Anderson Lithograph--All the Right Moves
BY ERIK CAGLE
One by one, John Fosmire, president and CEO of Los Angeles-based Anderson Lithograph, clicked off the names of former commercial printing contemporaries who had sold their interests to industry consolidators. It was as dubious a list of names as the would-be survivors who had been voted off the island.
"Other than our acquisition by Mail-Well, I can't name any high-end lithographer that increased sales or was a better company a year after being acquired," Fosmire remarks. "Maybe (name withheld to protect the guilty), but I don't think so."
Fosmire, a 40-year printing veteran, rattles two more possible names off the top of his head. Again, he doesn't think they met the criteria.
"What seems to happen is that some of these consolidators want to do a cookie-cutter thing: Put everybody into the same box and make them conform to the corporate line," he says.
The last thing Anderson Lithograph needed was to be molded into something it was not. A versatile performer for the magazine insert, poster, catalog and advertising/promotional printing markets, Anderson Lithograph—a darling of the high-end designer set—serves the financial, entertainment, automotive, retail and computer industries. The cookie-cutter epidemic weighed heavily on their collective minds when the decision was made to be acquired by another industry heavy-hitter.
Extensive research yielded results Fosmire & Co. had expected. Mail-Well was the real deal; an organization that had a history of success stories and is regularly ranked in the upper echelon of printing sales on the Printing Impressions 500. Two years after being merged into the Mail-Well Print Group, Anderson Lithograph has become more powerful than ever and far from being a poster child for botched consolidations. In other words, Mail-Well has allowed Anderson Lithograph to be itself.
"There was a period of adjustment for us, but I think the fact that we're working with people like (Mail-Well executives) Paul Reilly and Jerry Mahoney—who let us explain our business to them—was a pivotal
factor," Fosmire notes. "I have a lot of faith in Paul and Jerry, which I can't say about . . . some guys [who] just storm in, make a decision and that's it. They're not that way. Not that I'm any kind of expert, but I've been at this for 40 years and I've seen Anderson Lithograph grow from a $700,000-a-year company with 19 employees when I joined it to a $150 million-a-year company when we sold it. It's been a real experience and an exhilarating ride."
Fosmire's ride began in 1960 when he joined Anderson Lithograph as a stripper, and eventually took on virtually every job down the production line. Under his guidance, Anderson Lithograph has ridden the cutting edge of technology, from prepress to press to finishing. Along the way, that has meant changing manufacturer brands, namely in the press department. Just recently, Anderson Lithograph converted a number of its sheetfed offset presses from Komori to new Heidelbergs. Ten years earlier, Anderson had made a switch to Komori from Heidelberg.
More Than One Brand
In each instance, Anderson Lithograph weighed the factors most important to the company and its customers. It is not uncommon to walk through the facility and spot different manufacturer's models. In fact, a Baker-Perkins web—rebuilt 10 years ago and running smoothly—is still a valued press.
"When we purchase equipment, we try to buy what we consider to be the best piece of available equipment that fits our needs at any particular time," Fosmire states.
The company has replaced two of its six-color sheetfed presses with eight-color Heidelberg Speedmaster units, which feature interdeck UV dryers that can also run conventional inks, thus offering more flexibility. Anderson previously used dedicated UV presses that could not make the switch from UV to conventional offset printing. Another six-color press is slated to be replaced over the next year, bringing the sheetfed arsenal to six eight-color Heidelberg UV presses.
According to Ed Binder, vice president and director of operations, the ease of operation on the Heidelbergs has brought praise from the sheetfed press operators.
"They have some nice features, such as the remote ink oscillation, which is adjusted from the console, and the zero speed oscillation factor," Binder remarks. "They were big factors in our decision."
Anderson is toying with the idea of expanding to even more than eight-color sheetfed Heidelbergs, according to Mark Tennant, vice president of new business development.
"We have to keep raising the bar," Tennant stresses. "We didn't just want to set up an infrastructure to compete well against standard commercial printing. We're looking for unique equipment that we can employ to differentiate ourselves from general commercial printers.
"Our technology approach dates back to 1974, when we put in our first web press to print high-quality types of annual report work," he adds. "It's been that way all along in terms of creating a market with new types of equipment."
Tennant reports that Anderson Lithograph now boasts two pieces of iron that are unique to the industry. They are eight-color MAN Roland Rotoman in-line single web presses—sans double roll stand—equipped with an in-line spot UV coating device. Installed in early 1999, Anderson Lithograph began startup on its second such model in mid-July. He notes that other printers are just now acquiring their first eight-color in-line web press.
"We work with high-end agencies and designers to do automotive brochures, annual reports and collateral pieces," Tennant states. "What we've done with our eight-color webs is open a market for larger quantity projects, offering the same flexibility of printing units and effects that you previously could only get with an eight-color sheetfed press. Large quantity of impressions becomes much more viable in high-quality, eight-color printing. That market, until we put these presses in, didn't exist. We have created the single web, high quality market. There are other printers with eight-unit web presses configured with double roll stands, but that's more of a standard, publication-type press."
Binder notes that the initial Rotoman became the workhorse of the shop. "The market for eight-color web printing did what we thought it would do, and it continued to expand to the point where we found it feasible to add another," he says.
"We continue to see the design community and our clients adding colors. People are going to 11- and 12-color sheetfed presses now, so the move to an eight-color web is a natural progression for the type of work that we're seeing come to us."
In January of 1999, a two-station Innotech prefolder was installed on Anderson's Rotoman web press. Placed before the double-former folder, it permits a variety of special folded-signature configurations, including single-gated six-pagers, double-gated eight-pagers and various roll-over folds.
New Coating Technology
Anderson Lithograph is frequently called upon to coat various types of applications such as dulls, spot gloss, UV and metallics. However, up until three years ago, it often had challenges with coatings such as striations, orange peel and inconsistent edge definition.
With the LithoCoat Conversion from Harris & Bruno Machine, they were able to eliminate these problems. The LithoCoat Conversion is a performance upgrade to new and existing tower coaters, which allows printers to coat dulls without ribbing or striations, do spot gloss with higher gloss readings, hold precise edge definition and eliminate orange peel. Furthermore, because the system is fully automated, the results are consistent on every job.
After seeing the substantial quality improvements, Anderson Lithograph ordered several more LithoCoat Conversions for its existing Komori presses, as well as for its new Heidelbergs. Currently, it has upgraded two Komori Lithrones and has purchased three new Heidelberg Speedmasters with the LithoCoat Conversion.
Its prepress operation also gets proper attention. A computer-to-plate (CTP) workflow has adorned the prepress area at Anderson Lithograph for four years. Digital color proofing is done with a CreoScitex Spectrum ProofSetter digital halftone proofing device. Anderson has also served beta duty by testing various devices, including SGI graphic workstations, CreoScitex thermal platesetters and many prepress-related software applications.
Besides Los Angeles, Anderson Lithograph's empire includes a plant in San Francisco, as well as Armstrong-White, a creative retouching studio in Detroit—totaling 570 employees in all three locales and nearly 200,000 square feet of production space. The company also boasts its own co-generation power plant that produces electricity, chilled water for the presses, air conditioning and pollution control.
Anderson Lithograph is a model for employee loyalty. Fosmire's senior management team includes, among others: Tennant; Binder; Alan Pemberton, executive vice president; Chuck Super, vice president and national sales manager; Don Friedel, vice president of organizational development; and John Shutes, vice president of estimating.
The team has more than 170 years of industry experience, 130 at Anderson Lithograph. Also, more than 53 percent of Anderson's employees have been with the company at least 10 years. Tennant attributes this loyalty to the state-of-the-art facility and high-end projects, which makes the work fresh and challenging to their high-caliber employees. Not surprisingly, the final product reflects this.
Whatever It Takes
"We're held in very high esteem by our customers because we deliver a quality product on time," Fosmire notes. "We live up to our commitments, regardless of what the cost is to us. If we say we're going to do something, we do it. That pretty much says who we are."
"We've been in it for the long term and have really built our environment around the high-end marketplace," Tennant adds. "We have a high percentage of repeat customers because we've been stable in this environment for many, many years."
Remaining stable in the environment for many years to come is the pure and simple goal of Anderson Lithograph. Even as technology shapes and evolves the manner in which printed communications are delivered, Anderson Lithograph will always recognize this industry as one that is driven by customer relationships. Tennant cites reducing the hassle factor—grief that is placed on clients—as a value that often supercedes the bottom line.
"We're trying to be creative in terms of the type of equipment that we put in, like the two eight-color, single pass webs, so that we can attract a different segment of the market," Fosmire states. "We're also looking at some new sheetfed press developments, so we can attract and keep the design community. We try to give them as many tools as possible so that they can be more creative."