Mail Advertising & Bindery — Getting Into a BindMarch 2008 By Erik Cagle
When mailing’s the name of your game, there are usually one or more vendors ahead of you in the production of a job, pushing the acceptable boundaries of deadlines. The job finally arrives in your shop; it should have been mailed yesterday; and now you are left to pick up the pieces. You either shrug and concede it to be the nature of the beast, or decide that maybe the tail end of the workflow isn’t the greatest place for you.
You can put Mail Advertising & Bindery into the latter category, though the Smyrna, GA-based mailer’s decision to branch into binding was hardly fueled by frustration. According to Mark Pannell, president of the 35-year-old firm, its 2001 foray into finishing was motivated by client needs. And, once the equipment purchasing started, it was difficult to stop.
“We were often waiting on the jobs coming from companies that were giving us the mail work. The jobs were either stuck in their bindery or at a trade bindery,” Pannell says. “So, we decided it would be a good business decision to buy some folders. One thing led to another, and we ended up purchasing stitchers. From there, we installed a perfect binder.”
The growth has proven to be drastic for Mail Advertising & Bindery, which has acquired nine folders in seven years. At the turn of the millennium, the company had 30 employees operating in a 10,000-square-foot facility. It now boasts 130 workers and 75,000 square feet of manufacturing space. For 2007, it posted sales of $7 million. A lion’s share of its work comes from the Southeast, namely Atlanta, though it also has customer pockets in Ohio and California.
Mail Advertising & Bindery maintains a fleet of 12 ink-jet printers, both water- and solvent-based, with the capability to print on most UV and aqueous coatings. The printers include four Scitex Liberty 7122 models, four Scitex 5120 machines and two Kodak Versamark DP5122-2 units. The company also brings to the table 6˝ print capability, match mailing, variable data, wafer sealing and Cheshire labeling. The company’s digital printing line consists of three Xerox models: a Nuvera, a DocuTech and a DocuColor.
The Binding Revolution
The binding revolution now allows Mail Advertising & Bindery to produce saddlestitched and perfect-bound books, along with a variety of application glues and tip-ons. Mike Pompilio, general manager of Mail Advertising & Bindery, points out that customers are now coming to them with specialty requests. He points out that one such job, an 80-page, perfect-bound book with four-color photos, included hand inserted tabs, a labor-intensive process.
“Specialty items like this is where we really shine,” Pompilio says, adding that Mail Advertising & Bindery also does a lot of fold/glue and tip-on products.
The last few years in particular have witnessed a capital expenditure bonanza for the company. It added “Bindery” to its name in 2006, the same year it acquired a perfect binder. (Mail Advertising & Bindery lays claim to having the largest line in the Southeast with 33 pockets.) In 2007, a Heidelberg Varimatrix 105 CS diecutter was added, along with a Heidelberg ECO 105 folder/gluer and Polar cutting system. The ECO folder/gluer is used for miniature cartons, lock-bottom boxes, CD sleeves and presentation folders. This year, the company put the finishing touches on the installation of an MBO K800.2/4 Super-KTZ Perfection combi folder.
The Super-KTZ joins a stable of seven other MBO folders at Mail Advertising & Bindery and provides even more firepower, according to Charlie Le, principal of the company. “We’re going to be able to double our speed in folding. We’ll be able to fold 16-page signatures at speeds of about 12,000 to 15,000 an hour,” Le says. “Plus, the setup time between projects will decrease. But the main benefit is the signatures...it’s just going to fold them so much faster.”
Le and Pannell are thrilled with the relationship that’s developed between their company and MBO America. “They’ve been a really great partner for us,” Le says. “If we need a tech here for a week to perform some training, they’ll come out and do it for us. MBO has never let us down.”
At presstime, the Super-KTZ folder was going through its initial runs, according to Pompilio. While another perfect binder could be added by year’s end, he sees most near-term capital improvements aimed at building from within.
“The main focus for 2008 is to build the infrastructure to match our size,” Pompilio says. “Since our growth has been so rapid, there are some holes in our company that need to be filled, whether it’s in process improvement or our employees.”
The most difficult part in adding so many capabilities to what was essentially a mail shop was finding qualified operators and learning new skill sets, according to Pannell. Instead of ink-jetting postcards or magazines, the talk had also turned to printing layouts and handling signatures. It was unchartered territory, a new wrinkle to service that extended beyond customer savings on postage.
Evolving to meet the needs of what is largely a printer client base has been pivotal for the company’s success. “Thanks to the stitchers that we’ve purchased, we’re able to do in-line ink-jetting,” Pannell notes. “Now, we’re able to open up the magazine and ink-jet the inside, as well as the outside. That’s something customers have asked us to do in the past. It has allowed us to save them time and money. That was one of the reasons we purchased a Prima.”
Mail Advertising & Bindery turn-ed to Muller Martini for its stitcher needs, with two six-pocket Bravo-T models accompanying the eight-pocket Prima stitcher equipped with card and cover feeder.
Paul Noonan, sales director for Mail Advertising & Bindery, believes the company has been able to differentiate itself with the ability to ink-jet addresses, manage mail files and process printed work for mailing. “We’ve got an aggressive ownership here,” he adds. “We’ve invested in some technology that we think will enable our customers to offer products they can’t currently produce. Our best growth opportunities will come from those type of clients.”
Some Catching Up to Do
Going forward, Pompilio feels it is important for the company to bolster its administrative end. He’s thrilled with the way David Mims, the new production manager, is working out, and a new estimator is on the horizon. With fourfold growth in the past five years, some internal processes have a little catching up to do.
“We’re also bringing up the level of technology to match our capabilities,” he says, noting that the company is now creating internal electronic job tickets and sending clients computer-generated estimates.
Other plans are in the preliminary phase. Mail Advertising & Bindery has another 25,000 square feet of space in its building that is being rented out, but Pompilio sees that being utilized down the road for a fulfillment operation.
Customers have definitely noticed the positive additions. Mail Advertising & Bindery will be hosting an open house on April 9 and 10 to showcase its products and capabilities, and help spread the word that the company is driven by taking care of client needs.
“When customers make requests, we try to fulfill them,” Pompilio concludes. “That’s really how we’ve grown.” PI