Swift Turnaround

January 13, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Swift Printing Co. may be one of the smaller print shops in the area, but the firm has stood tall for a long time as an innovator in the local industry by being the first to incorporate many of the latest technological advances.

And Swift Printing will claim that leadership role again later this year when the company becomes the first locally to add a Xerox iGen3 110 Digital Production Press to its arsenal and its legacy. Swift is making the major investment, up to $550,000, to enhance what company owners Walt Gutowski Sr. and Walt Gutowski Jr. call their “extreme turnaround” program.

The program comes into play when a client wants a four-color order done in a day. Swift can do that now. There is a catch, though.

“The problem is the quick turnaround that they’ve heard about is not high-end, quality color. It’s very low end, and for our customers, that would not be acceptable. But customers can’t understand why it can’t be better,” said Walt Gutowski Jr.

So Swift Printing Marketing Director Bonnie Canum is heading a new effort to educate clients and potential customers on what needs to be done to achieve a high-quality output from a quick turnaround job.

“Extreme turnaround kind of meets a different need where you have a customer that, in many cases, has already designed or is designing their own pieces, and they need to get it printed now. That is the need that we’re fulfilling here,” said Canum, who added that Swift does have a design department for customers who seek that service.

“If they get that file to us — ideally via an FTP site, like via the Web — we will offload it. If the file meets all the criteria and if we receive it by 10 a.m., then by 9 a.m. the next morning, they will have their product,” she said.

Right now, Swift Printing is doing production runs of up to 2,500 pieces in the program, but the company hopes to double that maximum number later this year. Swift also hopes to shorten the turnaround time from a 24-hour day to an 8-hour workday.

“We believe that we will need the new Xerox to keep up with the demand, but we are starting without it. We have signed a contract with Xerox for the iGen 110. Ours would be the first placement in a commercial shop in West Michigan,” said Gutowski, who added that the contract Swift has with Xerox requires the press to be in the shop by June.

Swift can handle quick turnaround orders without the new digital press, but only because the Gutowskis have always kept the company on the leading edge of printing technology.

“We have a quarter-size commercial offset press that we put in, in 2000. We use direct-to-plate technology with that machine that we have been using on our smaller presses. We’ve been doing that for about 10 years. A number of print shops still don’t do computer-to-plate, and we like to stay right on the cutting edge. That’s why we signed the contract for the iGen,” said Gutowski.

Swift chose the Xerox press because of its speed and its large paper platform. Gutowski said the machine’s pre-press time is close to nil, and the Xerox has a platform that is 14.5 by 20.5 inches — a size that matches the platform on the quarter-size press.

“It also has an adapter, which allows the feed tray to give us an extra two inches to 22.5 inches. We will be the first placement in the country with that 22-inch tray, which gives us more flexibility to meet customer demand,” said Gutowski.

“As this program takes off, we’re going to need more capacity,” he added. 

Gutowski noted, though, that the Xerox press isn’t the sole answer to making the extreme turnaround program an unmitigated success. While the iGen does offer good resolution — 600 by 600 dots per inch — Gutowski said he planned to “finesse” its reproduction quality to match that of the company’s quarter-size press and achieve the high-end output he wants from the program.

And Gutowski feels Swift could do much of the quick turnaround work on its quarter-size press, as long as the pre-production labor that accompanies many of these orders can be reduced.

“So the way that this work comes into our business is the real key,” said Gutowski.

Swift Printing began living on the leading edge of printer technology way back in 1960 when Walt Gutowski Sr. bought two Kluge automatic letter presses and made his shop the first in the region to do so.

“That was like having two televisions back then. Then, in the early 1980s, we bought our Polar guillotine cutter, which was computerized. It was the first in West Michigan. When we bought our I-Tech press — which is a 12-by-18 format — in 1988, we were the first commercial print shop to put one of those presses in,” said Gutowski.

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