Bradford & Bigelow — Company on a MissionJanuary 2008 By Erik Cagle
Galligan, the president of Newburyport, MA-based Bradford & Bigelow (B&B), knows what it takes to be successful as a book printer, and that entails keeping it simple. This $25 million printer, nestled about 30 miles north of Boston, specializes in one- and two-color 81⁄2x11˝ book production for the highly competitive elementary, high school (el-hi) and college textbook market. No four-color casebound, coffee table, 6x9˝ or 7x9˝ products.
If ever a company embodied the definition of “niche,” it would be Bradford & Bigelow.
“Several of the plants we compete against have multiple product lines. That’s a more complex business model to manage and it makes their capital investment more expensive,” Galligan says. “We keep investing in the 81⁄2x11˝ format to make our operation more efficient.
“We want standardization, scale and backup. With our focus, we can minimize makeready times on our print and bind platform and provide clients a better value package.”
The 110 employees of Bradford & Bigelow must be enjoying that focus after a truly transformational year. “Our objective,” says Galligan, “was to create an environmentally friendly, world-class supply chain solution for our customers.”
During 2007, the company moved from its previous home in Danvers, MA, to a new 100,000-square-foot facility in Newburyport; designed and installed a high-speed, fully integrated Digital Book Factory; expanded its conventional print and binding platform; and became the first book printer in North America to implement UV inks and drying technology on its Timsons web presses, eliminating all VOC emissions. All the while, Bradford & Bigelow stayed open for business.
Galligan expected the worst. But there were still unpleasant surprises.
“Relocation and transformation is a process you only want to go through once,” he admits. “Until you have done it, you do not realize how difficult, time-consuming, expensive and complex it is.”
Bradford & Bigelow’s suffering was not in vain. A key component of its supply chain solution is a highly automated Digital Book Factory, which sees a roll of paper input at one end of the digital line and bound books flowing off the other end. This application allows B&B to produce shorter runs efficiently for educational customers and, as Galligan notes, obsolescence ranges around 30 percent for textbooks.
Speed and convenience factor into the Digital Book Factory’s equation. Gone is the tedious process of transferring files from conventional to digital printers. And with runs theoretically as low as a single copy, customers can order tighter quantities and reduce obsolescence with the knowledge that back orders will be filled quickly at attractive unit costs with the Digital Book Factory backing up the printer’s conventional printing platform.