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Metzgers Printing + Mailing -- Knowledge Is Power

March 2009 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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THE NAME Metzger has been elevated to rock star status in the printing industry, and with good reason. Joe Metzger can be seen frequently on the trade show/conference circuit, discussing any number of relevant industry issues. Frankly, if you can recall seeing him give more than a few talks, then feel free to count yourself among the printing realm’s cognoscente, boasting big picture perspective. 

The Metzger brothers are students of the game, so to speak. Joe (in charge of sales and business development) and Tom (operations) comprise the brain trust at Metzgers Printing + Mailing in Toledo, OH. Whether it’s sharing ideas on Web-to-print at a PODi conference, or discussing digital printing at Graph Expo, it is curiosity—the quest for knowledge and unearthing best practices—that sparks Joe Metzger’s passion for all things related to printing.

OK, not entirely printing, but print-related. And, sometimes, the technology stretches the definition boundaries of ancillary products.

But when the game changes the rules, the time to find out is not after the fact. How is that possible? you ask. Metzgers Printing + Mailing has evolved and morphed more times in the last 30 years than Madonna in growing to a $13 million-a-year performer. The company was founded as a typesetter by Norb Metzger in 1976, became a service bureau in the mid-’80s, then a prepress house, offset printer, variable data digital printer, fulfillment house and more.

Whither the future of Metzgers? Joe is the dreamer, while Tom tends to evaluate the Xs and Os. The left and right sides of the thought process come together with an unofficial, but accurate, gauge that factors in a number of variables to help determine how the next course of the company will be plotted.

“Continuous attendance at trade shows and industry training sessions, as well as constant research of emerging trends, company skills and customer requests, are gathered, documented and listed,” notes Joe Metzger. “Equipment dream lists, as well as equipment need lists, are updated quarterly. Constant investment in equipment and software updates, as well as major capital investments, have been happening every two to four years since 1976. Technology and equipment drive sales and new business, as well as new services.

Gut Reaction

“The decision-making process is based on customer needs, industry trends and a whole lot of gut reaction to all of these facts,” he adds. “The constant passion to sell more services and then produce everything in-house is what helps drive decisions to buy offset presses, digital presses, UV coaters, folder/gluers, as well as software solutions such as Pageflex for variable printing and online storefronts.

“Nothing leaves the building,” Metzger reinforces. “If we manage the entire production process better, we can deliver faster than any of our competitors.”

Despite defining the trends in the graphic arts industry, Metzgers Printing + Mailing is difficult to define. The company offers a full range of commercial and digital products, including postcards, pocket folders, reply cards and self-mailers, CD holders, three-ring binders, saddle-stitched brochures and books. Variable printed cards, brochures and e-brochures are also on the Metzgers menu, along with large direct marketing mailings, including complete lead generation and tracking services.

Metzgers’ bindery services roster includes folding, stitching, diecutting and folding/gluing. Fulfillment and kitting are handled by a special group of people (more on them later), and Metzgers has aggressively pursued online services for Web-to-print and storefront applications.

Its mailing/fulfillment division entails intelligent inserting and polybagging, while the digital department offers up variable data printing, e-brochures, personalized URLs, e-grams and eAd services to assist clients with their marketing services and cross-media campaigns. These offerings provide for captive audiences in the healthcare, higher education, philanthropic/fundraising and home building/remodeling market segments.

The Metzger brothers have enjoyed a fascinating journey through the worlds of digital printing, from a Canon CLC 500 with a Fiery 1.0 RIP, to the Xerox DocuColor 2045 and 8000, and now a Xerox iGen4 digital production press.

They were drawn to iGen4 press enhancements that include, among others, an auto density control system to reduce streaking, auto carrier dispense for smoother tints, an in-line spectrophotometer for better color consistency from job to job, Pantone color matching capabilities and more uptime.

From Demo to Launch

Metzgers’ recently acquired iGen4 handles a 141⁄4x221⁄2? sheet size and is equipped with an in-line Duplo stitcher/bookletmaker. The Metzgers saw great value in the dedicated stitcher line after watching a Xerox iGen4 demonstration with the same configuration.

With the plan to launch a photo books Website,, sometime this summer, the idea of a dedicated stitcher line took hold. “Everyone else is producing hard-bound photo books,” Tom Metzger notes. “I thought, what if we promoted photo books, photo brochures and corporate brochures that are all saddlestitched? We knew that we wanted the in-line stitcher to automate the process and have minimal touches.

“We were a bit nervous about it, because that was a big investment, and we really didn’t have the business,” he admits. “But, we’ve already found several customers that want variable eight- and 12-pagers, and we’ve only had the machine running for three months.”

The Duplo stitcher was selected for its ability to round off the spine, giving the finished product a lay-flat look, which is definitely a value-add, Tom Metzger notes.

The fotoBound photo memory products vehicle stands to benefit more than the Metzgers’ coffers. A portion of all profits from the Website will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and to the Alzheimer’s Association. As such, the theme for fotoBound is “keeping memories alive.”

Other recent acquisitions include a six-color, 40? Mitsubishi Diamond 3000S sheetfed press with coater (2006); a card slitter and UV coater from Duplo USA; a second Saber cutting system from Colter & Peterson; and a second Buskro ink-jetting system. Other upgrades were made to the phone system, servers and network for the existing facility.

Metzgers also completed a 30,000-square-foot addition during 2008. The new building houses digital printing, fulfillment, mailing services, and warehouses customer literature and products. Manning the fulfillment department is the Metzgers MomSquad, a group of about 30 local women who answer the call on an as-needed basis. 

The MomSquad developed when the company sold a job that required light hand assembly. The Metzgers’ sister, Connie, rounded up friends from school and church to assist. Today, she manages a full-time squad of three people and an on-call list of 30. They collate, insert and hand-assemble kits and binders, and pick/pack/ship marketing literature and products for clients.

Also included in the new facility is the 65-seat Metzgers Education Center (MEC), which is used for instructing and training both employees and customers. “Curiosity is the foundation of a good entrepreneur,” Joe Metzger points out. “We always want to learn new things, how to produce new products and how to provide new services. Then, we seek to educate our employees and customers on the features and benefits of these services. That’s the whole purpose behind the MEC.”

Growth Via Peer Group

Education is a recurring theme for the Metzger brothers, and their ongoing quest for enlightenment is evident in their participation in the Silver Pen Group, a Printing Industries of America peer group that has been a key driver for their growth and profits. The information sharing of industry standards, as well as the best practices of industry profit leaders, have been a catalyst for managing their company’s growth.

“A profitable business is able to reinvest in itself. We must manage and plan correctly to assure continuous growth and success,” Joe Metzger says. “Peer group members push each other and keep everyone on track. Our industry possesses many smart business leaders. If we network, share and help each other, we can all grow together.”

Other aspects that facilitate growth and learning are buying into the importance of having a strong IT staff, a quality MIS system and a competitive Web-to-print offering, Tom Metzger adds. Newer services such as PURLs, microsites and e-grams help complete the multi-level marketing campaign solution.

“Technology, information and data drive our industry,” Tom Metzger remarks. “If we wake up in the morning thinking we just sell printing or mailing services, we will never compete in the new world of print.”

The Metzger brothers see wonderful growth opportunities for their company in the higher education (with variable and personalized printing/mailing) and healthcare (Web-to-print) markets, along with construction industry products that are sold through dealer networks (online ordering, customization and distribution).

Looking ahead to the balance of the year, Metzgers Printing + Mailing plans to develop and launch 25 new Web-to-print and fulfillment sites for customers. Similarly, Metzgers wants to raise awareness about its new data-mining products and services that assist direct marketing and cross-media campaigns.

Lastly, from a company that has changed its identity often throughout its history, comes the desire to brand itself.

“Some of our customers think of us as a really good commercial offset printer, while others think of us as a quick printer or a digital printer,” Joe Metzger concludes. “Others think of Metzgers’ direct mail or fulfillment services. We must continue to build our brand with all our clientele, so everyone understands what we are about and what we can do for them.” PI



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