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Bramkamp Printing : Building a Graphic Village

April 2010 By Julie Greenbaum
Associate Editor
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SINCE its outset in 1921, Bramkamp Printing has established itself as a leading, full-service printer serving the Greater Cincinnati area. Upon taking over the helm of Bramkamp, both Larry Kuhlman, president, and Kevin Murray, vice president and CFO, have made it their mission to continually invest in the shop's long-term growth and expansion of value-added services.

Outgrowing its downtown Cincinnati location in 2001, the company relocated to a 20,000-square-foot building, allowing it to add a six-color, 29˝ Heidelberg Speedmaster 74 perfector with coater and expand its prepress and digital printing capabilities.

In 2007, the company moved to its current location in Blue Ash, OH, where it now occupies 60,000 square feet of manufacturing space. 100,000 additional square feet of space is available in the building to provide Kuhlman and Bramkamp with the means to turn the vision of a network of graphic arts companies—housed together under one roof—into a reality.

Last July, Bramkamp established partnerships with several companies to form the Graphic Village. Those businesses include: DocuPros Digital Printing, Premier Mail and Fulfillment, Everything's Image (silkscreening and embroidery) and Quality Custom Binders (vinyl binders and related products). Each company operates independently, but can work in tandem to offer customers a wider range of products and integrated marketing services.

Well Rounded Portfolio

Some of the combined marketing and print solutions include: graphic design; electronic prepress; commercial offset; wide-format and digital printing (including personalization); a complete bindery; mailing, kitting and fulfillment; specialty finishing; custom presentation products; silkscreened and embroidered apparel; and promotional products. Verticals served include construction, banking, insurance, hospital, education, non-profit and consumer goods markets.

The Graphic Village concept has generated a greater interest among Bramkamp's clients and has also increased traffic and crossover business from the collective customer bases of its members.

"Our facility has more than 100,000 square feet available that can be filled with other graphic partners who share the common goal of providing a graphic arts network in one location," notes Kuhlman. "Clients like the seamless coordination that the Graphic Village offers for all of their graphic marketing materials, and have even compared it to a food court in the mall."

In the past year, Bramkamp has made investments throughout its operation, including a Xerox DocuColor 5000 digital press, an upgrade to its Agfa ApogeeX workflow platform and a new Agfa Accento thermal platesetter. The printer also installed Heidelberg's Prepress Interface for better color control and faster makereadies on its Speedmaster 74.

On the digital end, the company operates the DocuColor 5000, a DocuColor 240, a DocuColor 12, a DocuTech 6100 with interposer, DocuTech 6180, DocuPrint 115MX, as well as an HP 2000CP and two HP 3000CP wide-format printers.

Finishing gear consists of various Polar cutters and Stahl folders, a Baum folder, a six-pocket Muller Martini stitcher with cover feeder, and a range of Kluge diecutters and hot stamping presses. Its mailing operation houses a six-station Bell & Howell inserter and a Kodak Versamark ink-jet system.

"The expansion into digital printing and mailing sparked 15 percent growth from 2008 to 2009," explains Kuhlman. "Currently, we are experiencing growth through cross-media campaigns that incorporate variable data, personalized URLs and e-mail followup. We have been a two-shift operation for many years."

The company also produces a wide range of printed products, including sell sheets, brochures, newsletters, annual reports, window decals, static cling and storefront signage, billboard wraps, vinyl banners and outdoor signage.

Last year, Bramkamp posted close to $7 million in sales. With a staff of 44 employees, it boasts more than 200 customers both locally and nationally. Jobs can be submitted by e-mail or through Bramkamp's Web-to-print system.

Some of the biggest challenges Kuhlman and Murray feel the industry faces today are the Internet's impact on print media and an overabundance of equipment in the hands of printers that compromise their margins below profitable returns. "Printers are ignoring the variable expenses and complexity of a project and putting customer expectations aside when pricing work," stresses Murray.

"We should all be convincing clients that we're true partners who can help grow their businesses, versus just vendors furnishing them with an inanimate product."

Great Expectations

Due to the economy, Bramkamp has seen some of its larger customers cut back their marketing spend. "But, we've been able to show them an increased ROI with what limited marketing dollars that remain," Kuhlman explains. "While price wars in our industry are common, we have chosen not to participate because we're not willing to compromise our service and quality levels."

In January, Bramkamp was awarded the 2010 Maxwell Award, which is given annually to a graphic arts organization that has distinguished itself in the manner of Cincinnati's first printer, William Maxwell. The organization should be forward thinking, a market leader and recognizable for its contributions to the industry.

Last year, Bramkamp was also named a small business of the year finalist by the Cincinnati Regional Chamber of Commerce and named a Blue Ribbon Small Business by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (one of only 50 small businesses nationally).

Moving forward, the company plans to grow organically with its existing clientele. "Despite the waning economy, we hope this year will bring a return to double-digit growth and increased profits," concludes Kuhlman. "We firmly believe that we can be a $10 million operation, as well as a profit leader in our industry." PI



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