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Craftline Printing — The Finishing Touches

June 2008 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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THERE ARE two types of equipment dealers in the printing industry. One has products, the other has solutions. The former has something to sell, the latter wants to find out about your needs and address them. Needless to say, the latter almost always wins the day, the order and future business.

Craftline Printing, a commercial printer and direct mailer based in Fort Wayne, IN, knows a little something about partnerships, both with companies that supply it with equipment and customers who rely on the printer to deliver their marketing messages.

Craftline has three divisions: commercial, book and C-Point Marketing. The commercial branch produces printing and mailings for local, regional and national clients. On the book end, Craftline is one of the largest producers of coloring books in North America; it prints and binds the books (saddlestitched and perfect-bound), and even produces the display packaging that are then shipped fully stocked.

C-Point Marketing is the technology arm of the Craftline triad, providing solutions such as digital variable data printing (VDP), data management, e-procurement, and mailing and fulfillment services, among others. The printer has some customers in the service provider sector, as well as a few retail clients, but its bread and butter lies with healthcare providers.

It should come as no surprise that variable data printing, along with its ancillaries, represents some of the best growth potential for the Craftline organization. It is what prompted the company to go full color and add two Kodak Nexpress digital production presses, a 2500 and an S3000. According to Larry Lengacher, vice president and general manager of Craftline Printing, the company was taken by Kodak’s entire platform, including the InSite asset library and e-procurement storefront.

“Kodak became highly interested after they had the opportunity to see what we were doing here,” Lengacher says. “It added one more component to its business model, which was the data collection of the variable data that we were putting out there. Kodak looked at it more as a partnership than just selling a piece of equipment. That’s where the relationship blossomed.”

Supplier Partnerships

So Lengacher had planned to go with two Nexpresses, but also ended up with the Kodak Prinergy workflow system, InSite asset library and Web-to-print storefront solution. “If Kodak has it, we own it,” he quips. “I didn’t buy a Nexpress as much as I bought a partnership,” he adds. “We wanted to expand our variable data capabilities into a much higher speed from where we were. We needed to have the volume capabilities.”

With the new Nexpresses in tow, Craftline Printing found itself in need of a finishing system that would ensure mail integrity, as well as produce L-perf reply cards for the millions of direct mail products it produces. When VDP campaigns feature reply cards or need to be produced on heavier stocks for mailing, they require perforating and scoring, Lengacher notes.

They have to be trimmed down to final size, pushed through the folder, sent through a mailing system and either tabbed or glued.

With all of the required steps, opportunities for disaster abound. Thus, the Craftline exec found a good fit with its Rollem TR Die-Score system, which can provide the L-perfs, score, trim, fold and glue while maintaining mail integrity. It gives Craftline the capability to run variable printing jobs through the Nexpress—in mail sortation order—into a single postpress finishing operation prepared for postal verification. By performing multiple finishing processes in one machine, Craftline is able to eliminate added labor costs, improve production and increase profits.

The TR Die-Score system also has the advantage of easy changeovers for different layouts. For example, a 20x5.5˝ mail piece printed two-up can be edge-trimmed, slit down the center, folded and edge perforated to create five coupons.

“Rollem provided us with that single operation instead of four operations, where the mail integrity could have been lost in any of those,” says Lengacher. “Now, we take the printed output off the Nexpress, put it into the preloader in presort order as it comes off, and run it through the Rollem system. It comes out the end in mail sortation order, ready to go into mail trays.

“The TR Die-Score system went live last October and, so far, we’ve sent out 12 million pieces to the healthcare segment. Without the Rollem machine, I would not have been able to get the throughput through my facility with the current resources that I had, nor do I believe I could have maintained the mail integrity as I did in getting it out the door.”

The equipment acquisitions launched Craftline into another area in which it wasn’t accustomed: self-promotion. Tom Menze, the company’s director of marketing, feels the time is right for Craftline to trumpet its capabilities.

Accelerated Marketing

“Now that we’ve got the equipment in place, we’re actively going to accelerate the marketing of our Nexpresses and all of these programs, which is something we haven’t done in the past,” Menze says. “We’ve gotten the work, the leads, the customers, the new equipment, time under our belts, and now we’re comfortable enough to go out and market those services to other people. Some new markets, like the education and service industries, have emerged and presented themselves.”

While healthcare is the predominant market, the hope for Craftline is that demand for variable data digital printing touches all segments, and that customers will leverage the printer’s capabilities for e-procurement, branding and asset management.

Though Lengacher would like to expand Craftline’s black-and-white variable data capabilities, he says that any new capital expenditures will be based on customer needs.

“Our improvement and growth are tied together,” he says. “We’re continuing to expand our knowledge into the variable data side—to be able to measure results and provide ROI justification to marketers that employ the technology.

“That’s the direction we’re headed,” Lengacher notes. “In the future, I believe Craftline’s assets will be more on the technology side. Printed output just becomes an added benefit in a one-stop shop. One will feed the other.” PI

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