Not Your Dad's Direct Mail - Part Two
Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting Japs-Olson of Minneapolis—a printer that can trace its roots all the way back to 1907! (How may printers can say that?) Japs-Olson embodies the lean manufacturing approach to today's direct mail. What I saw was a "holistic" integrated process. Japs-Olson is capable of sending more than four million pieces a day into the USPS mail stream. To do this efficiently, you need critical thinking to be applied at every stage of the process.
Michael Murphy, Japs-Olson's president, brought a lot of new-school thinking to the entire Japs-Olson production workflow. An RIT grad, Murphy implemented a JDF workflow at Japs-Olson by bringing on the IT resources needed to make diverse machine systems "play nice" together. Over the years, many manufacturing tweaks yielded solid results.
Direct mail being its primary business, almost all of Japs-Olson's high-speed web presses are fitted with multiple inkjet print heads. This permits the offset portion of the form and the personalization to be combined into one operation. From there, finished rolls can be transferred to high-speed unwinders where web cutting, slitting, folding, postal sortation and material banding and traying flow as one operation.
Then it's on to envelope inserting, and from there, a fleet of letter sorting machines can combine many different mailings into an optimized, sorted mailstream to achieve maximum postal discounts. A huge electronic display board shows exactly what's happening on the lettershop floor so that problem areas can be quickly addressed. Japs-Olson has also added a Kodak Prosper 6000 inkjet press. The 6000 gives them the ability to go from a white paper roll to a finished product in one step. They are using this to produce a fairly high volume of heavily-versioned mail pieces.
With all of the manufacturing know-how that Japs-Olson now employs, you would expect life to be very good for them. Not so fast, said Murphy. "We're competing against very capable and technically-proficient print-and-mail firms, and the bar has been raised for the entire industry. We have to do a better job at every stage of manufacturing in order to win the business, and still, there are no guarantees."
It's a good thing that Murphy's still a relatively young guy. He's going to need that energy!
Don has worked in technical support, sales, engineering, and management during a career in both the commercial offset and digital finishing sectors. He is the North American representative for IBIS Bindery Systems, Ltd. of The United Kingdom.