A Look at Thomson Reuters' Printing Division, Core Publishing Solutions
It has often been said that the best way to find out what you want to know about the culture of a company is to walk through its production facility and look into the eyes of its employees. Core values are for mission statements. The true barometer of a firm’s culture can be yielded more effectively in just a glance.
Well, if that’s truly the case, the top executives at Core Publishing Solutions cordially invite you to take a long, hard look into their workers’ eyes. Stare, if you wish. Or simply ask the employees what it is like to work for the Eagan, Minn.-based printer of single-color books. The print production arm of $12.2 billion professional information and software business icon Thomson Reuters feels it has a distinct advantage when prospects stroll through their printing facility.
At a production facility where its workers average 22 years of service, this is one company that doesn’t have to worry about sprucing up the place — or hiding malcontents — before customers arrive.
“I love it when potential customers come visit our plant,” notes Todd Roth, VP of manufacturing and distribution operations at Core Publishing Solutions. “They get a chance to see our people and get a real sense of their involvement, dedication and excitement for what we produce. The cleanliness, the organization, the involvement, the visual controls, the employee feedback we receive that’s participatory in nature … they see a workforce that cares about customers.”
The firm’s genesis traces back to 1872 as West Publishing, which quickly became a staple of the legal marketplace in providing tools and information to that space. The company was acquired by The Thomson Corp. in 1996, expanding its reach; then in 2008 Reuters was obtained. Core Publishing Solutions was christened in 2013.
Today, Thomson Reuters employs 50,000 people around the world. In addition to the legal market, Core Publishing’s parent also serves the financial/risk, tax and accounting, and intellectual property and science spaces.
Core Publishing Solutions is definitely a what-you-see-is-what-you-get firm, from the employees down to the name. The company focuses exclusively on one-color book manufacturing: hardbound, softbound and loose-leaf books in trim sizes 9-11˝. It’s the firm’s “core” competency. It also specializes in the use of lightweight papers, and can adorn hardcover tomes with foil stamping and embossing.
The printer employs 425 at its 1.3 million-square-foot facility, half of which is dedicated to production. In addition to work for Thomson Reuters, Core Publishing Solutions manufactures books for 100-plus publishers in the professional and scholarly, higher education and trade markets. The outside work, which not long ago was merely incremental, has grown to represent nearly a third of its overall volume.
While the company does not reveal sales figures, Roth points out that Core Publishing Solutions ranks “solidly” among the top 10 U.S. book manufacturers. And, thanks in part to a pair of meaningful equipment acquisitions that joined the fold in late 2015, Core Publishing Solutions likely isn’t in danger of relinquishing that standing.
The aforementioned machines are an Océ VarioPrint i300 sheetfed inkjet printer from Canon Solutions America and an HP PageWide T360 color inkjet web press. Larry Soler, director of prepress, press and digital departments at Core Publishing Solutions, explains how the company was looking for solutions to help manage shorter run lengths and quicker turnaround times. Its two existing Canon imagePRESS C7010s were maxed out, printing more than a million impressions per month between the pair. Core needed to address the growing print-on-demand digital workload.
Soler notes the speed, cost savings and reliability have made the B3-format Océ VarioPrint i300 press a welcome addition. “As we continue to evolve, new papers are being approved for the machine regularly,” he says. “Once the press knows the paper, the ink heads adjust to it. It’s opening up a lot of opportunities.”
The reliability of the Océ VarioPrint i300 has been one of the major talking points at Core Publishing Solutions. During an in-house inkjet symposium at the shop, it was noted by the VarioPrint i300 operator that the press had only experienced one paper jam. The inkjet device now handles the work that three digital units once carried, an output of 750,000 impressions per month, and the plan is to ramp up to 5-6 million impressions each month. The VarioPrint i300 will be bolstered by the Q3 addition of a BLM600 bookletmaking system.
“We see multiple opportunities to grow the capabilities in short-run production finishing as papers pick up,” Soler adds.
The other newcomer adorning the production floor is the HP PageWide T360, which is operating in-line with a Magnum FlexBook. The inkjet web press, which went live in mid-December, is well on its way to realizing a three-year payback. That will be accomplished through an impressive workload of more than one billion monochrome pages per year. Soler notes the press fits the run size, meeting break-even points between web offset and digital printing.
“The lightweight papers that we are running make a difference for us, so it was important that we find the right in-line solution,” Roth notes. “So we’re running anywhere from 10- to 20-book to maybe 500- to 700-book run lengths on the T360. We’ve also reduced the amount of paper stocks that we use, to as low as 27-lb paper and up to 50-lb.”
Soler says that adding the FlexBook in-line to the HP T360 was a cost-effective way to produce signature-format pages in glued book block form. These blocks create efficiencies in Core’s bindery production to produce the final product.
Don’t jump to the conclusion that Core Publishing Solutions is a digital-only printing operation. While digital pages may be on the rise, only 10% of the output there consists of digital production, notes Steve Zweber, director of bindery, subscription services and distribution operations. The printer — which will crank out roughly 22 million books in 2016 — relies on a bevy of heatset and coldset web offset presses.
Given the sheer volume of books produced by Core Publishing Solutions each year, among other factors, it’s not surprising that the organization chooses to focus on the one-color aspect. “There’s a lot of players in the marketplace who focus on four-color work,” Roth states. “We’re particularly good at single-color work and that’s what we’ve built as our backbone. I don’t think we want to move away from that. Obviously, we can do color covers and decoration on hardcover books but, when it comes to text production, we’re going to stay in our core space of single color.”
The burgeoning workload of non-Thomson Reuters published jobs gained traction at a time when run lengths continued to decline and Core wanted to maintain its flexibility and capacity for its customer base, according to Tim Hughes, director of manufacturing client services. The additional work has allowed the company to maintain competitiveness, keep the pulse of where the marketplace is going, as well as keep its cost structure in line.
“The markets that serve us well include trade organizations, niche publications, university presses and, recently, work for other printers,” Hughes says. “As other printers move deeper into the four-color space, they see one-color jobs being less of a core competency for them. That’s where we can provide them that service.”
Hughes adds that word-of-mouth has been Core’s best marketing tool in expanding outside work. Its reputation as a high-quality, single-color printer that delivers on time and cost effectively requires little fanfare, and having a highly-regarded parent such as Thomson Reuters is an added plus.
In the age of declining run lengths, one aspect that has enabled Core Publishing Solutions to raise its game is the adoption of lean manufacturing principles. Its program just hit the 10-year mark and has alleviated the organization’s cost structure. Lean practices have permeated the entire operation and aided problem solving as well as driving efficiencies. Zweber points out that the program has resulted in seven-figure savings per year.
“Our employees are very engaged with lean principles, and it speaks for itself when you tour the plant,” Soler adds. “Right now, we’re involved in our tier leadership model, which supports our operation model here. So the lean piece is not just about the cost savings, it’s part of the everyday culture among our employees.”
Not surprisingly, Core Publishing Solutions is constantly recognizing its workers for their contributions to the continuous improvement activities. A master “wall of fame” within the shop sports the names of more than 100 employees who have been cited for exemplary performances in the past 12 months alone.
Another example of the company’s dedication to not only producing a quality product cost-effectively but also with an eye toward the processes and manner in which it is produced, Core Publishing Solutions garnered Minnesota STAR status. The program, administered by the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “recognizes companies where managers and employees work together to develop safety and health management systems that go beyond basic compliance with all applicable OSHA standards and result in immediate and long-term prevention of job-related injuries and illnesses.”
Core Publishing Solutions is one of only 40 companies in the state — which is home to 165,000 eligible companies — to have garnered the distinction. “We found the partnership with OSHA to be incredibly helpful in moving our whole safety culture along,” Roth remarks. “They go hand in hand in terms of involvement, transparency and working together. The entire employee base is proud of what we accomplished but humbled by what more we have to do.”
Hughes adds that the printer’s strong relationship with Thomson Reuters, one that is consultative, fosters a highly collaborative atmosphere. Core Publishing Solutions takes the same tact with outside accounts, providing suggestions and guidance that enable their customers to get the most mileage out of business experiences.
But while Thomson Reuters is world renown, the printing arm of the business has room to elevate its awareness. “We’re kind of a quiet giant in the Midwest,” Roth adds. “We haven’t been out there doing a lot of marketing. We want potential customers to come in and see what we’re all about.” PI