- January 01, 2001, Edward Boyle, Contributing Editor
When personal computers first became a workplace fixture in the early 1980s, some management experts boldly predicted the ultimate emergence of a "paperless" corporate environment. In the future, they said, information would be stored and disseminated largely via computer, eliminating the need for the cumbersome and "antiquated" paper filing system.
Of course, that bold declaration—much like the prediction that the quality of "beta" videotaping systems would ultimately make VHS recording systems obsolete—never quite came to pass. We've long since said good-bye to beta, and the mountains of paper cluttering our workplaces often take up more desktop space than the computer that seemed destined to eliminate them.
In fact, the marketplace demand for printed materials, such as business forms, receipts, invoices, and promotional materials, increases with every transaction, and sales themselves are growing with every click of a mouse. That's one of the reasons financial institutions, Fortune 500 companies, and retail giants are turning to printers like Wallace Computer Services Inc., headquartered in Lisle, IL, outside Chicago. Wallace uses its proprietary Total Print Management (TPM) system to help them implement and execute their sales and retail operations by ensuring that invoices, tracking labels, and promotional literature efficiently support each purchase.
Auditing for Waste
Wallace, a 92-year-old company with annual sales of nearly $1.6 billion, is one of North America's largest fully integrated printing companies. It operates 40 printing plants across the country with some 8,100 employees. The company boasts one of the nation's largest sheet-fed offset printing conglomerates when the capabilities of all operations are combined.
To implement TPM at its own facility for the benefit of its customers, Wallace strategically audits every variable that relates to the printing and distribution of materials, including inventory management, job tracking, and distribution logistics. The company then recommends and implements strategic solutions using its computerized data tracking system to makes its customers' paper trails that much more manageable.
"The actual printing typically consists of only 15 percent of the total printing costs," states Mike Keim, VP of engineering research and new market development at Wallace. "The bulk of printing costs is often overlooked. For example, stagnant inventory and ordering jobs too early or too late drive up costs. By strategically managing every phase of a company's printing requirements, Wallace effectively reduces total printing costs."
A key component of TPM is the Wallace Information Network, dubbed @W.I.N. (pronounced "at win"), a digital asset management customer service system. @W.I.N. enables customers to track every phase of printing from any location via the Internet and permits them to manage printing files and assets electronically.
Keim notes that "in the old days," companies (or divisions of companies) would order, for example, 200,000 business forms, brochures, and/or tracking labels and keep them in their facility. Later, another division may order the same brochures, and a year later a new brochure is designed and printed—often without the knowledge of one division or the other, creating needless waste.
"Nobody was tracking the actual movement of who got what and when orders were being placed, and that's what we're good at," says Keim. "We take their collateral materials and print their brochures and put them into inventory. But we also take a look at what their usage is, and we manage their inventory to ensure that they don't have a lot of waste and that there's not a lot of turnover. And we still give them the benefit of having the total print management system. So there are cost savings available to the customer by allowing us to do that."
"Because of our strength in distribution and the `at win' program," adds Keim, "our larger customers that have a number of remote facilities can use our system to maintain and control inventory for all of their printing needs."
Moving to the Future
On-line shopping, of course, is growing at significant rates today. From "free rural delivery" to "e-commerce," the buzzwords certainly have changed. Yet, notes Keim, no matter how the transaction is made, there continues to be a need to support purchases with printed forms, labels, and promotional materials.
"While most news coverage and discussions related to e-commerce focus on the use of the Internet to order products electronically," says Keim, "it is often the process of accurately and rapidly fulfilling these orders that ensures success."
Before the Internet, many businesses such as catalog companies set up sophisticated fulfillment operations that could rapidly take credit card orders over an 800 number and ship out purchased goods without delay. E-commerce has accelerated the process, since secured credit card purchases over the Internet are now immediate. However, success goes beyond the transaction. True success is making certain that the proper forms, labels, and promotional literature accompany each order.
"As part of Total Print Management," continues Keim, "Wallace must be one step ahead of our customers' needs. This means managing these critical print components so that orders ship just-in-time."
Investing in High-Speed Technology
Wallace recognized early on that growth in its core forms/label business was being driven by the computer age. To stay ahead of the e-commerce wave, the company made considerable capital investments, including its purchase of multiple RDP Marathon 380V variable-size, web offset printing presses.
The specially designed multicolor RDP presses are located strategically throughout Wallace's nationwide printing operations to serve regional and national customers. Each 380V press prints in excess of 430 million forms a year, says Keim. The print units run jumbo rolls up to 50 in. dia, six days a week, 24 hours a day, at speeds to 1,800 fpm.
Keim adds that the 380V printing presses were designed by RDP to more than double the output of traditional forms presses. "Instead of running single forms up to 18 inches, these units have the capability of producing forms on webs of up to 38.5 inches wide. This enables us to produce two 18-inch forms side by side. The extra width and speed are vital in keeping up with the print demand being generated by e-commerce. In addition, the presses can handle a wide range of substrates, which allows the presses to produce a greater variety of products."
The presses can be equipped with special add-on components that include units for coatings, pattern perforation, and UV drying, as well as traditional finishing stations for punching, perforating, rewinding, sheeting, and folding. In addition, each 380V includes the Smart-Set press control system, a Windows-based system that provides remote control of all press functions, which Keim says results in quicker makeready and washup. The system also includes job storage and retrieval.
"Just as Wallace has always been very responsive to our customers' needs, we partner with our vendors in the same way," states Keim. "RDP listened and reviewed our needs and then designed these new high-output printing systems accordingly. And their service did not end with the press installations. They continued to listen to our needs and develop special features to achieve our unique requirements. This responsive support gave us the ability to offer better solutions to our customers' needs."
Changing with the Times
Wallace's business, like that of many of its customers, has been undergoing rapid change. Business forms remained the largest share of the company's business until just three years ago, when several acquisitions increased the commercial printing segment of Wallace's business to nearly 50% of overall sales, on a par with its forms, labels, and packaging duties.
"We picked up a lot of good quality commercial plants, and at the same time we consolidated in the forms, labels, and office products side of the business," says Keim. The company also does a substantial amount of direct mail printing for major users such as Reader's Digest, Publisher's Clearing House, Bell South, and international investment firms.
With more than three dozen converting facilities across the country, Wallace works with virtually every major supplier of printing presses, prepress equipment, basestocks, inks, coatings, and other raw materials and equipment.
For example, in addition to its RDP Marathon presses, Wallace also operates flexo presses from Chromas, Comco, and Mark Andy, as well as sheet-fed offset presses from Heidelberg, Komori, Mitsubishi, and Akiyama.
Films and paper-based materials are supplied by Georgia-Pacific, International Paper, Consolidated, Xpedx, and Appleton Papers, while inks and coatings are supplied by Akzo Nobel, Alden & Ott Printing Inks, and others.
Wallace relies on its own TPM system, as well as its suppliers' computerized order and tracking systems, to streamline its own inventory management. Keim says, "We developed our initial TPM system back in 1982, and we've obviously improved on it as technology has developed. It's been great for improving the efficiencies of everyone involved."
Wallace Computer Services
4600 W. Roosevelt Rd.
Hillside, IL 60162-2079
RDP Marathon, Laval, ON, Canada; 450/687-7262; rdpmarathon.com
Chromas, Longueuil (St.Bruno), QC, Canada; 450/461-9591; chromas.com
Comco International, a Mark Andy co., Milford, OH; 513/248-1600; markandy.com
Mark Andy, Chesterfield, MO; 636/532-4433; markandy.com
Heidelberg USA, Kennesaw, GA; 770/419-6500; heidelberg.com
Komori America, Rolling Meadows, IL; 847/806-9000; komori.com
Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses, Lincolnshire, IL; 847/634-9100; mlpusa.com
Akiyama Corp. of America, Pine Brook, NJ; 973/227-1003
Georgia-Pacific Kraft Paper, Atlanta, GA; 800/388-0523; gp.com
International Paper, Purchase, NY; 914/397-1500; internationalpaper.com
Consolidated Papers Inc., a Stora Enso div., Wisconsin Rapids, WI; 715/422-3111; storaenso.com
Xpedx, Covington, KY; 606/655-2000; xpedx.com
Akzo Nobel Inks, Langhorne, PA; 215/750-9191; aninks.com
Appleton Paper Inc., Appleton, WI; 800/663-2134; appletonideas.com
Alden & Ott Printing Inks, Elk Grove Village, IL; 847/956-6830