Allegra Buys Itself Digital Flexibility

January 16, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — A $250,000 investment by an Allegra Print & Imaging Center in Grand Rapids allows the printing of materials in a more customized fashion than ever before.

That’s the cost of the firm’s new Indigo digital printing press.

According to Eric Vetter, president of the Allegra Print & Imaging franchise at 3983 Linden Ave., the press brings great flexibility to production.

Vetter — who owns the operation jointly with his father, Ron, and brother, Craig — said the press enables a user to vary the color of specific elements in a printed piece, photo images or text highlights, in the midst of a press run.

A decade ago, such a capability was little more than a dream.

To change an image in mid-run, press workers had to bring the press to a stop, remove and replace one or more sets of press plates, and then bring the press back up to speed. The stop-start sequence entailed considerable waste as the workers tweaked ink fonts to perfect the images’ color balances.

Time being money, it also was a costly and labor-intensive process. What a printing shop of the day strove to do was run its presses without interruption.

Vetter said that today the variable color and imaging capability allows a customer to better gear a batch of marketing and promotional materials based on their targeted demographic groups and geographic zones.

He explained that if a bank, for example, is printing 10,000 brochures to promote retail lending, the press enables an operator to alter the photo of the person pictured, using a man for part of the press run and a woman for the rest, to better target selected demographic groups.

“It can do different versions for different groups with a message that addresses different needs,” Vetter explained.

“We have the ability to develop more targeted and personalized communications to help our customers make a meaningful impact.”

He said the new press has also helped Vetter’s Allegra franchise eliminate steps in the production process, saving time and better accommodating last-minute changes from the client.

It also improves response times and the ability to do short runs.

The press is helping to generate “lots of new business” for Vetter who co-owns the Allegra franchise with his father, Ron, and brother, Craig.

Vetter said he expects growth to accelerate.

The business, founded in 1979, caters to small and medium-sized businesses in the area with full-color digital and offset printing, graphic design, high-speed copying, finishing and mailing services, and project consulting.

Vetter’s franchise is one of five Allegra Printing & Imaging Centers in West Michigan.

Two others also are in Grand Rapids and the remaining two operate in Holland and Grand Haven.

The firms are part of Allegra Network LLC, one of the world’s largest printing franchisers with more than 500 locations in the United States, Canada, Poland and the Far East.

As the industry moves further into the digital age, Vetter said the new generation of printing presses is helping to not only to improve customization of printed materials but also to reduce waste and save clients’ money.

He explained that the digital presses are able to accommodate shorter press runs at a lower cost.

One of the key cost reduction factors is that making presses digital has eliminated several labor-intensive pre-press operations with large amounts of expensive pre-press materials such as light-sensitive aluminum plates and film.

He explained that lower printing costs enable clients to update printed materials more frequently than ever before.

Vetter said this means clients can print more precisely what they need, and not find themselves periodically throwing out large, unused inventories of, say, price sheets when they become obsolete.

“As a business, you don’t want to tie up all your money in printing,” he said.               

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