Bolger Vision Beyond Print — New Ways to Add Value
THE NAME pretty much says it all: Bolger Vision Beyond Print. Brothers dik and Charles “Charley” Bolger have situated their company to position printing as the centerpiece of a communications buffet—confident that customers will sample a little off of each plate before reaching the main course.
“Printing needs to be like a Swiss train,” explains dik Bolger, who spearheads sales and marketing operations at Bolger Vision Beyond Print. “If you’re traveling in Switzerland and the schedule says the train will depart at 1:01 p.m., that train leaves promptly at 1:01 p.m. I want the client to know their printing will be of consistent quality and delivered on time. And I want to bring value-added services to the table. That’s how we can differentiate ourselves.”
Going beyond print has been the staple for more than the 30-plus years that the Bolger brothers have been a part of the vision. Founded in 1934 by John and Genevieve Bolger, the Minneapolis-based company has always followed the value-added mantra, notes Charley Bolger, the company’s financial whiz.
A Family Affair
“Dad always ran a typesetting operation, because he thought buyers wanted more than printing,” he says. “That kind of remains our philosophy today.”
It’s almost easy to forget that sheetfed offset printing is at the core of this multifaceted company. With $30 million in annual sales and two facilities within a mile of each other, Bolger derives about 40 percent of its gross margin from print-on-demand and fulfillment services. Its mailing operation churns out two million pieces per month, while 180 Creative is a design agency that has evolved into providing strategic marketing and branding services.
According to dik Bolger, the ideal customer purchases $100,000 a year encompassing three services offered by Bolger Vision Beyond Print. The true value of the company, he feels, lies within the overall bundle.
But just in case anyone needs to be reminded that a commercial printer exists under all of these layers, Bolger Vision Beyond Print installed a landmark 10-color, 41˝ KBA Rapida 105 five-over-five long perfector that prints and coats both sides of the sheet at once using UV inks. Installed last fall, the press is configured with coating towers placed after the fifth and tenth press units (the first press of its kind in North America) and interdeck UV dryers to run hybrid inks. In addition, a video camera follows the sheet’s path through the press to ensure speed and accuracy.
An agency of record for a Fortune 500 company, Bolger Vision Beyond Print produces catalogs, magazines, brochures, and sales and marketing collateral for verticals ranging from insurance and healthcare to the manufacturing sector. The company averages 220 employees (the seasonal kitting crew fluctuates) at its two locations. In one building, Bolger houses litho printing, the design agency and mailing operations. The other plays host to digital print-on-demand work, fulfillment and quick printing. Line of sight permits Wide Area Connection (WAN) through microwave dish technology.
Bolger Vision Beyond Print also runs four on-site facilities management satellites with two corporate customers, providing services ranging from design to fulfillment.
Digital printing is the new kid on the block for Bolger Vision Beyond Print. It started with the installation of a black-and-white device six years ago, but the Bolgers were getting roughed up by click charges because of low volumes. In 2003, the brothers refocused their efforts and obtained Meyers Communications Services (MCS), located only a mile away from Bolger Vision Beyond Print’s headquarters. Besides acquiring more equipment and accounts, perhaps the most critical asset to emerge from the deal was the skilled, knowledgeable staff of MCS—proficient in the world of digital printing from both the operational and sales perspectives.
“We’ve now doubled the volume from that list of (MCS) customers by training our entire sales force on digital. And it’s allowed us to sell digital products to customers who only purchased conventional litho-graphy from us previously,” notes Charley Bolger.
“There’s no doubt that digital printing is a rapidly growing segment of our company,” dik Bolger says. “We just installed the larger sheet-size (14x22˝) Xerox iGen3 digital production press, and we’re having remarkable success keeping it busy on all shifts.”
Fulfillment is an area Bolger Vision Beyond Print gravitated toward roughly 20 years ago, when the Bolgers saw 60 skids of a client’s product delivered to their dock, without a real game plan in place. Within the past 10 years, the company’s fulfillment operation graduated into a sophisticated workflow, buoyed by the hiring of Dale Harbath and Greg Pease to advance the department. The pair mapped out the conveyor systems with flow-through racking while installing Internet-based, on-demand inventory management software.
“Thanks to Dale and Greg, we were able to build one of the most sophisticated fulfillment houses in the state of Minnesota,” dik Bolger remarks.
Graphic design, on the other hand, is nothing new to Bolger Vision Beyond Print, which has in essence offered those services for the past 40 years. But in adding a strategic marketing twist, the company has been able to double 180 Creative’s volume in the last year to $2 million, and dik Bolger says the goal is to reach the $5 million mark over the next few years. He estimates that at least 12 of Bolger Vision Beyond Print’s top 20 customers avail themselves of 180 Creative.
On the offset side, the Rapida 105 has certainly made its presence felt in the first two months of operation. Its destination was sealed more than two years ago during the homework phase of Bolger’s press shopping. In evaluating what was on the market, the brothers came to the conclusion that the main identifying characteristic was speed, with most models offering largely similar features. And they didn’t want to bring aboard new hardware that really didn’t differentiate from what was already in-house.
What the Bolgers wanted was a UV press that would print, coat and cure both sides of the sheet in one pass, with high gloss levels, while running at high speeds. Most importantly, says Charley Bolger, the output sheets are dry in the delivery, ready for postpress processing.
“KBA touts the press as being able to print with the same level of quality on both sides of the sheet, which for sheetfed perfecting has historically been a bit of an issue,” notes Mike McLaughlin, vice president of production at Bolger Vision Beyond Print. “We find that to be true, because it’s a hybrid machine.
“The key is to dry that first side. You’ve got to set the ink enough so that when you flip the sheet over and run it through the second side, you’re not distorting that dot on the downside of the sheet.”
The new Rapida and iGen3 join a Kodak suite of workflow systems as the triad of major equipment acquisitions in the past year for Bolger Vision Beyond Print. The printer also bolstered its back-end operations with some MBO folders and Palamides banders.
Now the plan is to add two more mailing lines to increase capacity. Over the long term, saddlestitching will also be addressed.
“The more efficient a pressroom becomes, the more it tends to create a bottleneck in the finishing side because the work moves into those departments a little bit faster than it had previously,” McLaughlin says. “So we’re also looking at enhanced diecutting and cutting capabilities.”
Another area Bolger Vision Beyond Print is focusing on is the ISO (9000) quality certification process, which Charley Bolger estimates will be completed by September of 2008.
Beyond print, no pun intended, there is the critical role dik and Charley Bolger’s parents played in influencing not only their sons’ principles, but the code of ethics behind the company. Genevieve Bolger, who passed away in 2006, introduced a feminist presence to an industry that had precious few women in the upper ranks. Shortly before her death, she attended a company function while in a wheelchair and on oxygen to present a 45-year service award to an employee.
“I think it was Frank Romano who said that whenever mom was at national or local industry events, they would address the room, ‘Gentlemen and Mrs. Bolger.’ It was out of huge respect for her,” remarks dik Bolger. “It was very common that she was the only woman present.
“She was a heck of a salesperson, knew the product, was charming and really added value. She led the way during a period of time when women simply weren’t involved in printing.”
Her husband, John Bolger, brought a manufacturing and engineering slant to the company, not to mention a wealth of creativity. His belief in technology as a differentiator has been clearly echoed in the second generation of ownership at Bolger Vision Beyond Print.
Charley and dik have continued their parents’ sense of giving, as well. The company is a founding member of the Minnesota Keystone Group, which gives 2 percent to 5 percent of pretax profits back to the community.
Looking ahead, Bolger Vision Beyond Print is projecting 10 percent growth for the current fiscal year, with contributions coming from across all product and service lines. Future growth will be predicated on the full-service printer’s ability to continue pushing the total package concept to customers. That doesn’t appear to be a huge task, however.
“Our clients want to talk about printing, but they also want to talk about fulfillment and variable data,” Charley Bolger states. “Research by Xerox and HP indicates that variable data color is a huge opportunity, and we believe them because of the activity we’re seeing in that arena. Plus, the dramatic improvement in productivity that the new iGen3 digital press gives us is a considerable advantage.”
When dik Bolger thinks about the future, the Swiss train analogy comes back to mind.
“We need to focus on processes,” he says. “We need to make sure that our printing is a given and we bring the value-added. The focus on ISO is a critical area because it helps us become a leaner manufacturer. That allows us to reduce costs and improve profits. We’re in this business to make money, and we’ve managed to do that well over the years.” PI