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The color boom: customers are demanding more color, and printers are working to satisfy those demands.

Gone are the days when craftsmen hand set type for printing.

Type trays have been traded for computer keyboards.

Manual letterpresses have been replaced by computerized offset presses and color laser copiers.

Also gone are the days when customers realized that quality printing required considerable time and money.

Today's customers continue to demand quality work.

But they want it cheap.

And they want it yesterday.

Printing is a $55 billion-per-year industry in the United States.

Officials at Printing Industries of America, printing's oldest trade organization with more than 14,000 members, estimate that Arkansas printing companies employ 4,500 people and have annual shipments of $520 million.

During the past two decades, the number of printing companies has increased dramatically in Arkansas and nationally.

New technology has prompted more people to get into the business. As a result, quality printing services are widely available. This availability, coupled with improved technology, has inflated customer demand.

In addition to wanting quality, speed and reasonable costs, customers no longer are satisfied with black ink on white paper.

They want color.

"You're going to see a lot more color in the '90s," says Sam Agee, president of Royal Graphics Inc. of Little Rock. "There is going to be a color boom, and I'm trying to get set up for it."

Agee says his commercial desktop publishing company is making constant changes. Later this month, he plans to install high-tech equipment that will increase his pre-press color capabilities. Agee, a 40-year veteran of the printing and publishing business, predicts color projects will account for more than half of his business by early next year.

International Graphics Inc. of Little Rock got a jump on the color boom. During the mid-1980s, International Graphics went from being a full-service printer to being a niche printer, specializing in multicolor jobs. The company has millions of dollars invested in computerized color printing presses.

"We couldn't be everything to everybody, so we went with what we did best," says Fred Michael, International Graphics' vice president and general manager.

He says the new technology has made color printing more effective and efficient.

"The new machines have taken a lot of the guesswork out of the business," he says. "Instead of climbing up on the presses and doing everything manually, you have to know what buttons to push. Things are done much quicker. What once was a two-week turnaround now can be done in four or five days."

However, equipment becomes outdated rapidly, according to Michael. That's the biggest problem in today's color market.

"Technology installed today will be improved upon in another 12 months," he says. "Printers are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars just to keep up. Today's equipment isn't cheap."

Annual capital expenditures by the printing industry exceed $2 billion nationally.

Michael says the high cost of maintaining a cutting-edge operation has caused many established printers to go bankrupt during the recession.

"In IGI's area |multicolor printing of more than 20,000 copies~, there is minimal growth," he says.

If large, specialized companies aren't claiming the industry's recent growth, who is?

Fivefold Growth

Quick printing accounts for most of the current growth in the industry.

According to Tracy Poyser, executive director of the National Association of Quick Printers, the number of quick printers has grown from an estimated 6,000 in 1974 to more than 30,000.

"Quick printers soon will represent the largest segment of the industry as measured by the number of establishments," Poyser says.

In central Arkansas, there are more than 100 quick printers.

What sparked the explosion?

Poyser says technological developments allow quick printers to offer a wide array of printing and reproduction services. The line between traditional commercial printers and quick printers has been blurred.

"Long runs" -- jobs of large quantities -- traditionally have been performed by commercial printers using web or sheet-fed offset presses.

Quick printers long have been classified as retail shops that offer while-you-wait, cash-and-carry, black-and-white printing or copying in small quantities -- "short runs."

The 1992 definition of quick printing is more complex.

In addition to high-speed, black-and-white printing, quick printers offer desktop publishing services, spot-color offset printing and multicolor copying. The turnaround time for such services ranges from one to five days.

"While the demand for color has risen steadily during the past five years, virtually all industry analysts agree that the biggest growth is yet to come," Poyser says.

The Cutting Edge

That prediction is one reason David Tanner left the manufacturing industry to open a franchise of Postal Instant Press Printing in North Little Rock last year. PIP is one of the country's largest quick print companies with 1,200 franchises worldwide.

Tanner recently purchased a color laser copier and a postscript-intelligent processing unit. The purchases allow PIP to produce color copies from computer disks. The copier also can reproduce photographs. The equipment cost Tanner about $40,000. PIP charges from $1 to $2.50 per sheet for color copies, depending on the quantity ordered.

Toner-based imaging, the process used by Tanner's copier, has made dramatic quality improvements possible. Quality multicolor jobs previously were reserved for offset printing, which uses metal plates and dyes.

Bill Bailey, manager of Little Rock's University Avenue location of Kinko's Copies Inc., a quick printer with 620 franchises, has seen the price for color copies cut in half since he introduced the state's first retail color copier four years ago.

"I'm sure we'll see the cost drop again in the next year," Bailey says. "As more cost-efficient machines come out, prices will go down."

"Color copiers are good for short runs," says Chuck Werninger of AlphaGraphics Printshops Of The Future, a full-service franchise. "Full color is very expensive. Therefore, if a business can estimate its quarterly or annual needs, it will help determine whether to go with offset printing or color copiers.

"You have to keep in mind that color copiers don't replace offset printing. They are for things a color press cannot do."

Werninger says that while color copiers are excellent for small jobs requiring a quick turnaround, full-color presses cannot be matched when it comes to larger jobs.

"The main accomplishment is that color didn't use to be available while you wait," he says. "Now it is. As a result, more people are using color more frequently."

PIP's Tanner says he has seen the biggest increase in color orders in the area of business communications.

"There has been the realization that color increases awareness, readership comprehension, retention and the probability of action," he says."The eye is pulled to color. It's as simple as that."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:May 4, 1992
Words:1093
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