2019 Best-in-Class Innovator: Wallace Graphics Embodies 'Convergence' to Push its Boundaries
Innovators don’t come to their plants in the morning saying to themselves, “Today, I’m going to innovate.” That’s not what innovation is about. It’s more a reflex than a behavior — a continuous state of mind that leads both deliberately and serendipitously to transformative results.
The printing industry’s innovators are energetic, inquisitive, and intrepid people who don’t wait for things to happen. Sometimes they strategize outcomes. At other times, facing threat or opportunity, they instinctively choose the right course of action. Either way, these relentless innovators always manage to achieve something that lifts their companies to new levels of capability, performance, and profitability.
The accounts of 12 businesses that exemplify innovation in the printing industry came together in the October issue of Printing Impressions. All of the profiles, one of which appears below, are based on interviews with the sources and on their responses to questionnaires filled out in support of their applications to be selected as Printing Impressions’ “Innovator of the Year” for 2019.
“Convergence” is the term for the expansion of printing companies into adjacent markets with the help of new technologies. It’s also another way to say “innovation” when a printing company learns to leverage its new capabilities to the same extent as it has pushed its traditional strengths. Case in point: Wallace Graphics.
The company is a commercial lithographer with offset production so efficient that it can beat digital printing on turnaround and cost in short runs. Wallace Graphics also is a creative provider of wide-format output, one of the most sought-after convergence opportunities by commercial shops.
Jonathan Wallace, president, says the company’s edge in offset comes from a recently installed Heidelberg Speedmaster CX-102-5-L, a five-color, coater-equipped press featuring Heidelberg’s “Push to Stop” technology for automated job changeover. Although his production manager may have been a bit nervous about replacing two older 40˝ presses with the new machine, there was no need for concern. The Speedmaster CX 102, Wallace says, turned out to be “everything we thought it would be, and more.”
This became crystal clear in a job calling for a variety of eight- to 24-page booklets to be printed in batches of 400 booklets per version — an extreme challenge in short-run efficiency for a high-volume press like the Speedmaster CX 102. But the results spoke for themselves: plating and printing in less than half the estimated time to run the job digitally; and combined plate and paper costs are lower than the cost of clicks and paper in digital. “This allowed us to give the customer a better quality piece with a shorter turnaround time, while cutting costs on our end,” Wallace says.
Although offset continues to provide most of the revenue, Wallace says he foresees strong growth in wide-format: a market the company has equipped itself for by installing EFI VUTEk LX3, HP Latex 3000, and Epson SureColor P20000 printers. In progress is the creation of a website that will let consumers buy wall coverings, canvas and acrylic prints, and other wide-format specialties directly from Wallace Graphics.
The company put its skills in wide-format on full display in an effort to devise a more cost-friendly alternative to 24x24˝ stretched canvas prints that one customer wanted to install by the thousands in its various locations. The answer was printing canvas-faced foam board multiple-up on the VUTEk LX3, and then using the shop’s Zünd G3 XL cutter to finish the prints in a way that both replicated the depth of stretched canvas, and made the pieces easier to ship and assemble.
“Creating this solution won us the business,” Wallace says, noting that the new format saved the customer 40% in production costs, three weeks in turnaround time, and a considerable amount of money in shipping. The ingenuity of the project speaks to his belief that innovation means rethinking technology and “continuing to evolve a little faster than the market is changing.”