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Heatset Web Printing -- Dead Set on Heatset

May 1998
Direct cylinder imaging, variable cutoffs, gapless and mini-gap printing, pinless folding, shaftless press drives, digitally preset ink, computer-to-plate workflow and data management systems.

Web press manufacturers call these technological advancements. Printers consider them survival techniques—survival of the technologically fittest.

In today's highly competitive heatset web offset market, presses are being designed with high quality, high speed, folder flexibility and paper savings in mind. Manufacturers are constantly improving upon existing technologies and incorporating new automation innovations into their equipment designs.

However, technology is only a tool. It's up to the printers to grow their own business, then reap whatever they sow.

Statistics show two promising areas: direct mail and catalogs. A heatset web printer needn't look any farther than the Printing Industries of America's 1998 Print Market Outlook, which shows that growth opportunities are out there. It's just a matter of cultivating the right ones.

"Direct mail marketing is a growing area for us. And it will continue to grow as marketers get smarter about their mailing lists," says Mike Coughlin, president of Concord Litho Group, Concord, NH. "In the '80s, marketers mass-mailed to everyone. Often, recipients didn't even look at it before throwing it away.

"Sellers are cleaning up their lists. They're going beyond demographics to one-to-one marketing. Marketers know your buying habits, what your hobbies are, what magazines you subscribe to, and to which charity funds you respond," says Coughlin, noting that non-profit fund-raising is one micro niche of the direct mail market.

Another niche-in-niche market focuses on the unique needs of direct mail. Concord found a winning combination by marrying these specific needs with its in-line finishing capabilities. Coughlin says products that interest direct mail marketers—such as self-mailers, tear-off and return envelopes, bill stuffers, mini catalogs, promo pieces, scratch-offs and peel-off labels—are some of the in-line finished products that complement today's direct mail packages.

Special-interest catalogs are also a potential profit center for heatset web operations. Following the same lines as direct mail, Coughlin believes better-targeted marketing is the reason for growth in this area.

Also, with a trend toward more glossy, high-impact printing, catalogs are now creating excitement about products, rather than just displaying them. High-gloss, high-impact products like these are a perfect fit for the sophisticated printing capabilities of a heatset web press, especially with the advancements in press quality and speed.

While high speed and high quality are crucial, strong customer service is the most important value-added service a printer can offer customers, contends David Sand, vice president of manufacturing for Hickory Printing, in Conover, NC. However, Sand emphasizes that service-oriented printing is not only paramount to business growth, it's paramount to business survival.
 

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