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Crowson Stone Printing--Not A Stone Age Printer

April 2000

A search for a modern printing company is not likely to begin in Columbia, SC. But it should end there, with Crowson Stone Printing.

Founded in 1923 as Crowson Printing, Crowson Stone became the state's first offset printer in the 1950s. Still a family operation, it is led by John K. deLoach III, the third generation on the Stone side of the business. The 50 Crowson Stone employees generate annual sales of nearly $6 million.

deLoach experienced other sides of business before taking the reigns of the family print shop, including earning a degree in business and finance. He then spent eight years in management and technology consulting, before assuming control of Crowson Stone five years ago. At the time, the company, although moderately successful, was in need of modernization. Calling on a core group of committed employees and a nucleus of loyal customers, deLoach began to move the company solidly into the digital 21st century.

A sheetfed printer with half-size presses, Crowson Stone does short-to-medium runs for advertising agencies, corporate accounts and state and local government. They also do specialty work, including foil stamping and diecutting. "Agencies come to Crowson Stone because they know we understand the customer service and quality necessary to do their work. Our ability to handle prepress files makes us particularly attractive," deLoach says.

The digital upgrade began with technology investments designed to improve quality and turnaround time. Motivating this strategy is deLoach's belief that "quality is a given at today's printer. Speed is sometimes the only tangible thing that customers can use as a basis to really differentiate their printers."

Crowson Stone brought color scanning in-house, followed by four-up imagesetting. A recently installed Creo platesetter supports the strategy of producing quality, faster. In the pressroom, a six-color Heidelberg Speedmaster 74 with an aqueous coater is the centerpiece, complemented by a two-color Ryobi and a four-color Speedmaster 74.

The company is striving for a totally digital workflow and sees the integration of prepress, the pressroom and the bindery as key. CIP3 protocols are used to set ink keys and to communicate with Polar cutters in the bindery. Company officials maintain an online connection to their primary graphic arts dealer, xpedx, to check paper order status and view xpedx inventories.

According to deLoach, "By properly implementing digital workflows, we believe that we can compete successfully in short-run offset against printers operating Xeikon and Indigo machines. We might consider a (Heidelberg) DI press in the future, but with 15-minute makereadies on our presses today, it is hard to justify additional equipment to gain speed."

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