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L.P. Thebault--Into the Next Century

January 1999
In an age of industry consolidation, LPT—a family-owned commercial printer—is bracing for the competitive, digital challenges of printing in the year 2000.


BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO


Hello January 1999! Quite an interesting time for a privately held commercial printer.

How does a family-owned operation position itself for growth and stability in a time of massive industry consolidation? What expansion strategies can aid a traditional offset and digital printer to compete in an increasingly more on-demand, service-oriented environment? How are mid-size commercial printers bracing for the technological challenges of printing in the year 2000?

The L.P. Thebault Group of Companies (LPT), of Parsippany, NJ, is ready to answer those questions as the clock ticks to 2000. Founded in 1954 by Louis P. Thebault, the privately held printing company currently operates digital, sheetfed offset, half- and full-web offset presses; a sophisticated computer-to-plate environment; as well as a strong Internet initiative.

Is LPT extraordinary?

In a variety of ways, it is quite extraordinary. In most ways, LPT is much like other independent,

family-owned printing operations in the United States. As this century clicks to a close, LPT is exploring digital technologies, reinvesting in its own capabilities, capitalizing on the merits of a digitally minded top management team and recalibrating itself to handle the demands of an all-digital workflow—from prepress to the bindery.

LPT is moving in an on-demand direction as well, with continued investments in digital color printing and variable-data software technologies to assist LPT in marketing its digital printing power.

ThebaultDI.com—the firm's digital color and Web-To-Print printing division—is capable of reacting quickly to orders for variable-data printing, thanks to LPT's investment in Agfa Chromapress technology to print short-run, personalized collateral. Web-To-Print is LPT's e-commerce offering—an Internet-based order-on-demand system that allows clients to personalize print products.

The motivation for LPT's aggressive technology push is obvious; in fact, many family-owned commercial printers found themselves marching on a similar technology path over the past two years. New technologies open up new markets, new services, new strengths—new ways of satisfying long-time customers and winning new clientele.

J. Brian Thebault, CEO and chairman, explains. "The competitive arena in the commercial printing industry has changed from competing with family-owned organizations to competing on entirely new playing fields with billion-dollar enterprises that hold unlimited resources," Thebault states. "Projecting into 1999 and beyond, we knew we needed to craft new strategies for growth."

As 1999 begins, LPT employs 450 workers at three manufacturing sites in New Jersey and services clients including world-renowned businesses, ad agencies and design firms with needs varying from annual reports to promotional pieces to customized direct mail products.

"In order to compete in this increasingly more competitive marketplace, it is essential a company have a strong and unique value proposition," Claude Monette, president and COO, contends. "LPT is able to provide a total offering solution to its client base—print runs from one to millions, database management, fulfillment, Internet-related solutions, all to meet very demanding schedules."

Specifically, what are LPT's value propositions for delivering growth and success in 1999 and beyond?

  • Enhance an already well-established digital prepress department, which currently incorporates Creo and Scitex output technologies, as well as a team of digital color proofers, featuring a Kodak Approval digital halftone proofer.

  • Expand the variable-data marketing power of ThebaultDI.com, making future investments in digital color printing technologies and expanding the operation to better reflect LPT's commitment to the on-demand marketplace.

  • Acquire printing concerns or invest in new technologies or capabilities that will broaden LPT's offering on both a local and national scope.

  • Capitalize on the capabilities of its Web-To-Print service, bringing design, marketing and printing together via the Internet for page composition and print control.

  • Face the next century fully prepared, based on more than two years of research and planning regarding Year 2000 (Y2K) compliance issues.


"LPT's Y2K planning began at the beginning of 1998 and, up to this point, has been focused internally. We have a technology group, made up of members from LPT's prepress operation and ThebaultDI.com, which is coordinating Year 2000 resolutions internally," reports Craig Garno, vice president of technology services. "Our work-to-date on Y2K has included a complete inventory of assets throughout the organization, major component testing, contacting equipment suppliers and identifying required fixes or upgrade paths."

LPT's Y2K confidence comes not a moment too soon. In December, an important milestone took place under the "Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act"—a law that provides liability protection for companies that have shared information in good faith about Y2K problems and solutions. Companies had until Dec. 3, 1998, to designate any Y2K disclosures.

Beyond the technical concerns of Y2K—for the record, LPT anticipates no problems whatsoever when the clock turns to Jan. 1, 2000—Monette contends LPT is posed with a Y2K dilemma.

"Due to low levels of unemployment and the technical challenges of the commercial printing industry, finding competent, capable and technically strong individuals for the right jobs, at the right times, will be a challenge," Monette states, noting that LPT will continue to look to universities and high schools with strong graphic arts programs to attract the right personnel for the next millennium.

"We are confident that we will recruit the right people to meet the needs of the next century," Monette promises.


L.P. Thebault's Digital Moves

The year is 1994. The L.P. Thebault Co. (LPT) launches ThebaultDI.com, a digital printing division, allowing LPT to combine its traditional sheetfed, half- and full-web printing expertise with the promise of on-demand digital color printing utilizing technologies such as the Agfa Chromapress.

In 1995, LPT began a transition to an all-digital prepress workflow. Key LPT personnel reviewed CTP offerings at DRUPA 95 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Key areas of interest for the LPT team were imposition, digital proofing and the imaging of metal plates. By the end of 1995, LPT invested in a Kodak Approval digital halftone proofer.

In 1996, LPT made the move to a full eight-up imposition with the purchase of two Scitex Brisque digital front ends and a second Scitex Dolev 800V imagesetter.

In 1997, LPT's prepress department installed a third Scitex Dolev 800V and several additional Brisque solutions. The network was upgraded and switched to 100BaseT to handle LPT's now-massive amounts of digital data.

As for the pressroom in 1997, Thebault's press team evaluated the new generation of sheetfed presses to hit the market and decided to purchase three new Heidelberg sheetfed presses: one eight-color and two six-color machines. Later that year, Thebault installs its second eight-color Heidelberg press.

In 1998, a Creo Trendsetter Spectrum 3244F is ordered and LPT's Web-To-Print offering is launched. Web-To-Print allows LPT customers to access LPT via the Internet for job ordering, tracking and billing information.
 

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