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September 4, 2013 Case Studies

Denver’s Frederic Printing Thrives By Expanding Its Frontiers


Frederic Printing’s Jeremy Stanton, Dresdon Dorazewski, Marco Gaona, Mark Jansen, and Tom Adams.

On September 14, 1864, James Huff discovered silver near Argentine Pass, about 60 miles west of Denver in what was then the Territory of Colorado. As was the case throughout the west, word of the silver strike spread and drew pioneers from the east eager to hit what was literally “pay dirt.” And they did. Less than a decade later, on August 1, 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a proclamation officially making Colorado the 38th state.

As other pioneers were unearthing precious metals, the Frederic family came west to install heavy metal—printing equipment—and in 1877 Frederic Printing set up shop in Aurora, just outside Denver, becoming one of the first printing companies in the new Centennial State. A pioneering spirit has remained with the company down through the decades, and continued after the fourth-generation Frederics sold the company to Consolidated Graphics (CGX) in 1994. The Frederics had started with letterpress equipment back in the day and their descendants made the transition to offset and, most recently, to digital, with a few milestones along the way, such as the acquisition of a 4/4 55-inch perfecting press. In 2009, the company became only the second worldwide installation of the HP T300 Inkjet Web Press. Today, Frederic is Denver’s largest printing company, is one of CGX’s flagship facilities, and is exploring new frontiers in developing and offering technology solutions rather than commercial print products.

Frederic 2Traditional offset print remains a sizable part of the business, but the real action has been in digital printing. While Frederic has an iGen4, they have achieved some of their greatest success with production inkjet equipment. Frederic has even served as a beta site for both the HP T300 and the Ricoh InfoPrint 5000. The company has also served as a testing site for paper companies expanding their offerings for inkjet printing.

“We started working with Finch to look at the whole grade line,” says Steve Wilson, Frederic Printing’s vice president of digital sales. “We needed to have access to grades from 45-pound up to 9-point and Finch was interested in creating that breadth of product. Finch was really involved in being able to provide those product lines and it fit with what they were trying to do.”

“That was where it started,” adds Wilson. “The first real hurdle was the availability of 45-pound stock and being able to produce coverage of 25 to 35 percent on 45-pound stock, having it lay smooth, having it have highlighter resistance, the ability to dry it, and ability to get it through the press without wrinkling or waffling.” Inkjet inks can be as much as 90 percent water, which is what has made adoption and commercialization of the technology such a challenge.

Finch’s expertise was also able to help solve a technical issue: their HP inkjet was laying down too much ink, cockling the paper and causing other printing defects. Thanks to the assistance of Finch’s Mary Schilling and F.I.T. by Finch services (Fluid + Ink + Toner, see sidebar), creating new color profiles solved the problem.

Frederic Printing cut its teeth in digital inkjet printing with textbooks. “[Publishers] were trying to provide customized textbooks, to allow professors to go online and create their own textbooks and print them on-demand,” says Chris Greene, president of Frederic Printing.

Today, Frederic finds the primary challenges to be everything but the actual printing. Efficiencies on the front end, queuing up images to the press, working with data, and, at the back end, binding and finishing processes and spoilage control have become the dominant hurdles. “Everyone wants to go to a one-off book,” says Wilson. “And you can’t produce a second book in those environments for spoilage because if you do that you’d double the number of books you produced.”

Another challenge with the textbook market is that it’s seasonal, with volume tied to academic semesters. “Off-season volume is a challenge,” says Wilson. However, the folks at Frederic took what they learned and began to apply it to other product and service areas, such as direct mail and marketing, as well as healthcare and financial materials. A new customer, Urban Lending Solutions, required Frederic to produce and mail up to 75,000 mortgage loan modification packages —ranging from two to 36 pages each—every day. Their experience managing the variable data and images associated with custom textbooks helped them diversify into transactional and transpromotional printing and acquire a complementary customer base.

One of the company’s goals has been to take traditional commercial opportunities and convert them to inkjet—not because digital is necessarily a cheaper printing process, but because the front-end technology facilitates a variety of efficiencies that can save the customer money over the entire span of the project. “We can digitally commingle the job up front, bring the pieces all together, index them, run it all into postal software, and sort it the best way, even though the graphics are now intermingled,” says Wilson. These processes speed time to market, reduce mailing costs, and have other benefits. This is where the true return on investment (ROI) justification for digital printing comes in, according to Wilson. “It comes from time to market, from postal savings, from offer changes. It comes from testing.” One of the advantages to digital printing is the ability to make content changes on-the-fly and dynamically see what is and isn’t effective.

“It’s got to be a rethinking and reengineering of the whole process.”

And a wholehearted adoption of the pioneer spirit.

About the Blog

One can always benefit from stepping back and looking at things from a different perspective. The Birds-eye View focuses on the ever-changing landscape of print, and features insight on how print professionals can turn opportunity into growth.

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