RPL Graphics--The New Breed of Printing CompanyOctober 1998
Regardless of product, RPL turns all work around quickly, a strategically important capability to RPL's customers. Speed is critical to software companies, whose products change frequently. These customers do not want to throw out old manuals—some close to 1,000 pages long—every time they introduce a new version or add a feature. They print in low volumes, on an on-demand basis—the perfect application for RPL's digital printers. These include two black-and-white DocuTechs, a model 135 and a model 6180, and a DocuColor 40 for inserts, sleeves and covers.
RPL typically produces on-demand manuals with color covers, inserted tabs and Wire-O binding, all in-house. "Software companies can change something every day," says Ron Linden Jr., director of production and son of the president and CEO, "and they want the change printed immediately. So they need quick turns and all-digital output, and it has to look good, too. That's what we specialize in. We can turn around four-over-four print jobs in less than 24 hours, cut and bound."
Efficient production is not limited to RPL's digital output. The company's new five-color, 14x20˝ Ryobi 525 HX press features an in-line aqueous coater, to cut drying time. RPL also houses a two-color Heidelberg Quickmaster and three A.B. Dick presses. Jobs are split about 50-50 between digital and offset output. Both kinds of output are augmented by a complete finishing department, including a hot/cold laminator that mounts almost any material, an automated punch for high-volume manuals and other conventional bindery equipment.
Value-added services are another element of RPL's strategy. "We perform version control to make sure that technical documentation goes out with the correct version," says Doreen Linden, managing director and sales manager. "For direct marketing companies who need to personalize mailings or catalogs, we also provide variable-data printing."
Other value-added services include digital archiving, custom index tabbing and kit assembly. RPL consults with customers on production and design, finding ways to refresh an old design, implement a new one or identify production and layout changes to stay within budget. It repurposes information from a print project to a customer's Web site, CD-ROM or direct mail campaign.
It also offers technical consulting, for assistance with anything from preparing and saving files correctly to multi-level data conversion. RPL covers the final stage of a job by providing complete fulfillment and shipping services. "We ship around the world," adds the senior Ron Linden. "Sometimes we ship a ton of documentation in a day."
In several key accounts, RPL has installed a system for ordering printing via the Internet. A customer in, say, Dallas may use the system to order a manual by its part number. RPL then posts the cover of that manual on its Web site as verification that the correct one has been ordered. The customer then enters the number of items to be printed and shipping locations. While the job is in progress, the customer can track its status.
The online ordering system has helped jobs move quicker. It has relieved RPL's customer service reps of routine tracking chores. Most importantly, it gives customers central accountability for all print orders, even those entered from locations around the world.
RPL exemplifies a trend seen today in manufacturing operations of all kinds. As the actual manufacture of goods (in this case, putting ink on paper) becomes more automated, and as markets become more global and competitive, profits depend increasingly on the service side of the business. Value-added services and online ordering systems can simultaneously increase revenue and make the manufacturing operation more efficient.
RPL Graphics has taken that lesson to heart, and has the results to show for it. For example, RPL Graphics won the Supplier Recognition and Supplier Extra Effort Awards from Varian Associates for the years 1993 through 1996.
Recognition like that does not come accidentally. In the case of RPL, it comes from recognizing that customers have a variety of needs, and from satisfying them.