Bradford & Bigelow — Company on a Mission
LIKE TIGER Woods reading the greens on the 18th hole of the U.S. Open, John Galligan is a man who exhibits unflappable focus.
Galligan, the president of Newburyport, MA-based Bradford & Bigelow (B&B), knows what it takes to be successful as a book printer, and that entails keeping it simple. This $25 million printer, nestled about 30 miles north of Boston, specializes in one- and two-color 81⁄2x11˝ book production for the highly competitive elementary, high school (el-hi) and college textbook market. No four-color casebound, coffee table, 6x9˝ or 7x9˝ products.
If ever a company embodied the definition of “niche,” it would be Bradford & Bigelow.
“Several of the plants we compete against have multiple product lines. That’s a more complex business model to manage and it makes their capital investment more expensive,” Galligan says. “We keep investing in the 81⁄2x11˝ format to make our operation more efficient.
“We want standardization, scale and backup. With our focus, we can minimize makeready times on our print and bind platform and provide clients a better value package.”
The 110 employees of Bradford & Bigelow must be enjoying that focus after a truly transformational year. “Our objective,” says Galligan, “was to create an environmentally friendly, world-class supply chain solution for our customers.”
During 2007, the company moved from its previous home in Danvers, MA, to a new 100,000-square-foot facility in Newburyport; designed and installed a high-speed, fully integrated Digital Book Factory; expanded its conventional print and binding platform; and became the first book printer in North America to implement UV inks and drying technology on its Timsons web presses, eliminating all VOC emissions. All the while, Bradford & Bigelow stayed open for business.
Galligan expected the worst. But there were still unpleasant surprises.
“Relocation and transformation is a process you only want to go through once,” he admits. “Until you have done it, you do not realize how difficult, time-consuming, expensive and complex it is.”
Bradford & Bigelow’s suffering was not in vain. A key component of its supply chain solution is a highly automated Digital Book Factory, which sees a roll of paper input at one end of the digital line and bound books flowing off the other end. This application allows B&B to produce shorter runs efficiently for educational customers and, as Galligan notes, obsolescence ranges around 30 percent for textbooks.
Speed and convenience factor into the Digital Book Factory’s equation. Gone is the tedious process of transferring files from conventional to digital printers. And with runs theoretically as low as a single copy, customers can order tighter quantities and reduce obsolescence with the knowledge that back orders will be filled quickly at attractive unit costs with the Digital Book Factory backing up the printer’s conventional printing platform.
The Digital Book Factory ate up a fair chunk of Bradford & Bigelow’s $15 million transformation and expansion budget. Covers and color short-run books are produced off-line on a Xerox iGen3 digital production press. For short-run in-line book production, a Nipson VaryPress 400 digital web press was selected because it prints very well on lightweight groundwood papers, which are increasingly popular with publishers. A Standard Hunkeler Gen 6 cuts and stacks the book blocks into a Shuttleworth conveyor, which then feeds the Muller Martini Sigmabinder for perfect binding or the IBIS Smart-binder saddlestitcher.
Get Production In-line
“There’s no advantage to off-line binding,” Galligan says. “There are some integration and startup issues (with in-line), but it’s the way to go. There’s no movement of material and paper from the press to the bindery. We’re coming off with bound books, ready to box, label and go out the door.”
Galligan hasn’t ruled out augmenting his digital printing arsenal under the right circumstances. “We could see, a year down the road, adding another multicolor digital press,” he says. “We looked at multicolor digital presses this past year. They’re just not ready yet. The big battle in ’09 will be four-color toner vs. ink-jet presses. A lot of manufacturers are going to introduce those applications at Drupa, so we’ll revisit our plans after that.”
The Digital Book Factory is but one component of Bradford & Bigelow’s complete supply chain solution. In 2001, while looking for an added edge, Galligan was intrigued by the Timsons T-48A ZMR (zero makeready) book press and the prospect of printing 48-page signatures instead of 32. The zero makereadies and reduced paper waste, improved quality and smaller footprint all factored into the decision to move forward with the ZMR for longer book runs.
“Implementing new technology is never easy,” notes Heather Richardson, executive vice president of operations. “Re-imposing our film and electronic libraries for reprints from 32 to 48 pages was a challenge. On several occasions, I had to swear on a stack of bibles to John and the sales team that we could make this conversion and it would be seamless to our customers, without costly imposition errors. Thanks to our dedicated staff, we made the transition a success.”
In 2007, Bradford & Bigelow expanded its conventional capacity with the purchase of a second Timsons ZMR and boldly converted both ZMR presses to UV drying. The move complemented a six-color, 41˝ KBA Rapida 105 sheetfed UV perfector that was obtained in 2003.
Moving into UV drying technology was a move carefully considered. Galligan and Richardson sat down with Ron Croteau, lead pressman, and Juliet Midlik from Prime UV, who convinced management that traditional drying, with its heatset ovens, chillers and required permits, was obsolete technology.
“We were using infrared dryers with great success,” Galligan says. “Ron was pushing UV and I thought he made a compelling argument. For one, we’d be saving $18,000 a month in natural gas expenses. Secondly, there’s no permitting and reporting required. It also produces a better product. You don’t need cumbersome chillers and heaters that torture the paper, taking all the moisture out.
“The cost of UV equipment is less than the cost of heatset packages and chillers. The main reason printers have not adopted it is because UV ink is more expensive, but the price is coming down. But UV produces a better product and the price of natural gas is going up. Without chillers and dryers, we also save about 20 feet (of footprint) in the pressroom.”
To keep up with the Timsons, B&B added firepower to its bindery, as well, with a new 21-pocket Muller Martini Corona binder and a six-pocket BravoPlus stitcher. The bindery operation is a showcase of automation, speed and technology with custom built, in-line drilling and boxing machines, stream feeders and barcoded signature recognition equipment for improved quality.
Bradford & Bigelow’s green initiative hasn’t peaked. The company is installing two Agfa Avalon VLF platesetters that use Amigo bakeless plates, saving energy and using significantly less chemistry.
“We’re driving the green initiative across the entire manufacturing platform,” Richardson adds. “Ultimately, our goal is to save $1 million a year in energy costs.” B&B’s geographic position is also conducive to the use of wind mills and solar power, items Galligan hopes to embark on in the future.
Book Learning Required
It’s been an eventful 25-year journey for Bradford & Bigelow, which began life as a printer of software manuals for the mini computer industry in New England. When the need for multiple software manuals gave way to CDs, Galligan transitioned his company into the educational book market.
“The transition was tough,” he recalls. “Although we had a few accounts, B&B was not an established name in this market and our equipment was nothing special. However, we kept at it and started making some progress.”
With veteran sales representative John D’Antonio opening up metropolitan New York accounts and Galligan’s brother, Chris, managing the New England account base, Bradford & Bigelow was able to re-establish a viable client base.
It also helped that Galligan made several savvy moves in the technology department and recognized the talent of Richardson, a prepress expert and teacher, and promoted her to plant manager. The Timsons ZMR press acquisition of 2001 was a watershed moment for the company, and the new Digital Book Factory and second Timsons press have taken B&B to another level.
Now secure in its new building, Bradford & Bigelow might actually see things get back to normal. Growth will primarily be organic, but Galligan hasn’t ruled out the possibility of further expansion through acquisition. Don’t expect him to entertain any notions of branching outside his company’s world of 81⁄2x11˝ textbooks, though, because it’s not going to happen.
“NAPL chief economist Andrew Paparozzi says it best: ‘Stick with your core and go for more,’ ” Galligan remarks. “That’s what we’ve done and we’re staying with an 81⁄2x11˝ product line. We’ve added a significant digital component and now have a platform where we can expand at both ends. We can add a third Timsons press on the conventional end and a second digital press for the Digital Book Factory.
“We’re delighted that our plant relocation is over, and our transformation from conventional book printer to supply chain manager is complete,” he adds. “The key is disciplined growth. We know what we’re good at and we’re staying with our core.” PI