Best-in-Class Innovator Spotlight: Innovation is at the Core of the Impress Business Model
What a year. No one in the industry could have foretold it. Now we’re all doing our best just to come to the end of it in safety.
2020 will be remembered for many things. One of them should be that it was the year in which innovation often came to mean the same thing as business survival.
Everything that has happened to printing firms as a result of the pandemic is unprecedented. This means everything they have done in response to it has obliged them to improvise. To rethink. To come up with new ways of protecting their employees. To pivot to completely different methods of interacting with customers. In short, to innovate.
As we've done the past several years in Printing Impressions, we profiled six companies that remain alive and well in the printing industry. This year, we’re presenting these portraits of Innovators in tribute, not just to the companies themselves, but to every printing business that has survived the trials of 2020 by being innovative. Here is a profile of one of our Best-in-Class Innovators.
It’s one thing to talk about innovation, and another to make it the core of a printing company’s business model. At Impress Communications in Chatsworth, Calif., Paul Marino innovates by always keeping the company, as he puts, “five years ahead of the curve:” situated in the right markets, and fully equipped to provide whatever those markets require.
He started Impress Communications as a commercial printing business in 1989 and, although commercial work still helps to keep the pressroom busy, 75% of the revenue now comes from packaging. That is where he anticipates the most future growth, particularly in short-run packaging for start-ups and independent brands whose marketing mantra is “test, test, test.” Marino thinks that at the rate it is going, short-run packaging could account for 15% of the business within a few years.
He is also positioning the company as a provider of third-party logistics (3PL) services, which it furnishes out of 20,000-sq.-ft. logistics hub in Chatsworth. This part of the operation includes
inventorying product for 3PL clients; taking orders for the goods online; and then picking, packing, and shipping them for delivery to the clients’ customers. Impress Communications also sets up online storefronts that help clients request and manage these services.
Nobody Likes It ‘Ugly’
Marino believes that being able to engage with brands and
retailers in this way will become increasingly important for printers as COVID-19 changes buying habits, leaving consumers less inclined to shop in stores and more dependent on e-commerce transactions for the things they need. These trends also raise the ante for print and packaging in terms of end-user expectations. As Marino observes, “nobody reaches for the ugly box, and
nobody keeps the ugly brochure.”
This explains why, at Impress Communications, the concept of innovation is always intertwined with high standards of quality and value. “Price is always a factor, particularly amid tougher economic periods,” Marino says. “Our mantra is to ensure we are always providing more than the expected value. This is our core differentiator, as well as the best way we can help our customers grow.”
As every innovative printing business knows, keeping faith with a pledge like that means investing in whatever it will take to honor the commitment — something Marino hasn’t hesitated to do. “Our print and packaging specialists keep an eye on the techniques, materials, and capabilities that will drive tomorrow,” he says, calling the company’s significant capital investments the key to keeping it five years ahead of the curve.
In this spirit, Marino once used Lego pieces to construct a model of a sheetfed press in a configuration he knew didn’t exist, but that his pressroom had to have. After other press makers demurred, Komori agreed to build it in the form of an eight-color Lithrone S40P perfector that Marino claims was the first of its kind in the world when it was installed. Its unique H-UV and double-coating capabilities enable Impress Communications “to give our clients things they couldn’t have dreamed,” he notes.
Expansion in short-run packaging prompted the acquisition of a Xerox iGen 5 digital press that can handle stocks up to 24-pt. and apply a clear gloss coating for spot varnish effects. Working in tandem with it is another Xerox digital press, an Iridesse, which can enhance short-run packaging and other applications with specialty dry inks in silver, gold, white, and clear.
Goodbye to the Excuses About Finishing
Marino also has made progressive investments in finishing, most notably by installing a Highcon Euclid III digital cutting and creasing system: a laser diecutting machine built for intricate packaging designs in shorter runs. But, he reports also being able to run as many as 80,000 sheets on the device economically, thanks to the high value it adds to the finished product.
Marino says that because the Highcon Euclid III can achieve cutting and creasing effects that wouldn’t be possible with steel dies, it eliminates the “buts,” or excuses, that printers sometimes have to offer up when confronted with customer design requirements that their finishing equipment can’t live up to.
All of this is consistent with Marino’s personal credo of innovation in the printing business. “I believe,” he declares, “innovation is achieved by nonlinear thinking — that when you are brainstorming this new process or technique, it just isn’t the cool stuff, it’s a solution to a huge problem your customers feel emotionally as well as rationally.
“That you are innovating from the standpoint of what the customer needs, and that the innovation makes them look remarkable to their clients.”