A Wider Range of Services

Some might say printer’s ink flows through the veins of Applied Graphics’ Kelly Crom. Certainly you’d have to admit he comes by his business naturally. His family’s print shop originated way back in 1967, the year Kelly was born. At that time his father, Mike Crom, managed Jet Quick Printing for Sun newspapers, seeding his successful retail business with knowledge that comes from fast turnaround on a daily basis. Speed was never a problem for the fledgling operation. Newsprint operations thrive on speed. The real issues for Jet Quick Printing were how to secure more business and how to turn a profit.

The answer, of course, was to offer a wider range of services, higher quality printing, and faster turnaround - turning the corner to offer full color commercial printing. The goal was realized in 1976 when Mike purchased the business, creating the division that became Applied Graphics Associates, Inc. Today the successful printing operation still includes their Jet Quick retail shop and, in conjunction with the commercial operation, the business employs 18 people. “If it’s on paper,” says Kelly, “we print it!”

Times Change, and With it Technology

Only one thing remains the same: the competition just keeps getting tougher. In the Twin Cities metropolitan market there are at least 700 mid-sized commercial printers, let alone 20 of them within a 5-mile radius of Applied Graphics. Convenience can’t be counted as a unique selling point. Competitive pricing wars are common. To thrive in the marketplace, Applied Graphics needed to specialize - to offer something other printers couldn’t (or wouldn't) when the economy got tight.

For Kelly’s customers, that significant difference became the ability of Applied Graphics to deliver affordable consistent color from the proof to the printed page quickly. The solution for the firm was Computer-to- Plate polyester plates on jobs where other printers were running metal. “Ninety percent of our jobs are run on poly,” says Kelly. “Our customers love the results. They consistently get the color they expect on every run, without the delay and additional cost that comes with metal plates. The cost savings in time and labor are passed right along to the customer. What is largely an invisible process to our customers becomes more obvious when they get the quality job they demand, and walk away with the cash savings!”

Early Adoptation Makes Experts

In marketing terms, Applied Graphics might be classified as an “early adopter.” They look fearlessly at new technologies, thrive on discovery, trust their instincts and make the right decisions before others are ready to get into the game. His first foray into CTP was with the Mitsubishi SDP 1800 Computer-to-Plate system. “When we first ran CTP, we didn’t have a four color press,” Kelly admits. “Still, we delivered what you might call ‘pleasing color’ with our twocolor presses.” They kept working at it, perfecting use of the equipment to the point where he became a quasi-job shop for the company’s graphics efforts. It was this relationship that introduced him to Printware and his ultimate decision to install a Printware PlateStream46 Platesetter. It was a decision he’s never regretted.

“We were pretty well satisfied with our system,” recalls Kelly, “but we definitely needed to look at our capacity and materials costs.” The PlateStream46 Dual-Cassette model delivers the highest quality 2400 dpi/175-line screens in less time, with no stopping to reload media. In fact, it produces plates perfectly cut to size for Kelly’s new 5-color Speedmaster 52 press, making it the fastest platesetter in its class, matching imaging and processing speeds for the landscape and portrait 2-color presses at Applied Graphics.

Consistent & Affordable Color

Every successful businessperson knows that relationships are everything. Managing customer expectations in the printing business is particularly challenging when everything from the paper stock to the ink chemistry to the weather can affect your output. In moving to CTP, Kelly had to overcome the additional challenge of presenting proofs that were often better than the final output. “We were doing inkjet proofs,” he says, “but didn’t have the ability to make plates and proofs on the same system.” The new Platestream46 CTP system comes with an integrated Harlequin® RIP that supports a wide range of digital proofers and color profiles. The result: press okay proofs that has customer saving, “It’s even better than I thought it would be.”

Getting there took some time - plan on it. Applied Graphics’ biggest hurdle was overcoming pressroom skepticism. While the equipment learning curve was exceptionally low, they needed to fine-tune their processes for color. After the installation, Applied Graphics worked primarily with ink companies to get formulations right and moved to become an alcohol-free shop. “Once the chemistry was down and we learned the parameters of the material, we've never had a problem,” says Kelly. Additionally, they discovered the PlateStream46 is virtually maintenance free and very user serviceable. “There’s simply no downtime,” Kelly remarks. “The equipment takes care of itself.” Improvements keep coming.

Only two years ago the company installed a five-color Heidelberg press that fit right into their system. “It was absolutely automatic,” says Kelly. The press immediately accepted the plates that came out of the PlateStream. Of course, it's not for every job, or the whole world would be CTP poly based already. Kelly advises, “Running poly is really for one-time projects where four-color process quality is critical, and the customer’s budget is crucial. The big difference is cost savings and always will be.” Not a bad outcome for someone who was raised on ink and tight deadlines.

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Company

Applied Graphics Associates Inc.

Wayzata, MN

Profile

Founded in 1967 as Jet Quick Printing, Applied Graphics is a PIM Great Printer as part of the Printing Industry of Minnesota’s environmental initiative. To achieve PIM recognition, Applied Graphics minimizes their company’s impact on human health and the environment while producing quality printed products, exceeding environmental compliance regulations.