Spectrum Press--Seamless Expansion
When sheetfed printer Spectrum Press expanded into web printing, business management tools helped ease the company's growing pains.
BY DENNIS E. MASON
Printers looking for a growth formula could do worse than take a page from the book of Roseland, NJ-based Spectrum Press, located just west of New York City.
When President and CEO Matthew J. "Matt" Scott started Spectrum Press, he adopted a credo that he says accounts for the company's phenomenal growth: "Never say no to a customer!" According to Matt, "Price is important, but Spectrum Press is not a price leader. We offer higher quality and service than most other printers, but we win with turnaround time and responsiveness to customers' needs."
Spectrum was founded in 1982 with a single-color, 29˝ MAN Miehle press and a 15˝ ATF Chief duplicator. Today, the company has four 40˝ Heidelberg sheetfed presses, a 41˝ MAN Miller, a brand new six-unit MAN Roland Rotoman web press, and a host of prepress and bindery machines to feed the pressroom and process the output.
Ink in His Veins . . .
The founder of Spectrum Press clearly has ink in his veins. Matt's father operated John Scott Typesetting until his retirement, and son Matt melted lead, delivered hot type to customers, did page makeup and set hand type. While a senior in high school, Matt began working in a print shop next door to his father's business, where he learned to operate a Heidelberg Windmill platen press, as well as a variety of other machines.
Spectrum Press first opened in Hoboken, NJ, but quickly lost its lease when the landlord, a forms printer, went bankrupt. In late 1982, the company moved to Orange, NJ, and added its first multicolor press, which was in use until 1998. In 1987, Spectrum Press moved again, to Livingston, NJ, doubling its space and its revenues in five years.
The present location in Roseland was first occupied in 1994, when sales were in the $7 million range. The original 47,000 square feet of space has now grown to 80,000, as the company grew to occupy the entire building. Spectrum Press currently has 75 employees, working two five-day shifts. By the year 2000, a third shift is anticipated.
Spectrum Press customers are primarily large, greater New York tri-state area corporate accounts, such as BMW, Prudential, Lucent Technologies and Tiffany & Co.—with a few advertising agencies tossed into the mix. Sales grew nearly 18 percent in 1998, to approximately $11.5 million.
From Sheetfed to Web
With the transition from a strictly sheetfed printer to one with both web and sheetfed printing capabilities, Spectrum Press anticipates nearly doubling sales in 1999 and expanding its customer base to encompass the entire eastern seaboard.
Commenting on the change in business strategy, Matt says: "Our move to web press printing was not a roll of the dice. We researched the market carefully and found sufficient demand to support a 16-page web machine. We also determined that automation and technology were needed in our market. We felt that we could capitalize on the opportunity, and it appears we were correct."
Spectrum Press' vice president of operations is Jeff Scott. Like his brother Matt, Jeff grew up in the family typesetting business, but as a young man involved in 1980s typesetting, he cut his teeth on computers. According to Jeff, "The focus on turnaround time and responsiveness at Spectrum Press means that the company needs management tools and technology, as well as presses."
After joining the company in the late 1980s, Jeff began investigating print business management software, with an eye to replacing the system then in place. By the early 1990s, he had determined that despite running on an AS400, the Spectrum Press system at that time was slow and could not produce accurate estimates. Seeking a system with speed, and operating on a platform that could be expanded as required, Jeff chose the Programmed Solutions package—which runs on standard PCs—and began installation and training in late 1993.
"I went through the Programmed Solutions training program, then returned to Spectrum Press and trained the staff," explains Jeff, noting that the system was up and running in three months, despite the fact that no one in the company had ever prepared a computer estimate previously. "We were skeptical enough that we did both hand estimates and computer estimates for some time. But, after seeing that the two estimates matched day after day, everyone in the company realized just how accurate the system is."
Vital Data Collection
Data collection is seen as vital at Spectrum Press. By carefully accumulating information, the company assigns an actual cost to each job. "Knowing our costs is vital to confirming that our productivity expectations are accurate," explains Matt. "Everything is fed back into the estimating department, so that future estimates can be made even more accurately. Even if we find it necessary to price to the market to get a job, it is important to know our costs."
Although the most vital areas of computerization at Spectrum Press are estimating and data collection, according to Jeff, "Spectrum Press is advancing on the computer front as quickly as in presses. The computer belongs to everyone in the company. Sales personnel are now being equipped with laptops and can gain access to systems data at their desks or in the field. The next step is to let customers access the system directly, so they can see the progress of their work."
The capacity of the Programmed Solutions system was realized in late 1998 by the fact that, despite its recent strong growth, Spectrum Press was still operating with the original 20 computers that comprised the system in 1994.
The company is now upgrading its system to include a good number of Pentium-class machines to support Programmed Solutions' Version 10 software. Older 486 machines will be moved to the shop floor to serve as data collection points. In the process, Spectrum Press will move to full Microsoft NT and will install e-mail throughout the company.
Looking to the future, the Scott brothers see nothing but promise ahead.
"Our purchase of the new Rotoman web press signals to the marketplace that we are committed to technology and to the viability of print," says Matt. "Our internal commitment to the Programmed Solutions print business management system ensures that we will be able to manage the growth that will come from our new pressroom technology," adds Jeff.
About the Author
Dennis E. Mason is the president and principal of Mason Consulting, a firm specializing in marketing and technology issues in the graphic arts and electronic industries. He may be reached at (708) 246-7786 or via e-mail at email@example.com.