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Globalsoft Digital Solutions : Digitally, Very Photogenic

November 2012 By Erik Cagle, senior editor
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One of the ways to ascertain the value of a printing company is to locate the heart of its value proposition. The executives of GlobalSoft Digital Solutions will simply point to the fact that their firm has been a digital printing operation since Day One. In a sense, it's a very compelling argument.

Sure, the partnership trio of Chris Petro, Arthur Manzo and Russ Comito have a combined 40-plus years of digital printing experience. And, much like digital printing itself, the Mahwah, NJ-based company continues to morph as the nature of the technology evolves. But, perhaps the truth behind GlobalSoft's value goes a bit deeper.

GlobalSoft has a vested interest in the future of digital printing, which seems like an obvious conclusion. And, its commitment levels are nearly unparalleled. From investments in new technologies, the willingness to venture boldly into new product and service sectors, and the depth of its bonds with equipment suppliers, along with a dedication to education, lean manufacturing and process improvement, GlobalSoft has wagered all of its chips on the future of digital printing and integrated marketing. It seems a safe bet.

"We've always looked for what is on the cusp that we can offer our clients—what's the next greatest thing as opposed to just what's trendy now," says Manzo, GlobalSoft COO. "How do we perfect that? That's a mantra that never really changes.

"Our development team has been a terrific differentiator, along with our mindset, forward thinking and experience in the market for 10 years as a digital printer," he adds. "The fact that we've always been a digital print provider and utilized technology-specific solutions ensures our future growth. It helps to set us apart."

Founded in 1999, the firm—like digital printing—has endured numerous changes in a short period. Digital offset printing, variable data personalization, Web-to-print applications and wide-format digital printing capabilities helped elevate GlobalSoft in the digital space, serving clients in verticals such as financial services, automotive, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing.

Targets: Photo Specialty and Calendars

The firm is now experiencing explosive growth in the photo specialty and calendar markets. In 2008, GlobalSoft became the production engine for a greeting card publisher in the United Kingdom, but that is only the tip of the specialty products iceberg.

Today, GlobalSoft counts roughly 15 small publishers among its clients. But the photo specialty isn't limited to greeting cards. The Jersey printer has become the dean of white label products, churning out personalized photo books, calendars, invitations, mugs and t-shirts. GlobalSoft also serves boutique book publishers while operating in the shadow of the industry's largest publishing houses.

Other more "traditional" digital offerings include corporate marketing collateral items and document management programs.

"The photo specialty market has become significant for us," notes Petro, president and CEO of GlobalSoft. "It's a diversion from our past, where it's typically been an enterprise level, commercial based, B2B customer engagement. Our greeting card business has grown substantially over the years. Publishers use us for wholesale and retail business in a print-on-demand environment.

"Publishers used to order greeting cards printed offset in bulk and store them everywhere, even in their homes," Petro laughs. "We've built a model that enables zero inventory, which allows them to offer more SKUs without risk and get into a better delivery environment. We've pared down their turn times significantly."

The growth of photo specialty products at GlobalSoft is revolutionary. By the end of fiscal year 2012, it will account for 35 percent of total revenues, a figure Petro expects will balloon to 60 percent in 2013. Sales forecasts are for the $18 million to $20 million range.

GlobalSoft's migration to a Pageflex Web-to-print platform eight years ago took the printer's online storefront program to the next level, opening the floodgates on enterprise-level accounts. But it didn't take long for fulfillment to become a challenge in regards to those accounts with global needs. The solution: GlobalSoft opened a facility in Pusignan (near Lyon), France. It's a printing and fulfillment operation, with no sales staff. GlobalSoft now does business in 23 countries and 15 different languages, 100 percent supported by Web-based storefronts.

The upshot has been reciprocal printing opportunities in the United States. Petro is taking a hard look at the Asian marketplace for future international growth, while Canada and Mexico are also possible targets for down the road.

The photo specialty success is credited to a "heavy" investment in technology, workflow and development at GlobalSoft. There's an ongoing quest for improvement in that regard; Petro and Comito attended the recent drupa and Graph Expo shows with the express intent of seeking out automation tools for greeting card production and the manufacturing of photo books and calendars.

GlobalSoft already made a substantial capex commitment in 2012 with the acquisition of two HP Indigo 7600 digital presses. They joined a fleet that includes two Indigo 7500s, a pair of Indigo 5000s and seven HP wide-format digital printers, while continuing one of the deeper relationships between a printer and manufacturer.

How deep? GlobalSoft beta tested the Indigo 5000, 7500 and 7600 presses and was the first post-beta installation for the 7500 and 7600. Manzo is a founding member of the Digital Solutions Cooperative (Dscoop), the HP graphic arts users' group; both he and Petro served on the HP Digital Print Advisory Counsel. Petro is also currently serving as the international chairman for Dscoop.

"We enjoy a unique relationship," Petro states. "It's great to see recommendations from a user group perspective, and then be able to see the manifestation of those suggestions. We've had other people on their technical board and some of our prepress people have been involved with Dscoop. It's certainly bore fruit for us.

"When we started to grow in photo specialty, the fulfillment part of that manufacturing process—binding and side stitching—required a significant investment on our behalf. That gear was financed by HP Financial Services. Not only did they finance the presses, they gave us a competitive interest rate and true partnership in the advancement of photo specialty. The win for them is that as we grow, we'll buy more HP presses."

Another Digital Press Is on the Horizon

Petro reinforced that statement by saying his company will likely acquire an HP Indigo W7250 webfed digital press, with an aim towards a January/February 2013 installation.

In October of 2011, sparked by increased demand for black-and-white products, GlobalSoft brought aboard an Océ VarioPrint monochrome press, which replaced two older devices. In addition to producing training, service and product manuals, it has been the catalyst for GlobalSoft's entry into book printing.

"The various media we can print on the VarioPrint, the quality of the printing, the laser array—it's just superior," reports Comito, vice president of client services. "The VarioPrint provides a nice tie-in to our Indigo color output."

The investments didn't start and end with equipment. For a company that spent its first four Christmases constantly preparing for moves into new facilities, GlobalSoft seems to have found a long-term home in May of 2011. Its 50,000-square-foot facility was crafted into the side of a mountain in an industrial complex, and a lean manufacturing consultant was brought in to help maximize the new space.

The result: A building that is easy on the eyes while speaking to the needs of HVAC-controlled, digital printing, while providing ample space for kitting, fulfillment and packaging. Lean manufacturing is greatly emphasized, with monthly 5S audits and Kaizen (continuous improvement) meetings. Waste is managed down to the ounce, Petro points out, a fact that is not lost on his customers.

This past May, GlobalSoft raised the stakes by installing solar panels on its rooftop. The system, subsidized by the State of New Jersey's Clean Energy program, carries a price tag in the $1 million ballpark. According to Petro, the system has allowed the company to produce 30 to 40 percent of its power consumption. It is expected to pay for itself in less than two years.

"Some months, when we're not so busy, we can go above our usage and put that (power) back into the grid," Petro says.

Also this past summer, GlobalSoft launched its new marketing services and logistics division, GlobalSoft Innovations. The aim of the service, which debuted with a soft launch in the fall of 2011, is to provide customer-centric marketing, cross-media integration and marketing logistics.

"As the technology marketplace shifted from print service provider to marketing solutions provider, there was a natural dovetail to go to these folks—brand managers, chief marketing officers and sales vice presidents—because they were often asking us to do a pURL campaign, a gURL campaign, or an electronic newsletter," Petro states.

"In many instances, we were doing these types of cross-media campaigns, bucketed in our engagement as value-added services. So, we made a conscious decision to hire some sharp people who could help us provide automated marketing and multimedia mixes."

Manzo notes that longtime customers had approached GlobalSoft seeking new ideas on how they, in turn, could better communicate with their customers and prospects. "Some of it has migrated away from print into electronic communications, and GlobalSoft Innovations was a way we could start talking to them not only about their overall communications strategy, but how they can improve their ROI for all aspects of their marketing campaigns. We've brought some of the best marketing people in the industry onboard."

But whether the tools are social media, integrated marketing solutions or Web-based storefronts, customers never lose sight of the fact that digital printing is the core strength of GlobalSoft's value proposition. That the printer is willing to bend toward technological changes in the marketplace is proof positive that it plans on being around for the long haul.

"Our mantra is digital first," Comito concludes. "That really sets us apart from the rest." PI


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