Myriad factors are creating a volatile environment transforming the types of signage and graphics found in retail stores.
Bales: Jim, you are absolutely right. There are still great applications for screen printing out there. That’s why we acquired screen printing technology and brought it into the digital age. We do see run lengths shrinking, though. Longer runs aren’t gone, but they continue to go down.
SP: Dave, Image Options is one of the rare breed of printers with a digital background that subsequently added screen. Have you been able to keep the inline multicolor press busy?
Bales: We have more capacity on our five-color inline than we’re currently using, so there is room to grow, but the decision to do it was an excellent one. In hindsight, we’ve opened up our customer base considerably. Most of the work we’re printing on the five-color inline is hitting the digital presses as well—for instance, bus shelters that are in the longer runs for the major markets will be runs of 20, 30 or 50 in smaller markets. The five-color line has opened up a completely new customer base for us that we really couldn’t touch before because we didn’t have the capability to do the long runs. But we still have capacity to grow in our analog line. We run 7/24 in our digital lines and we don’t do that yet with screen.
SP: Dan and Jim, your companies were both originally screen-printing operations. How do you view the ongoing transition from analog to digital printing?
Pratt: Pratt became part of the Vomela companies a couple of years ago, so we’re now part of a $200 million company with assets across the US. Most of our assets are digital, but they include everything from flatbed to roll-to-roll and inline presses stretching from Vancouver to Indy to St. Paul. We’ve got a lot of print and converting horsepower in our group. Like Jim and Dave, there are times we’re over capacity and other times where we have gaps. We all wish we had level loading, but that’s not the way the business is. One of the things we do is have our operation folks talk to each other on a daily basis, so we’re able to move work around the group to satisfy our customers and maximize our production capacity. We are fortunate to have the capacity so we don’t risk losing an order based on turn time. We might produce the order from a couple of different locations.
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