Best-in-Class Innovator: Melan Inc. Shares What it Takes to Innovate
Let’s first be clear about what “innovation” for printing companies isn’t.
It’s not merely about acquiring new technology (although technology typically serves as a catalyst for innovation).
It’s not necessarily about producing things that no one else has produced before (although this kind of inventiveness is one sure sign of a company that deserves to be called innovative).
The stories of the six printing companies profiled for our Innovators series suggest that when we speak in practical terms about a relentless drive for improved performance, we come nearer to the heart of what “innovation” in the printing business really means.
No company achieves operational excellence without rethinking time-honored production routines and replacing them, when need be, with processes that work better. That’s innovation. So is the continuous effort made to set new benchmarks of productivity and efficiency on behalf of customers — because a company determined to excel will never hesitate to innovate its way to the next level of excellence.
Companies dedicated to pursuing this kind of innovation may well be the ones with the latest-and-greatest gear in their production departments and the most dazzling applications coming out of them. But make no mistake about why the capability is there or what fundamental strategic purpose it serves.
We’ll let our source pick up the explanation from here.
Garo Nazarian, president of Melan, knows when to look for opportunities — and where. The founder of one of the first computer-to-plate (CTP) prepress businesses in Montréal, he flourished as a CTP trade service provider until he saw that his printer customers were starting to install platesetters of their own. Determined to find a new venture, he traveled to Düsseldorf, Germany, for drupa 2008. While there, he had an epiphany.
It came in the form of the dry-toner press equipment being exhibited by Xeikon; Nazarian could see the technology’s potential right away. The Xeikon platform, he says, is “a device made for manufacturing” with its 20˝ duplex web width, substrate versatility and powerful digital front end (DFE). He bought one, and with it began to build the distinctive printing business that Melan Inc. is today.
From the outset, Nazarian knew his strategy would be to specialize. It’s “kind of dangerous,” he says, for a printing business to rely too much on commodity markets where the volumes may be “interesting,” but where the profit margins are usually slim. Although Nazarian concedes that building sales in niche products takes longer, Melan’s growth in its specialties proves the results more than justify the investment of time.
The gems of the Melan collection are its murals: wide-format, decorative panels that hang like wallpaper and brighten rooms with their eye-filling photographic and artistic imagery. Melan is a contract manufacturer of these custom wall coverings, which account for about 50% of its business. Also coming off the company’s Xeikons are calendars, banners, brochures and catalogs, floor decorations, and books.
Melan has a pair of the digital presses, a Xeikon 5000 and a recently installed Xeikon 6000. Nazarian says that with the addition of a second device, he expects to increase his business by 25%. Some of it will come from local printers that don’t have digital web presses of their own and rely on Melan to turn around this type of work for them.
Nazarian has grown so fond of the 20˝-wide Xeikon printing format that he admits he “is scared” of investing in anything in a smaller size. He also admires how smoothly the platform can switch from printing gift wrap on lightweight paper to running packaging on heavy card stock, with all of the necessary adjustments taken care of by the DFE.
“The capabilities of the press are humongous,” he declares, acknowledging that it takes some effort to understand and leverage everything it can do. This, in Nazarian’s opinion, is what separates printers who simply run digital presses from printers who do genuinely innovative things with them.
“You’ve got to be a bit different,” he insists, in developing applications that will create “revenues and continuity” for the business within the limitations of customers’ budgets. “That’s how you innovate.”