Former Commercial Printer Finds Wide-Format Success
Last year, Spectrum Print Plus said something to a client that you never want to have to say: “no”. The company had won a job from a large, national retail customer that needed roll-fed, wide-format work done. Even though Spectrum did not have the necessary equipment in its shop, it won the job through quoting with a trade vendor, but ultimately turned the work down. Why? “The timing was so tight and I was depending on other printers to get the job done right,” Mark Zimmerman, president of Spectrum Print Plus, recalls. “I just couldn’t jeopardize the client, so I passed.”
The very next day, he called up Canon Solutions America, talked to his sales rep and told him he wanted to see a demo of the Océ Colorado 1640 roll-to-roll printer equipped with UVgel technology right way. “We flew to Chicago two weeks later, came back and I was sold,” he says. The machine arrived in March and has been churning out project after project. Just this past month, for example, the company landed a $70,000 job for holiday rollout signage from that very same customer — of which 90% of the work was printed on its Colorado. “They sent us files, we made proofs and they loved it. The signage was printed on canvas and mounted onto foamcore — they flipped over it,” Zimmerman notes. “It’s almost like that movie, ‘Field of Dreams’ ... build it and they will come.”
Spectrum Print Plus, located in Canton, Mass., has been known as a sheetfed offset and digital cut-sheet commercial printer, serving the Greater Boston area since its inception in 2007. From brochures, menus and diecut folders, to perfect-bound booklets and variable data color direct mailers, the company prints a wide assortment of products.
Spectrum’s digital lineup includes a Xerox iGen 5 with matte dry ink and a Color Press 1000, as well as two Konica Minolta bizhub PRESS 1250s and an AccurioPress C2060. The company serves a variety of verticals, including the food and hospitality, retail, manufacturing, education, finance, technology and medical markets.
The company had always fulfilled the signage and other wide-format needs of its clientele through the use of trade vendor partnerships. But, in 2012, Zimmerman had enough. He was tired of being the middle man and decided to start bringing the work in-house.
“I am not a big fan of brokering jobs out,” he says. “I like keeping work in-house, if at all possible, to control costs and to make sure it’s up to my quality standards.” Before, Zimmerman would have to pick the work up and inspect it before shipping it to the customer to ensure it met his expectations.
Instead, Zimmerman opted to blur the lines that have traditionally separated small-format from wide-format digital print providers in order to gain more higher-margin work and become a one-stop shop for his customer base.
The business approach is also helping the company stay relevant and better serve customer needs. This convergence approach even appears in Spectrum’s name. In 2015, the company attached the “Plus” because it also added in-house creative design and copywriting marketing services, in-house bindery and mailing services, and a variety of branded apparel and promotional items, to its product and service mix.
Keeping Up with Increasing Demands
Of course, acquiring one wide-format printer wasn’t enough. So, Spectrum has upgraded and purchased different machines over the years to keep up with the latest in capabilities and technologies. The company initially acquired an Epson SureColor roll-fed, solvent-based printer. And while this enabled Spectrum to take on more wide-format work, the shop was still brokering out some jobs, prompting Zimmerman to purchase an Océ Arizona 365GT flatbed printer. “That was a game-changer,” he points out. “It enabled us to work with all substrates and bring rigid work in-house.”
Due to ongoing business growth, Spectrum upgraded to an even faster flatbed model — the Océ Arizona 2260 GT — two months ago. Equipped with white and clear varnish capabilities, it will also allow the shop to take advantage of new software called TouchStone, which will enable the company to provide tactile printing, such as ADA signage.
However, the SureColor and Arizona wide-format machines were not enough to meet all of Spectrum’s requirements. The company still had a great need for a roll-fed printer to enable it to print posters, graphics and vinyl work. This is when the Colorado 1640 came into play. Zimmerman first saw the Colorado at an industry trade show in 2017. “It was something I really wanted to have,” he notes. “I was attracted to its quality, speed, ease of operator use and low cost to print per square foot.”
Now, with help from the Arizona and the Colorado, Spectrum offers custom acrylic invitations, die bond metals, custom displays, floor graphics and wall coverings.
Welcome Challenges from Workload
There have been a few “problems” for Spectrum as it has taken on all of this new wide-format work — but they are all welcome challenges that come along with the bigger workload: storage and learning how to print on new substrates.
Storage became a major problem for Spectrum. With the need to store substrates such as 4x8-ft. boards, the company had to reconfigure its shop to make room. “I put in an order for 540 sheets of one-half-inch foamcore for that recent holiday job – you need the space for that,” he says. “When you get into bigger quantity runs, space is at a premium.”
Today, wide-format digital printing also comes with what seems like never-ending possibilities of substrates. “There is definitely a learning curve on substrates,” Zimmerman explains, “and Canon has been very helpful. Their product support staff has come out here many times.” One example was printing two-sided window graphics. “I said, ‘how the heck is this done?’ You print it reverse CMYK and white … it really threw me for a loop. There is a learning curve on that for sure, but we are getting there.”
Now Saying ‘Yes’ to Large Majority of Jobs
Spectrum Print Plus can now say “yes” to a lot of jobs it would have had to turn away before, especially with the Colorado 1640 churning out so much work. For example, Spectrum is now producing custom-shaped Bar Mitzvah invitations on clear acrylic. “That’s become a huge hit,” Zimmerman reveals. “We also offer custom box displays that we couldn’t do before. It has helped both sides of the company.”
The financial numbers speak for themselves. Through the first six months of this year alone, Spectrum already out-billed last year in its wide-format business. “Working with Canon has been a Godsend,” he says. “My customers also like touring the plant. If they need a sample, it’s easy to do. What, does it cost, a few bucks? That’s nothing. I’ll give someone an actual production proof of something all day long to win a job.”