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DOME PRINTING — THE TALENT POOLE

June 2006 BY ERIK CAGLE
Senior Editor
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THE POOLE brothers are not slaves to the latest trends in the commercial printing industry. Owners of Dome Printing in Sacramento, CA, Tim, Andy and Bob Poole march to their own beat, and that is usually the song that their customers are humming.

Take variable data digital printing, for example. Andy Poole—the vice president of manufacturing—sees its adoption as an inevitability, if not an evolution, that will ultimately be decided by Dome Printing’s customer needs. The company currently specializes in producing high-end, longer run work, but it is always on the lookout for ways to service customers. Most importantly, as an independently held entity, Dome Printing has the ability to turn on a dime in terms of decision making.

Nimble Operation

“Being family owned allows us the flexibility to make changes quickly,” Andy Poole says. “Equipment purchases and thousands of small changes can be made quickly, without the worries of publicly held companies. Decisions can even be made on gut feeling, and our savvy knowledge of business.”

Dome Printing embodies everything big. Most of its jobs are of the long run variety. Several
clients are the biggest in their respective fields, from cable television to entertainment technology and educational institutions.

Its geographic market is also big, littered with such heavy-hitter West Coast competitors as Cenveo Anderson, Trend Offset Printing, Lithographix, ColorGraphics and countless others. With $30 million in annual sales and projections of $36 million for 2006, Dome is a relatively large, independent printer that is growing continuously.

Still, Dome Printing has somewhat of a split personality. It maintains the press arsenal, finishing capabilities and quality production of a high-end, full-service printer. But when it comes to customer
service, Dome transforms into a family operation, providing immediate, personalized service that is traditionally associated with a smaller printer.

“We’re finding that clients are becoming more sophisticated,” says Tim Poole, president of Dome Printing. “Relationships today are as important as they’ve ever been because there are so many variables in our industry. One of the reasons we’ve grown is because we don’t look at print as a commodity. We still view it as custom manufacturing. Seeing yourself as a commodity printer is a tough sell that makes it difficult to differentiate yourself from competitors. Our business isn’t about selling at the lowest price, but providing solutions to our customers. If I’m price matching every day, we’re going to be in financial trouble very quickly.”

Know Their Strengths

Split personality aside, there is no identity crisis at Dome Printing. The web and sheetfed offset printer primarily produces direct mail, point-of-purchase (POP) display items, business collateral, catalogs and publications. Many of its publication clientele have customized requirements, and Dome values its ability to forge close working relationships that can address these needs.

Its penchant for nurturing relationships is partly behind Dome’s decision to install a pair of six-color, 41˝ Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105 sheetfed presses equipped with aqueous coaters, Autoplate plate changers and CPC color control.

The machines replace two older four- and six-color Heidelberg models, but provide the printer with the capacity of another full press due to their output capabilities. The first press went live in February, the other in March. They join five- and six-color M series half- and full-web heatset presses from the Heidelberg Harris era (now Goss International).

In a few short months, the printer has experienced a 60 percent increase in sheetfed productivity, mostly through the presses’ rated speed of 18,000 sph. Dome averaged 7,500 sph with the older technology, a number that has ballooned to 12,000 to 13,000 sheets on the floor with the XL 105s. All jobs makeready at 15,000 sph and typically run at 18,000 sph.

“We were absolutely pleased with Heidelberg’s attention to detail during the installations and the startup,” Tim Poole comments. “We were impressed by the speed of the installation, quality of training and the continued support. The training is going very well.”

Relationships Are Key

According to Bob Poole, vice president of sales, Dome Printing values its relationships on all fronts. “Because we find relationships to be key with our customers, it is also something we look for with our vendors,” he says. “Heidelberg delivers what they promise.”

A new value-added service for Dome Printing is mailing, which it began performing last June. The printer invested in three Domino BitJet ink-jetting lines and, through its first year of operation, had sank 40 million pieces into the mailstream. The plan is for Dome to double that output in its second year by making mail capabilities available to all clients.

“We’re on the lookout for the larger mail projects,” Tim Poole says. “With all of the high-speed equipment we have, the Domino mail equipment has proven to be very efficient. It can smoke almost anything on the market today.”

The printer recently acquired a 10,000-square-foot fulfillment warehouse complete with 550 racking systems. It’s not marketed as fulfillment per se in the pick-and-pack sense, but if a client asked to store 250 pallets, “we’re prepared to not turn it away,” Tim Poole says.

Dome Printing loves providing its customers with tools to enable success. For one well-known client in the cable television market, Dome created a custom Web portal to allow for management of the customer’s internal documents—ordering of documents, controlling postage, forecasting, among other things. It’s less of a Web-to-print tool, yet another example of how the printer is utilizing customization to get closer to its customers.

Finishing, particularly perfect binding, is another strong suit for Dome. One of its stalwarts is a Muller Martini Corona perfect binder with PUR (polyurethane reactive) capabilities. One leading auction house client, which had unsuccessfully sought answers to its quality issues elsewhere, found a match with Dome. The PUR binding, with its added durability and ability to lay flat when open, provided for a long-life product. This was important since the auction booklets are frequently kept as resource guides.

“Once we partnered with them, we developed procedures that allowed us to work with them in a customized way,” Tim Poole remarks. “They provide all of their own proofs and everything is based around a PDF workflow. We made it easy for them to transfer their files, print to pleasing color and deliver a quality product.”

The company’s service philosophy helped fuel its new marketing slogan, Just Right. It’s a refreshed version of a previous mantra, Your Job’s Our Baby, which conveyed the company’s attitude toward customer service. With Just Right, Dome is using much of the positive feedback it has received about client experiences concerning its size, capabilities and responsiveness.

“Each customer is picking and choosing what is ‘just right’ for them, whether it’s equipment, quick turnarounds or their favorite sales representative,” notes Amy Labowitch, customer relations manager. “Our customers are finding their own definition of ‘just right,’ so we’re kind of letting them lead the way again.”

Another Web to Come

As for the future, Andy Poole sees the company augmenting its web capabilities with another full-web press in 2007. The ideal acquisition will allow Dome Printing to increase both quantity and quality, while enhancing efficiencies.

“Will we increase the number of high-end car books and annual reports we produce in the future? Sure,” Bob Poole muses. “But it will take the investment in newer webs to do that and compete against the Andersons, Lithographixes and Williamsons. Our goal is to be a player in that market some day.”

The company has undergone many changes in recent years. Founded in 1914 by Byron Dome as an engraver for local printers and newspapers, Ray and Arlene Poole took the helm in 1969, dropped engraving and went full bore into offset. The company changed hands again in 2004, when the Poole brothers purchased 100 percent of the business from their parents.

The sons have added their signature to the business, including striving for ISO 9000/2000 quality certification. ISO helped define Dome’s culture; Tim Poole notes the process helped create a management structure that enabled all employees to be a part of the decision making process. The transition in ownership allows Dome Printing to continue moving forward, taking risks where appropriate and “being an entrepreneur” when it comes to setting the direction for the company’s future.

“We define our success by how we are perceived by our peers, customers, vendors and employees,” Tim Poole says. “We want people to say that the Poole brothers do the right thing. We offer quality product, take care of our customers, treat our employees like family and give back to our community.”
 

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