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OMAHA PRINT -- Tradition. . . and a Future

September 2002
BY ERIK CAGLE


Want perspective on just how old Omaha Print is in relation to our young country? When the company's initial flagship publication—the Omaha Republican—debuted in 1858, Nebraska was still nine years away from becoming a state.

Abe Lincoln and the Pony Express wouldn't bow for two more years, and the Civil War was three years away from the first cannonball being fired. And the new printer could count, as one of its first customers, a new company called the Union-Pacific Railroad.

Omaha Print has not only changed along with the country—it once sold furniture and stationery supplies from a retail outlet—it has also changed with the industry, setting a goal to embark upon a completely digital workflow. A largely Midwestern printer with the lion's share of business within a 250-mile radius of Omaha, the company is adding a dedicated national sales manager to develop a broader scope.


The senior management team of Omaha Print includes (from left to right): Gary Smith, COO; Steve Hayes, president and CEO; and Chuck Kinzer, CFO.
The 100-employee company shed the non-print aspect of the business in the early 1990s in order to focus its efforts entirely on general commercial printing work, according to Steve Hayes, CEO and president.

"As we saw changes coming, we found it difficult to fund both office supplies and print aspects of our company," Hayes recalls. "To be able to keep competitive, we felt that our long-range future was in the commercial printing area, so we chose a strategy to compete heavily in the local marketplace. We chose to consolidate on the 40˝ format—40˝ Heidelberg sheetfed and eventually heatset web presses—and to build an efficient workflow to support that format."

The company sold its office products division in 1995, which was just the beginning of a new age for the $15 million printer. Computer-to-plate (CTP) technology—an Agfa Galileo platesetter with a Barco (Esko-Graphics) front end—was installed in 2000, and Omaha Print also picked up a five-color Zirkon heatset half-web press (complementing a stable of two-, four-, five- and six-color sheetfed units). That the company has achieved ISO 9002 certification further underscores its objective of dedicated printing excellence.

Omaha Print's dossier of heatset web, sheetfed and non-heatset web printing capabilities provides an ample variety of work, including annual reports, newspaper inserts, billing inserts, weekly and monthly publications, and high-end color prints. Omaha Print is a true general commercial printer, according to Hayes, with unique advantages such as purchasing all inventory—paper, ink, etc.—on consignment. The company actually has on-site paper and ink vendors.

Turning Point

The year 1998 may be remembered as a turning point in the printer's objective in tying its processes together electronically to support its customers, "Get there. Faster." Omaha Print set out to have a completely digital workflow to support all data collection, including the entire front-end process of planning, estimating, scheduling, purchasing, order entry and the prepress workflow. It set off a chain reaction of capital equipment and software acquisitions, including:

* A Barco workflow to output digital imposition proofs and computer-to-film (CTF) production. CTF, according to Gary Smith, COO, was to accomplish one-piece film per color for platemaking. "Thinking in these terms, this process would pave the way for computer-to-plate," he says.

* During 2000, Omaha installed the Galileo for CTP production, two DuPont Digital WaterProof proofing systems, one Agfa Sherpa ink-jet imposition proofer and a Screen (USA) flatbed scanner with the copydot option to scan film.

* In late 2000, Omaha Print acquired a new, five-unit Zirkon 6611, an eight-page heatset web press with capabilities to perforate, glue, fold and sheet at a production speed of 50,000 iph.

* The year 2001 brought a second Agfa Sherpa ink-jet proofer.

* This year, the company added a Barco upgrade (Fast Lane Next Generation) to its workflow. It also installed Eltromat CIPCON data conversion software for calculating the surface coverage with respect to ink presetting values for variable printing configurations, Smith notes. More recently, a Heidelberg ST 400 saddle stitcher was installed, boasting cover feeder, 10 pockets, ink-jet capability, auto stacker and complete shaftless drive technology with auto preset capabilities throughout the finishing line.

Omaha Print will let its clientele guide the company in its technological endeavors, according to Smith. "The most evident area for greatest contribution has been with the completely digital workflow," he says. "CTP has enhanced the end product greatly, and has reduced waste and material costs. The new web press technology has complemented our product offerings, and we foresee that the new stitcher finishing line will do the same.

"Our strides to continually improve quality, turnaround times and to lower costs have been effective. During the last four years, we have seen cycle times improve by 40 percent and we predict this percentage to increase even further."

When Omaha Print went shopping for a front-end system to navigate its digital course, the company turned to Printcafe's Logic solution. What made Logic particularly appealing to Omaha Print was its Direct Machine Interface (DMI) for the accuracy of data collection, according to Chuck Kinzer, CFO. The ROI was immediate and tangible—no less than a 10 percent reduction in waste, and running speeds burgeoned more than 10 percent, as well.

"With the implementation of Printcafe Logic's electronic job ticket early in our process, we began attaching estimates—which gives us comparisons of estimate to actual—further increasing our cost controls," Kinzer states. "The estimated hours also drive the Logic scheduling system.

"Becoming fully integrated also allows us to track quote won-loss percentages. We are actually able to provide a daily scorecard that show bookings, quotes, cash position, and we're doing a daily profit estimate," he adds. "We think we're about 90 percent of the way toward having a 100-percent digital workflow, especially in the front-end area. To get there, we still need to integrate our sales management system, MIS and our job tracking system. We're hopeful of doing that within the next year."


With a watchful eye on quality are (from the left): Joe Sequenzia, vice president of sales; John Snow, pressroom manager, and David Mace, MIS director.
David Mace, the company's MIS director, points out that Omaha Print is also running the Printcafe Logic Wintrack module for labor tracking, as well as the Plant Vista module for a real-time view of the shop floor, along with Printcafe modules for purchasing, scheduling, shipping and accounting.

In fact, the company was a Beta site for the accounting and scheduling applications. Printcafe Logic personnel were willing to listen to ideas Omaha Print presented, and implemented them into the software, which facilitated much of the printer's success with the system, according to Mace.

Some More Solutions

The company also uses Printcafe's Auto-Count 100, 1000 and 3000 systems. Plant Vista is used for monitoring the DMI devices on managers' desktops. The Auto-Count 100s are used on the company's folders and stitchers, the Auto-Count 1000s gather data for the sheetfed presses and an Auto-Count 3000 is used with the new web press.

Omaha Print is excited with the preliminary results it has seen with two other Printcafe solutions: the PrintFlow scheduling module and PrinterSite Internal, a sales force mobilization tool. The latter is a Web-based tool aimed at automating and integrating client information, including specifications, estimates and project status, management and invoicing.

"Dave and I initially looked at the Printcafe offering 18 months ago, and we had significant discussions with their people, at that time, about what we really needed," Kinzer points out. "PrinterSite Internal is an excellent response; it shows a lot of flexibility on their part, and we're hoping it's going to go a long way towards our goals."

After 145 years in business, Hayes doesn't expect any drastic changes in the foreseeable future. While there may be "natural progressions" into areas such as ink-jetting and fulfillment services, the company won't be rushing into speculative markets and niches.

What Omaha Print will be doing, according to Kinzer, is maintaining the pulse of its client base and staying in tune with their needs. "We have to help them with their marketing efforts by being on the front end of that," he says.

"The workflow changes and equipment investments we've made have all been customer-driven. The way to be truly successful is through direct and consistent communication with customers—not only on a sales/purchasing level, but also with our senior managers getting involved with clients' top management."
 

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