Changing Markets Drive Commercial Printing
Approximately eight months ago, Lancaster, New York-based RMF Printing Technologies (www.rmfprinting.com) began informing the distributor community that it had entered the commercial printing market. Fortunately, the company had space within its manufacturing environment to add up to 12 employees and the necessary equipment. A separate estimating software system was installed and some estimators with commercial printing backgrounds were hired due to the greater degree of involvement in knowing how the jobs were going to be set up and run. The work is rolling in steadily now.
“Although our forms sales are still fairly strong, we saw an opportunity to expand our printing business in a changing market with the addition of equipment and personnel to provide commercial printing,” said vice president Dick Sander. “Distributors know RMF Printing Technologies as a business forms house, and so, except for an occasional inquiry, they haven’t been directly asking us to provide this type of printing. But, it’s interesting that the more we talked to distributors, the more we discovered that they either do sell commercial printing or they certainly have an interest in it.”
Sander explained that the company opted to establish an offset operation rather than invest in digital equipment for now. “Digital printing is an interesting product, but I’m not so sure what we will do in the future.”
Heading up RMF Printing Technologies’ commercial printing operations is industry veteran Mike Lauricella, who has experience in both selling and producing the products. “We installed a six-color, fully automated Miller press with a 28x40" sheet size,” he said. “We already had smaller sheet-fed presses, but that, to me, isn’t real commercial printing—not like the pieces we have coming off this press.” Eventually, the company plans to add more equipment.
Lauricella explained that the company has been handling a variety of book orders distributors are currently bringing in, including requests for annual reports, brochures, instruction manuals, price books, manufacturing guides and product catalogs. (RMF Printing Technologies also added additional bindery equipment to enhance its commercial printing capabilities.) In addition, there are orders for some high-quality, high-color marketing collateral pieces, folders, posters and newsletters. Lauricella pointed out that many of the books may not be full-color, but they fit the size of the press. “We have a large base of customers that this press accommodates very well, and we’re also looking at larger runs which wouldn’t be cost effective to run on a digital press,” he said.
“That’s not to say that we couldn’t do other pieces, this is just what distributors are coming to us with right now,” noted Sander. After all, books and booklets can lead to a host of products as distributors develop vertical markets within an account. “Many of our long-term customers are starting to give us commercial printing orders and we anticipate quick growth in this area,” he added.
The orders are being generated by a variety of industries, and, for the most part, Sander said end-users typically are not looking for distributor guidance when it comes to the layout and design. “We find that the design and specs may come from an ad agency or the end-user might have someone on staff with graphic design experience. But, a distributor able to provide some input regarding application considerations, size and the best and most economical way to produce the product gains a competitive edge,” he said. With regard to stock used for a particular project, specific grades and certain types of finishes may also be specified by the end-user customer. Otherwise, distributors new to commercial printing can simply consult with the manufacturer and bring back some recommendations.
Both gentlemen find the majority of distributors they deal with are up-to-speed on the finer points of selling commercial printing, and their customers are able to enjoy greater benefits and services, such as better pricing and versatility in meeting other business needs, than when dealing with an ad agency or graphic design house. For distributors interested in exploring the profitability and creativity of commercial printing, the best advice is to just get started by finding out the type of products a prospect orders and gathering together a few appropriate samples. “You wouldn’t want to walk in with a sample of a menu when the prospect is looking for a college catalog,” cautioned Sanders. “Do a little homework and then give us a call. We can start sharing ideas.”