Gateway Press--Taking Care of Business. . . and PeopleNovember 1998
"Quite a few people have taken advantage of it; I did for one year with my daughter," Brown says. "We have 14 kids using it right now. Our employees see the value in it."
Along with retaining its work force, Gateway Press has also established long-term relationships with outside product and service providers. The printer has used only two accounting firms, one bank and one insurance company during the past 25 years. Its suppliers of ink, paper, film and other printing components have also been longtime partners.
Gateway Press is a versatile commercial printer, accepting jobs in various fields, including magazines, catalogs, folders, brochures, posters, maps, cards, tax forms, soft-cover books and other categories. One of the largest printers in the state of Kentucky, it also ranks among the largest 175 printers in the country.
While at least $500,000 is earmarked for capital expenditures each year, the 48-year-old company grew by leaps and bounds in 1998, due in no short measure to an $8 million expansion that was completed in July. In addition to adding 20 new employees, Gateway beefed up its electronic prepress, pressroom and bindery departments.
The new equipment is expected to increase Gateway's production by 50 percent, transforming its annual sales from $33 million to $50 million.
Among the acquisitions: two Muller Martini high-speed saddle stitchers for the bindery department. At a combined cost of $600,000, the stitchers run 40 percent faster than the existing equipment that was replaced.
Gateway also spent $450,000 on a direct-to-plate imaging system and on hardware upgrades in its electronic prepress department. Where Gateway previously output film in order to create the plates used on-press, the CTP system allows the printer to output digital plates directly from an electronic file. With the film step and associated labor erased, Gateway is reaping even more savings.
Eliminating the film step has other benefits, including reduced errors, quicker press makeready, less paper waste, enhanced quality and quicker job turnaround.
The pride and joy of Gateway Press' expansion is easily the acquisition of an eight-unit Heidelberg Harris M-600 web press equipped with Autoplate, a JF-50 folder and 4/8 page pinless folder module.
Whereas a web offset press is generally used for long runs, the Autoplate system turns its M-600 into a more versatile, makeready-friendly machine, which can be used for shorter runs.
"It changes all 16 plates in under five minutes," Brown says. "We've had several makereadies where we stop the press, change 16 plates, start it back up and begin counting signatures again in 18 minutes.
"If the trend we've seen keeps going towards shorter and shorter runs, we can now run more jobs on the web that may have been sheetfed work before because we can cut into the makeready time."
The estimated time saved, according to Brown, is approximately 20 minutes to 30 minutes on each makeready.
Installation and start-up of the new press from Heidelberg Web Press proved to be a smooth process, Brown notes, and he is happy with the fact that it enabled Gateway to add full-time employees.
Gateway Press is banking on the trend toward shorter runs. Brown believes the company has found its niche as a medium-run-length web operation, one that won't compete with the bigger publication printers on lengthy runs.
"With the Autoplate system, I believe the focus that Heidelberg has put on the M-600 is to make it a high-quality, quick-makeready machine and still have quite a bit of speed," says Brown. "It gives you quite an advantage. We also have an eight- and 16-page pinless module, so we can deliver four eight-pagers or two 16-pagers out of a double web of paper."
He notes that Gateway is running the module at 5,000-10,000 iph greater than its rated speed when in 16-page mode.
"Now our production manager has the confidence to schedule the work out there, knowing it's going to get out of here on time," Brown points out.
The current updates in equipment, workflow and personnel transform the present into the future for Gateway Press. The printer is presently holding training classes for some of its customers, showing them what is required to send digital files to a printer and have them ready to output to digital plates or to film.
While the company has no definitive five-year-type plans—the ever-changing industry and technology that is constantly getting upgraded inhibit that, according to Brown—Gateway Press does have goals.
"We're striving to be a full-service shop," Brown says. "We want our customers to know that we can do just about anything for them. Our mission is to provide our customers an outstanding service at a competitive price, and to treat our employees and suppliers with utmost respect and fairness."