Blueprint for Success
As far back as 5000 BC, ancient cultures used illustrative pictograms to represent concepts, activities, places and events. The same innate human desire for aesthetic appeal, creative expression and clear, effective communication drives commercial printing success to this day. Given the variety of work commercial printers produce—everything from high-end, four-color process advertising pieces to printed letterhead—it’s a difficult category to define.
Perhaps the best definition is one Eric Strom, general manager of Norwalk, Connecticut-based Accurate Graphics offered: “A commercial print shop is one that doesn’t run a store front. Otherwise, if you’re putting ink on paper and selling it, you are a commercial printer,” he said. “As a trade printer, we’re doing work for other printers, brokers and designers, so we see a vast range of projects on a daily basis. On any given week, we are producing stitched books, perfect-bound books, tri-fold brochures, single 8½x11" four-over-zero pieces and business cards. So, it’s difficult to say one size and style is taking over for us now.”
At Timbertech, Harbor Springs, Mich., print jobs include brochures, booklets, newsletters, catalog sheets, postcards, letterhead, business cards, posters, calendars, presentation folders, document holders and various die-cut products. Owner John Phillips noted the trend toward shorter run lengths continues, and the company is also seeing demand for more specialized products, such as the addition of die-cutting or nontraditional-size work to allow a finished piece to stand out. “If distributors learn ... manufacturers’ capabilities and limits, they can tailor their projects to take advantage of a manufacturer’s strengths. This way, they can offer their customers the most creative answer to their print needs, without creating a monster job that is too difficult or expensive to produce,” he said.
Tools of the Trade
To maintain a competitive edge, commercial printers must frequently revamp their manufacturing processes. Phillips reported sales in Timbertech’s commercial division have increased in each of the last five years, and so have production capabilities. “In the last two years, we have added die-cutting, foil stamping, embossing, and folder/gluer capabilities. This was necessary to react to our distributors’ desire that we offer these products,” he explained. “We sell 100 percent through distributors, and rely on their advice on what to offer in our product line. For Timbertech, the most exciting new aspect in commercial printing has been our ability to produce specialized items in a cost-effective manner. This allows our distributors to offer small- and medium-size companies the opportunity to market themselves like a fortune 500 giant.”