2019 Best-in-Class Innovator: Chromagraphics Goes From No-Bid to 'No-Brainer'
Innovators don’t come to their plants in the morning saying to themselves, “Today, I’m going to innovate.” That’s not what innovation is about. It’s more a reflex than a behavior — a continuous state of mind that leads both deliberately and serendipitously to transformative results.
The printing industry’s innovators are energetic, inquisitive, and intrepid people who don’t wait for things to happen. Sometimes they strategize outcomes. At other times, facing threat or opportunity, they instinctively choose the right course of action. Either way, these relentless innovators always manage to achieve something that lifts their companies to new levels of capability, performance, and profitability.
The accounts of 12 businesses that exemplify innovation in the printing industry came together in the October issue of Printing Impressions, including the profile below. All of the profiles are based on interviews with the sources and on their responses to questionnaires filled out in support of their applications to be selected as Printing Impressions’ “Innovator of the Year” for 2019.
In its fifth decade as a print service provider (PSP) to businesses in and around Sonoma County’s famed wine country, ChromaGraphics has a well-honed sense of what its customers expect in terms of efficiency, quality, and product diversity. Today, the company is demonstrating that by embracing a new production technology, a small shop can take the same big strides in these directions as an establishment of any other size.
The technology is UV inkjet, which ChromaGraphics has acquired in the form of a Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1 sheetfed UV inkjet color press that it installed in January. Since then, explains Eric Janssen, president, the company has been able to expand into applications it couldn’t previously touch, either because the quantities were too small for its litho presses or because quality requirements exceeded what its toner digital presses could do.
Now, says Janssen, those limitations are gone, “and our clients only receive effective performance, no matter the print request.” He cites the AccurioJet KM-1’s efficiency, ease of use, and versatility as the features chiefly responsible for the increase in business it has helped ChromaGraphics to win.
Janssen says that because, as a digital press, the AccurioJet KM-1 minimizes or eliminates waste sheets, “we’re constantly leaning down the amount of paper we’re using:” a savings that can be shared with customers. With instant-dry UV curing applied to clean, single-pass duplex printing on the AccurioJet KM-1’s B2+-format sheets, jobs “are coming off done” at a clip that makes it possible to send them to the bindery “this afternoon” if the bindery has the bandwidth to handle them, Janssen reports.
Another plus is the smoothness of the AccurioJet KM-1’s fit into the shop’s production routines. “We are not required to change the existing workflow while straddling the changes into this new technology,” Janssen explains. “This has allowed our operators to train quickly and troubleshoot easily when required.”
Personalized direct mail and short-run packaging are among the applications earmarked for the press, along with the shop’s mainstay work in displays, header cards, and other POS materials (“anything in or around a store”). Janssen also anticipates being able to handle jobs he once would have been obliged to turn away.
As he puts it, “now a 300-sheet project due tomorrow on uncoated cover stock is a no-brainer, whereas before we would be required to no-bid the project,” because the shop did not have a press that could print it without sacrificing profit or quality.
Thanks in large part to what the AccurioJet KM-1 is capable of, Janssen observes, “digital printing has become more relevant, even to our legacy business.” ChromaGraphics also operates digital presses from Ricoh and Xerox, and wide-format devices from Gandy, Seiko, and HP. A pair of five-color Komori Lithrone sheetfed presses supply the offset capability.
Learning from experience “as quickly as we can” is how ChromaGraphics stays ahead of trends and keeps itself from being blindsided by change. “You have to be agile,” Janssen counsels. “It’s really difficult to be innovative when you don’t know what you don’t know.”