when it sticks in your craw.

At that time I started to look toward becoming a print broker. I never again wanted to be stuck in the position of  withholding information that could make someones printing job easier, better, or less costly. I always try to provide the best of my experience and knowledge with every job I handle. Does that mean I’m always the low bidder? No, I will always be competitive, but in addition to finding good prices I manage the job for better results. Now I can hold my head high, because I know that I did my best for the customer whether they know it or not. Here’s a shout out to all my customers. I appreciate your loyalty more than you know. Thank you.

Perspective Alters Perception

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

In my career I’ve had the good fortune of playing more than one side of the fence. I’ve operated a press. I’ve purchased printing as a customer when working at an advertising agency, and I’ve sold printing for heat-set web, and sheet-fed shops. Each change at the time came with its own drama, I was fired, laid-off, or resigned. The emotions were intense, but given enough time the emotions disappear. All is forgiven.

Here is an odd phenomena to contemplate, when you look forward at the beginning of your career you see the zig-zag steps you’ve taken as being out of control. When you look back, however, the career bumps and changes  form a straight line. You are today the result of those learning experiences. Perspective alters perception. It’s a little like the nature of time. When you are young, time wears on forever. As you get older time speeds up.

Where am I going with all this philosophizing? Good question. I wasn’t sure myself until I got into to it. The printing communication arena is changing faster than we are ready for it to change. Technology is coming that will blow our minds. There are two ways we can deal with it. We can grip tight and cling to outmoded business models, or we can throw caution to the wind, and go for it. You know, the only thing to fear is…(fill in the blanks)________     _________. We do not need to fear technology, we just need to figure how to turn it to our advantage.

I found this online article that explains my point. Even though it was written in 2006, and the examples cited are old hat, the thinking behind the marketing innovations is what is important.

Performance: Technological advances must be part of strategic planning Published October 12, 2006

Business owners often ask about technology’s strategic role in a business. Most companies would say that technology is not core to their business, but would say technology is “strategic” to their business. In Jim Collins’ seminal book, “Good to Great,” he addresses the role of technology in great companies by saying great companies adopt technology differently. “In great companies, technology is an accelerator, not a creator, of momentum.”

Technology is an enabler for business, so much so that it can be at the core of disruptive business models that emerge when technology is innovatively applied. Here are some examples.

Technologies can impact business models

Consider the movie rental business. Remember your independent video rental stores in the 80s?  They’re gone because Blockbuster took over with well-lit, well-stocked video stores blanketing every community. They are now being challenged by Netflix, which uses an online business model executed with technology and complex logistics. Netflix, for a flat monthly fee, allows you to have three rentals outstanding with no late fees, a much larger inventory than a local store and next day turnaround via mail.

Sensing a threat, which was both disruptive and technology-centered, Blockbuster responded with Blockbuster Online, which combines the NetFlix model, and four free local rentals per month at retail stores – something that is important if you are looking for the latest movie or want a spur-of-the-moment rental. Blockbuster’s strategy of tying the program back to local store visits can’t be matched by Netflix, assuming Blockbuster can execute the online program.

Think about digital photography’s impact on Kodak’s film business, the neighborhood film processor and Walgreens. Digital photograph technology has been causing massive disruption for more than a decade. With digital photography, you no longer create bad prints, you don’t buy film and it’s easy to share pictures with friends and family by posting them online. You can print at home or purchase prints online.

Kodak participates in this new model by creating and distributing EasyShare, an online picture portal that’s almost as inexpensive as printing at home. There’s no charge for using the software – they make money printing pictures on their paper.

And what about Walgreens (a “Good to Great” company, by the way)? How do they compete in digital photography? Walgreens created a software system similar to Kodak’s. And like Blockbuster, Walgreens leverages the value and same-day convenience of the local store. You don’t wait for the mail, you can pick up your high-quality prints (on Kodak paper) in one hour.

Phil Mydlach is the owner of Mydlach Management Advisors (mydlachmanage, a corporate planning and performance improvement practice in Waukesha. He can be reached at (262) 662-4646 or

© Copyright 2009 BizTimes Media LLC

When you look at it with the right perspective you understand that the job of technology is to change things. Some ways of doing things will disappear and just as surely as I’m sitting at this keyboard some industry will go to Washington with its hand out begging to be saved. When they should have, and I’m talking now about GM (General Motors), led the technolgical wave. They had the electric car years ago and instead of running with the technology they crushed it.  To see the video go to It’s an eye opener.

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