Corporate Press--Printer Plays All Positions
BY DENNIS E. MASON
In baseball, most players are specialists, spending their days in both the minor and major leagues at the same position. Some players become specialists in the extreme—relief pitchers who are particularly effective against left-handed batters, for example. But even in this age of specialization, the utility infielder is a particularly valued player. The ability to play any position when called upon has even entered our daily lexicon, with the term "covering all bases" indicating versatility and broad capability.
Printing, too, is often a game of specialties. Most printers focus on a single process, such as offset; some base their business upon a single press or finishing machine. Even printers that offer color separation services or a variety of finishing options often do so primarily as an adjunct to only one specific type of printing, such as sheetfed.
In this business of specialties, Corporate Press of Landover, MD, stands out as a utility player. Unlike printers that seek business to fit their equipment, Corporate Press seeks to accommodate virtually all of the replication needs of its printing customers.
Corporate Press facilities literally ring Washington—with operations in Landover and Frederick, MD, and in Fairfax, VA, serving the needs of business customers throughout the metropolitan area. And the needs served are varied indeed—ranging from both webfed and sheetfed work of up to five colors to two-color perfecting envelope printing; from electronic prepress to list maintenance and fulfillment; from creative design and typesetting to a myriad of bindery options; and from high-speed copying to full video production and duplicating.
Together, these elements comprise a $25 million per year business with nearly 200 employees working six days a week on three shifts. And focusing on orderly growth and meeting the needs of customers, management expects the business to nearly double in the next 10 years.
Managing a business as geographically and operationally diverse as Corporate Press, an ESOP company, is not a simple matter. Every employee has an interest not only in which business elements are profitable, but in how well each location is performing. It is important to be able to compare prepress operations at different sites, yet let an operations manager at one plant quickly check inventory at another.
In response to these management needs, Corporate Press became one of the first multi-plant installations for Programmed Solutions, a Norwalk, CT-based supplier of business management computer systems to the printing industry.
The selection of a complete printing business management system for Corporate Press involved several key factors. Although a computer system was in place, it was not used throughout the company. So a new system meant that some departments and employees had to relearn, while others began using computers only after the new system was installed.
The Programmed Solutions system was selected over others investigated for several reasons. First, the system operates on standard IBM compatible personal computers, under Microsoft Windows, the operating system already used by many employees in their personal computers at home. It is based on Visual FoxPro, an established database program, and financial data are fed directly into the closely allied Macola accounting system software.
The system also enabled several diverse areas of the company to move easily onto the new system. For example, the sales department—which did not have terminals on the prior system—wanted to be able to use its ACT! and Lotus Notes programs on the new system immediately.
Another factor leading to the Corporate Press selection was the users group that advises Programmed Solutions regarding enhancements. The company supports a number of users groups around the country, which meet throughout the year on a regional basis, and then annually as a nationwide group.
According to Jeffery D. Hooper, corporate press controller and head of the new system implementation team, "The users groups actually drive Programmed Solutions products and development efforts. Active participation helps us ensure that our software evolves as we do."
The ability to track prepress costs and operations also led Corporate Press toward the Programmed Solutions system, since many other printing management systems deal primarily with pressroom data. Also, the inventory tracking systems in the Programmed Solutions system works equally well for both the sheets and rolls of paper in the Corporate Press warehouse, as well as videocassettes and CD-ROMs.
The user-friendly aspects of the software also helped tip the scales toward Programmed Solutions. Today, the company uses a comprehensive set of operating manuals and data, along with a complete online help system. More difficult problems are quickly addressed by Programmed Solutions help desk personnel.
Corporate Press brought the first portion of it new system online in October 1995, at the Fairfax, VA, operation. Next was the Landover, MD, operation, which, in addition to being the largest, is also the most diverse.
Key to a successful business management system conversion, according to Hooper, is getting everyone to take ownership. Says Hooper, "Many companies have historically relied on a corporate MIS department to enter data, maintain the system and provide standard reports to users. A broad system like the Programmed Solutions requires that everyone be involved and that everyone be responsible for the accuracy and usefulness of information in the computer."
In the Corporate Press production areas, keypads are used for data input, except in shipping. This means that press and bindery personnel need not be trained in full keyboarding, and can concentrate on entering numerical data on simple video forms. The system also will accommodate bar-code data transfer, if and when the company elects to move in that direction.
Just as a utility infielder must adapt to different gloves and know different play patterns, a diversified printer must have flexible tools and adaptable systems. More and more today, printers select suppliers that think like they do.
The Corporate Press strategy is to add new capabilities as customers require them. In that regard, Corporate Press is much like Programmed Solutions. Both companies emphasize broad product offerings, products in constant evolution to meet the changing demands of customers. That made the selection of the Programmed Solutions system by Corporate Press a logical decision that should serve the company well into the next century. And the system helps Corporate Press field whatever is hit to it.