Rapidly growing Micro-Order Printer adds dynamic cutting & stacking solution to curb bindery bottleneck in its suburban Chicago manufacturing facility.
SOLON, OH – June 7, 2023 – Graphco, one of North America’s leading print & finishing equipment distributors last November delivered a Horizon SmartStacker to Blooming Color’s 30,000-square-foot production plant in Lombard, IL. Operating near-line to keep up with rapidly growing B2-size sheet output, the SmartStacker dynamic cut & stack capabilities eliminate manual sorting and helps the commercial printing firm produce many thousands of shorter-run jobs each workday.
Founded as a Minuteman Press franchise in 1988, approximately 85% of Blooming Color’s work now is printed digitally. The firm also offers wide-format printing services (both flatbed and roll-fed) as well as conventional six-color 40-inch sheetfed-offset for larger volumes, such as the 40,000 catalogs recently produced for a local college.
“On average, we process some 2,000 orders every day,” reports Brian Scott, CEO of Blooming Color. This month, the company adds its third B2-size (20x29”), HP Indigo Digital Press -- a second 100K device -- to its fleet of five Indigos. HP’s 100K model can run at top speeds of up to 6,000 sheets per hour. “During peak [holiday] season, from late October through late December, our number of print orders can jump to over 10,000 daily,” he noted. During those three months, the company doubles staff (to 100) and runs 24 hours per day instead of its usual two shifts.
Much of aforementioned volume comes by way of online print aggregators, such as Canva (canva.com) and Minted LLC (minted.com), explained Scott, adding that his company no longer employs a dedicated sales team. “We pivoted to micro-order printing about five years ago and haven’t looked back since,” he said.
Revenue growth has been rapid: Last year, Blooming Color’s annual sales increased by some 40% to $14 million, up from $10 million in 2021. “We expect to reach $18 million by the end of 2023,” the CEO forecasted. To expedite orders, printed product comes off the highly automated SmartStacker in separate piles. “There is no longer any hand-sorting involved,” Scott observes, ensuring faster job turnaround with less waste and fewer errors: The end result is higher productivity, quality and profitability. “It also saves two full bodies, which helps to pay for the machine,” Scott added.
Blooming Color’s book work ranges from quantities as high as 500 and down to 100, 50, 10 and even one single copy, according to Scott. The SmartStacker, which features a feeding capability of up to 4,500 B2 sheets per hour, converts each sheet into up to 28 individual cut sheets with intelligent accumulation, stacking and end-to-end JDF control so job cut characteristics are transferred from pre-press right through finished product. The post press system also features:
- Full bleed trimming: With variable gutter cuts and adjustable edge trimming, the SmartStacker ensures accurate margins for full-bleed images.
- High adaptability: The system can deliver finished products such as posters or postcards, straight or offset stacks, individual sets or book blocks. Or, it can bypass to inline finishing for saddle-stitching, perfect binding, or folding.
“Their guillotine cutters couldn’t keep up with the micro-orders that have taken Blooming Color by storm,” recalls Chris Manley, President of Graphco. During the chaotic, holiday cycle of 2022, “rather than hire more people, Brian and his team took a trip to Andover to look at the Horizon SmartStacker at Standard Finishing’s awesome Technology Center. After doing their due diligence and deciding to make the investment, our Team from SFS and Graphco made a speedy installation and they produced millions of Christmas cards in an extremely short period of time,” Manley shared. “Graphco has been a Standard Horizon dealer since 1983 so our firms have history, and the teamwork that went into this major installation was fantastic for everyone involved.”
Scott sees the addition of the SmartStacker as a win-win for management and hourly-wage employees. “Having the ability to do more volume without hiring more people is where our business is going,” he pointed out. “Pre-COVID we had five employees working in prepress. Now, there are two, the three others moved to different departments.” So, Blooming Color is producing more product with the same staff while avoiding layoffs of permanent, skilled workers.
”We’ve been ramping up and using the SmartStacker more and more over the past six months,” he continued. “It will be running eight hours per day this summer while we get ready to go to 24/5 throughout our holiday rush.” Scott and his Team have partnered with Ultimate TechnoGraphics for corresponding software programming and file imposition, so jobs flow through Blooming Color’s workflow quickly and accurately.
The SmartStacker purchase represents roughly half of Blooming Color’s more than $1-million investment in automated post press equipment since late 2022, Scott said. With a goal of finishing at least 5,000 books per day, the company is also adding a Standard Horizon BQ-500PUR perfect binder, which can handle up to 1,000 PUR books per hour. This new unit comes online in June, and pairs up with their a BQ-280PUR model that perfect-binds another 1,500 books daily. “Partnering with Blooming Color is a real privilege.” states Derek Gordon, Midwest Regional Manager for Graphco. “Our two companies are growing very quickly and much of our growth is being thrust on us by our customers so we’re all hanging on with both hands.”
Graphco is the industry’s leading provider of offset, digital, and print finishing solutions. We proudly represent the finest brands of equipment including RMGT (Ryobi MHI Graphic Technology), Benford LED-UV, Konica Minolta, Standard Horizon, Graphic Whizard, Petratto, Spiel Associates/Sterling, MBM, SD Italy and many more. These brands are only as good as the technical support team that stands behind them and Graphco’s reputation for top-notch service is second to none. Since 1976, Graphco has thrived in an ever-changing marketplace by loyally adhering to the firm’s original model for success: providing best-in-class print production equipment along with reliable and assured technical service. Learn more about Graphco at www.graphco.com, 800-458-2769.
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