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June 2006
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Choosing to use Quickson PRO as the sole ink in-house was not a subjective decision. Kirkwood went through an extensive evaluation period, testing a number of inks “blind” and allowing its press operators to be the final decision makers. Kirkwood used the GATF target sheet to help in the blind testing.

“With every ink we tested, Quickson PRO outperformed the other,” according to Kelley. “When the press starts up and shuts down, you run the risk of losing color. A good ink comes back to where you left off on the GATF target sheet. We tested how each ink held highlights, mid-tones, etc. We run a lot of stochastic work, so we needed an ink that could handle a small, fine dot. Our goal is to always come as close as possible to a continuous tone—the original image.

“We are a classic job shop running different jobs daily, so we need to be able to move from project to project, press form to press form,” he adds. “With Quickson PRO we can roll up to a press ‘ok’ very quickly.”

Kelley feels the ink’s attributes helped contribute to Kirkwood winning a 2005 Sappi North American Printer of the Year Award, as well as a Sappi International Printer of the Year Award for annual reports (the only U.S. company to win in an international category).

“We have had wonderful success—and this ink contributes,” he says. “It is top of the line and works beautifully with the latest Heidelberg technology. A lot of inks couldn’t sustain 18,000 impressions an hour—but it is easy to connect the dots between the Heidelberg press and Van Son’s ink. Both are efficient, capable and work together phenomenally well for us.”

Wide Reaching Base

With its productivity and print quality well in hand due to well-researched investments in equipment and consumables, Kirkwood has been marketing extensively nationally and even internationally. The company is currently doing business with customers all across North America and Bermuda.

In pursuing growth and expanding beyond New England, Kirkwood has developed high-end marketing pieces that demonstrate its expertise in metallic inks, varnishes and aqueous coatings. The marketing pieces, including specialized calendars and posters, are sent to key customers and prospects to demonstrate the kind of sophisticated, high-end work they can do. The printer selects a different graphic designer every month to create these showcase pieces, a program that highlights “fresh faces” within the graphic design field who, in turn, appreciate the opportunity for exposure.

True to the partners’ original intent, Kirkwood’s emphasis on quality printing, clever marketing and expansion beyond the Boston area market has not diminished their focus on the total customer experience.

“Our clients like the flexibility they experience here, the accountability,” says Kelley.

Taking care of customers has also meant success for the revitalized company. “We feel we are unique,” proclaims Kelley. “While others might be stringently driven, we think it is important not to fall into the trap of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. We are consultative and completely customer-centric in our culture.”

The result, as Kelley explains, is impressive: “We have experienced a 52 percent growth rate since opening the business.”

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