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Buchanan Visual Communications--Getting Better All the Time

March 1998
Judging by the success of Buchanan Visual Communications, one would hardly guess that when Dave and Lyn Johnson purchased the company in 1980, they knew little about commercial printing.

At the end of that first year, Buchanan's sales totaled $348,000. After 17 years under the Johnsons' ownership, the company reports an estimated $14 million for 1997. And as a recent move into a larger facility indicates, business seems to be getting better all the time.

The Johnsons attribute their success to the relationships they've formed with each of their customers. From day one, they have tried to provide quality supported by personalized service.

Before purchasing Buchanan, Lyn was a computer analyst and Dave had worked for 15 years at an oil company. Despite their lack of graphic arts experience, the husband-and-wife team threw themselves into the business. Dave began delivering the jobs himself and courted additional business by getting to know his customers.

"We built relationships and acquired more business because we were willing to provide personalized service," he recounts. "In the initial 18 months, most of our growth came from current customers."

By 1985, Buchanan had grown so much that the Johnsons relocated the operation to a 22,000-square-foot facility in Farmers Branch, TX.

Dave notes, "We expected that building to accommodate the company for as long as we were involved with it—20 to 25 years easily."

However, within the span of just 10 years, Buchanan had outgrown that space as well. So in early February, it took up residence in a 75,000-square-foot facility, also in Farmers Branch.

"Most companies move into existing buildings, where the physical structure can pose workflow problems," explains Dave. "That costs everyone money. But if you design it right and take out the variables that can mean additional costs, you can improve efficiency and the cycle time."

With this in mind, the new facility has been streamlined so that a job literally comes in the front door and travels in a workflow path to the back door. From the prepress room to the bindery, each department is strategically placed. Dave boasts, "The [distance from the] customer lounge to the pressroom is less than 50 paces."

A One-stop Shop
Over the years, Buchanan has expanded its capabilities along with its quarters. As a result, it offers more prepress services, full-color scanning and retouching, a complete digital workflow, and more postpress services than ever before, including storage and fulfillment.

The size and scope of the company today would stagger the late "Tiny" Buchanan, who founded it in 1958. Buchanan, employing 100 people, is now a full-service commercial printer specializing in four-, five- and six-color sheetfed work, including brochures, catalogs and direct mail.

The latest move has brought about even more improvements, including the installation of new printing equipment: a Heidelberg Quickmaster DI digital press; a six-color, 20x29˝ Heidelberg Speedmaster 74 perfector with coater; and two six-color Heidelberg Speedmaster CD presses with coaters. In addition, a six-color Heidelberg Harris M-110B web press with in-line finishing will be installed by the end of March.

Improved Print Quality
Still another improvement is the installation of AirDale, a moisture control system, on three of these new sheetfed presses. After arranging a trial period with Dallas-based Printing Research last May, the Johnsons were so impressed that after trading in Buchanan's old presses for the new Heidelbergs, there was no question about whether to install AirDale systems.

While Heidelberg is Buchanan's manufacturer of choice for sheetfed presses, the Johnsons found that AirDale improved the quality of their printing. This compact moisture control system gives printers the ability to print to color with a thinner film of ink, promising up to 15-percent better ink mileage.

Dave puts it plainly: "AirDale greatly enhances our productivity. It improves efficiencies for make-ready time, improves our overall performance and it improves the product we provide."

That's always been the bottom line for the Johnsons: providing a cost-efficient, high-quality product for the customer. Personalized service, efficient workflows and a cleaner print job, thanks to AirDale, tie in with this customer-oriented philosophy.

"We provide solutions that meet our customers' requirements. We're not just trying to sell a print job," Dave asserts.

A philosophy of continuous improvement is at the heart of Dave and Lyn's enterprise. "When someone sees a better way of doing something, that individual is encouraged to come forth with ideas," Dave says. (Indeed, that's how the Johnsons heard about AirDale—from one of their associates.)

Incentives for such creativity include recognition in the company newsletter, employee-of-the-month and employee-of-the-year awards and tuition reimbursement.

"[Our employees] buy into the philosophy of taking care of the customer first," he says.

With a past characterized by leaps and bounds of progress, what do the Johnsons see in their firm's future? Right now, Buchanan is seeking ISO-9002 certification. The company expects to achieve the distinction by the first quarter of 1999.

Dave also believes that Buchanan will double its size in the next four years. He only hopes that the new facility will see Buchanan well through the even better years ahead.

—Katherine Malone


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