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May 2002

Grelind Printing Center Owner Linda Peterson lives in one of the most beautiful places in the country. Her printing operation is nestled within the foothills of Black Hills National Forest in Rapid City, SD, located just miles from Mount Rushmore.

While Peterson is greeted every day with awe-inspiring and breath-taking vistas, she also has to deal with the fact that there are less than 200,000 people within a 400 to 500 square mile radius. And she has to compete with more than 16 other printers within the Rapid City area, and still even more shops in surrounding towns.

So how does this 20-year-old printing operation with just eight employees continue to survive in an area with so few people and a market with so many competitors?

"From the very beginning, we felt that keeping up with technology and continuing to upgrade and replace equipment were important to our success. It enables us to be more productive and more efficient. We always choose new and high-quality equipment, and we plan to upgrade and replace yearly. We combine this with high-quality output and service," explains Peterson.

Small Shop, Big Options

Although a fairly small operation, the shop does over $700,000 in business annually, and offers a wide variety of options to its customers.

"We've always provided creative services. We also print envelopes, fine art and some book publishing. We were the first in our area to offer digital output capabilities, DSL services and modem. And we have full bindery capabilities," she says.

"I've learned over the years that, when you live in a low population area, you cannot specialize. We need to be able to take in whatever work our customers require. If you try to specialize there is not enough work," she remarks.

Grelind Printing clients are mostly commercial law firms, manufacturers, hotels, restaurants and hospitals. They also do a lot of bindery work for local in-plants that don't have the finishing equipment that Grelind does, she reports.

Because Grelind has such a diverse product offering, the machinery that the company purchases must be very flexible and efficient. Which is why Peterson believes that upgrading equipment has been such a huge key to her company's success over the past 20 years.

"With the direction that the printing industry is going, I believe that the more efficient we become with new equipment the better we will be able to capture more market share," she claims.

A recent purchase that has greatly improved the company's efficiency is a modular Duplo System 2000 suction-feed collator and in-line bookletmaker.

"We had been looking at binding systems for a number of years. There was only one problem: most of them were too large for our space," according to Peterson. Grelind has about 6,000 square feet available to them.

"The System 2000 fit our space and needs, and it lowered the cost of binding for our customers," she states.

Before purchasing the machine, Grelind used a very antiquated system in the bindery, which was very labor- and time-intensive. Jobs were folded on a Heidelberg Stahl folder, hand collated, stitched on what Peterson terms an "old-fashioned" stitcher and then trimmed. "It took too long and was an expensive process. But Duplo came up with the best system for our needs," reveals Peterson.

Two recent jobs have proved to Peterson the versatility and the flexibility that the System 2000 brings to her shop. Grelind ran a two-book project on cardiac services recently for a local hospital. One book was a run of 750 books with 218 pages and 11 tabs. The other book was a run of 250 books with 140 pages and eight tabs. The project, which incorporated every aspect of the shop, had to be completed in less than seven days.

"We really hustled on the project, but we wouldn't have been able to complete it in time without the Duplo 2000," she remarks.

Another project run on the System 2000 even caught the attention of Duplo USA's president, who called it a very interesting and unique job, laughs Peterson. The job was a small, 60-page booklet for the United Way. It sounds like a simple job, but the booklet's cover had a fold-back panel that was perfed and folded in. "As far as we could tell, you couldn't collate it. But we did. We perfed and folded the back panel in, then sent it through the collator from the folded edge. It worked and we saved the customer some money," she says with pride.

But quality and process efficiency aren't always enough to compete in a tough marketplace, so Peterson relies on marketing, as well. "We do advertising on radio mostly, as well as direct mail. It maintains our visibility within our community. Even though we are in a low population area, we have found that the community changes over every two years. People come and go and purchasing managers move on," she explains.

One direct mail piece that has been very successful for Grelind is a post card campaign that offers $5 to $10 off on reorders or a $25 creative credit on new support materials. "We've found that this is very popular with our clients. We were inundated with orders when we did the reorder campaign," she says.

Boils Down to Employees

Still, despite cutting-edge technology and self-promotion efforts, Grelind Printing would not be what it is without its employees, Peterson points out. "I have people who have been with me for 19 of the 20 years. They understand what our level of work should be. We hammer on quality every single day. It has to be good quality when it goes out the door," she notes.

Peterson ensures quality control with written production standards. Everyone is responsible for inspecting their own work. There are also double checks from other departments along the production chain, as well as an annual, company-wide staff meeting to discuss workflow. "When workers come to me with a problem, they are expected to come with a solution, as well," she adds.

"I'm also very open about our numbers. Each department gets a chance at the meeting to talk about what their needs are for the upcoming year and how they fit into the company needs. We talk about where we need to be in terms of sales and how we can improve our marketing and advertising. Having everyone involved and responsible helps the company reach its goals. It's a combined effort. We work as a team and we share the profits, so everyone shares in our success."

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