West Press : Mastering Each ProcessFebruary 2010 By Julie Greenbaum
THE STAFF at West Press have always operated on a simple mantra: "If you do a good job and take good care of your customers, then the rest will follow." Although the Tucson, AZ-based company started out as a smaller printer, its goals have been nothing short of large.
Since its outset in 1991, with just seven employees, two copiers and two small duplicators, Joel Levine, founder, set out to transform what was then a franchise copy shop into a commercial printing business that now offers digital, sheetfed offset and wide-format output.
In 2002, West Press became an ESOP company (employee stock ownership plan), which has transformed it into a close-knit organization with a staff that remains passionate about the firm's success. "As an ESOP company, it is nice when we all meet to discuss our triumphs and challenges at work," explains Kristy Scharf, president. "We share as many numbers as we can with our employees and, in turn, they ask a lot of questions and care about the business."
Today, West Press is a one-stop shop offering graphic design, database/list management, printed marketing collateral, training manuals with instructional CDs or DVDs, full-color envelopes, as well as finishing, mailing and fulfillment services. With the medical industry thriving in Arizona, a large portion of its business centers around producing newsletters for chiropractors, dentists, medical suppliers and hospitals. The company also creates newsletters for the independent auto repair and real estate markets.
Operating out of a 27,000-square-foot facility, West Press has 45 employees and generated $51⁄2 million in its most recent fiscal year. More than half of the printer's sales come from out of state, and its newsletter business alone averages about 700 to 800 orders per month.
Invest to Improve
Another growing market is the import and distribution industries in Arizona. While West Press currently produces header cards for tomato packing houses, the company expects to provide even more product as the packing houses handle more produce. With new distribution centers being built in Southern Arizona, Scharf sees an opportunity since many of these new ports are located in small- to medium-sized towns with few, if any, local print providers.
"Larger ports are being built in Arizona to bring more products into the U.S. from Mexico, and want to be a part of this," she points out. "The new and expanded ports will be handling more of the fresh produce that comes into the United States for packaging before distribution."
Another area that the company sought to improve upon was its color management processes. Last August, it became the only printer in Southern Arizona, and one of just hundreds nationwide, to become G7 Master Printer certified. Further separating itself from competitors, the company's pressroom certification testing was done at 300 lpi.
According to Sean Johnson, West Press' plant manager, it was a major accomplishment to reach a process control certification at this level. "Everybody expects a very large printer to go after a G7 certification," he explains. "It's a monumental task to take something on like this and keep these procedures implemented, all while maintaining a 300 line screen."
West Press customers benefit by getting the very best color management control available. "The G7 process allows us to provide them with 100 percent-verifiable accuracy of color reproduction throughout the entire workflow, from digital image to the final printed press sheet," adds Johnson.
Attaining G7 Master Printer status also prompted the shop to become more environmentally aware of the products it was using. The company now uses a single-step ethylene, glycol-free fountain solution; inks that contain 79 percent soy-based renewable oil resins; and its solvent VOC emissions are now only 32 grams/liter.
Last year, West Press made investments throughout its operation, including a Canon imagePRESS C7000VP digital color press; a Xanté Ilumina digital envelope printer, said to be the only one in operation in Arizona; a Standard Horizon StitchLiner; a Secap collating/inserting system; and an FMA off-line UV coater.
The company's all-Heidelberg offset pressroom features a six-color Speedmaster with coater, a four-color Speedmaster with coater and three two-color Quickmasters. On the digital side, the new Canon and Xanté equipment joined three existing Canon imageRUNNER 110s and four Canon imageRUNNER 8500s. It also maintains an in-house bindery and mailing department.
Ensuring Print's Future
Committed to the future of print, West Press has also made it a point to host open houses for students and to promote the importance of continuing education for its employees. "Every company in our industry has a responsibility to education," stresses Levine. "Keeping young people aware, interested and involved is a long-term investment for the future. We derive great joy out of bringing tours through our facility and showing young people what we are doing."
Last April, students from the Flowing Wells High School graphic design class spent a day working with the staff at West Press.
A believer in continuing education, West Press also offers a tuition reimbursement program. And the company encourages its employees to invite classmates to visit its facility to see first-hand how projects all come together. "Educating our employees is equally as important as educating the students that visit us," notes Levine. "We have to keep our industry alive and vibrant."
Moving forward, the leadership at West Press see further opportunity for Internet-based growth in the industries it already serves, as well as in serving the growing communities in the Southwest. The company just completed a product line Website for one of its customers and plans on producing similar product Websites in the future.
West Press is currently evaluating workflow solutions that will better tie in its printing processes with its mailing, fulfillment and other ancillary services. The company will also continue to invest in additional equipment or services, depending on client needs.
"We maintain an extremely good rapport with our customers, and place a high value on their input and the compliments that they give us," concludes Scharf. "Our satisfaction comes from the smiles on their faces." PI