By Cassandra Balentine
Print providers adapt to an evolving industry by investing in new technologies in the form of hardware and software. Maintaining a streamlined workflow improves efficiencies and the bottom line.
Lawrence Printing is rooted back in 1936, when George Lawrence Sr. started a printing business before having to close shop to serve in World War II. Upon his return, Lawrence Sr. worked in the newspaper industry setting hot type in Atlanta, GA and Washington, D.C.
Above: Based in Atlanta, GA, LawrenceInk relies on its workflow tools to remain efficient and productive.
The business restarted in 1980 when George Lawrence Jr. and his son George Lawrence III reopened Lawrence Printing serving as president. Gary Lawrence joined as VP, George Lawrence Jr. retired, and the two brothers rebranded as LawrenceInk, moving into a 30,000 square foot facility in Atlanta, running two shifts with more than 30 employees.
In addition to a full 40-inch production printing facility, it added design, mailing, and fulfillment services. When the 2007/2008 recession hit, the shop hunkered down and reduced staff to get by. But survive they did, slowly growing and adapting to a new printing industry. The shop had a strong digital presence, but recognized the trend towards shorter runs, faster turnarounds, and lower cost printing.
In 2012, the addition of Jonathan Lawrence made it a fourth-generation, family-run print provider. Lawrence III says Jonathan helped bring the business forward with its digital initiatives. In 2014 the shop added two Canon imagePRESS C800s and an Océ VarioPrint 135. Its digital operations started to explode. Fast forward two years and the company acquired two Canon imagePRESS C10000 VP production presses.
The demand for short-run work in 2017 was so great it began discussions with Canon to see how best to increase capacity. The print provider sold off its offset presses and went completely digital, acquiring an Océ VarioPrint i300 cutsheet inkjet press. With a new, all-digital lineup, it moved into a smaller 15,000 square foot facility and operates with a leaner staff of under 20 employees. “While we are in a smaller facility with fewer employees, our volume and profits continue to improve,” he shares.
If the company gets a high-volume job that it can not accommodate, it enjoys partnerships with other shops to trade off high-volume jobs for shorter run work.
In addition to the Canon devices previously mentioned, the print provider operates an iJetColor inkjet envelope printer, Polar cutters, Stahl folders, a Duplo stitcher, inserters with camera systems, and C.P. Bourg perfect binders.
Today, the business offers design, print, mailing services, and short-run books. While its primary geographical reach is the Atlanta area, its client base is growing throughout the Southeast. A large portion of its customers are made up of large non-profits and the faith-based community through its CrimsonInk brand. “The main concern of our book customers is reducing unit costs and inventories while preserving cash flow. After listening to their needs we found a solution in the i300. We provide high-quality, short-run printing at a fair price.”
Its book runs typically range between 100 to 1,500 pieces. It also performs a lot of personalized direct mail work, ranging anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 pieces per job.
LawrenceInk understands the importance of workflow to a digital shop. It utilizes an EPMS print MIS system. Traditionally it utilized Heidelberg’s workflow, but moved to Xitron’s Sierra workflow a few years ago in an attempt to bridge the gap on its traditional and digital equipment. It also relies on the Canon PRISMAsync media-based workflow system.
“Having a workflow that handles the digital presses in a manner that leans toward automation and hands-off management was important. The ability to control jobs using PRISMAsync allows us to assign media to the job in the impose stage—taking efficiency even further,” says Jonathan Lawrence.
The company’s first digital presses, the Canon C800s, ran with EFI Fiery RIPs. However, when the Océ VarioPrint 135 was implemented, it was equipped with the PRISMAsync controller. The shop was impressed with the simplicity and intuitiveness of the interface. So, when it brought in the C10000 VPs it decided to stay with the PRISMAsync. The i300 runs PRISMAprepare due to its intuitive features and integration with PRISMAsync controllers.
“We pushed for the implementation of PRISMAprepare because of the compatibility across all of our Canon presses using PRISMAsync, ease of use, and repeatability. When we were first introduced to the PRISMAsync, I noticed that even with no experience or training myself, I was able to easily and quickly pick up simple operation of the machine and software,” explains Jonathan Lawrence.
Later, with the purchase of the C10000 VPs, it was using a mixed workflow, which worked but was not ideal. “We started using PRISMAsync remote manager to assign media, schedule, and submit jobs. Using the tools available to us at the time, we began to see an increase in productivity and efficiency. When we started the process of moving to all digital equipment, PRISMAsync created a foundation for us. Its intuitiveness has allowed us to adapt to all digital, push the limits of our machines, and be a leader in technology in the print industry,” says Lawrence III.
The print provider regularly utilizes several features of PRISMAsync as well as PRISMAprepare. Full integration of PRISMAsync allows prepress technicians to set up jobs from PRISMAprepare. Its process begins even before opening PRISMAprepare by creating an optimized PDF with native design files or from a customer-supplied PDF. PRISMAprepare starts by the type of job and applies criteria and prompts prepress input based on machine, media, and finishing equipment.
Jonathan Lawrence admits there was a bit of a learning curve, but Canon provided excellent training and support. He also appreciates the likeness between the user interface across PRISMAprepare and PRISMAsync.
Overall, Lawrence III believes its workflow tools allow LawrenceInk to do more work with fewer people. “It’s difficult to find and hire qualified employees in our industry,” he admits. Additionally, it enables the shop to rethink processes in order to create a more efficient workflow, which is credited to the simplicity, repeatability, and level of control from start to finish with Canon PRISMAsync and PRISMAprepare.
Workflow in Motion
LawrenceInk’s workflow strategy has real-word benefits. Jonathan Lawrence takes us back to the thINK 2017 event, hosted by Canon. “While I was at the event, there was an issue with a substrate importing incorrectly, as well as a job that needed to be imposed using an odd template,” he recalls. This was right after the company had moved locations and was still learning the new system.
Since business doesn’t stop because someone is out of the office, Jonathan Lawrence set up a VPN between his devices and its production network. “This allows me to connect to VPN and use PRISMAsync Remote Manager to schedule and setup jobs. It also gives me full access to the Settings Editor to modify machine settings and media,” he shares.
To access PRISMAprepare, Lawrence III uses a remote desktop when connected to the VPN. “While not an official way to use PRISMA, it gives me a way to monitor presses and make changes when necessary to schedule.”
With this remote access, he resolved the issues from afar.
LawrenceInk is focused on adapting to a continuously evolving industry. “Printers are becoming more specialized and segmented. As a result we have developed some great partnerships. I think this trend to partner and work together will continue. We have pushed the envelope in commercial print with inkjet and I believe that will carry on,” shares Lawrence III.
An efficient and effective workflow allows LawrenceInk to run a successful digital print business with fewer employees and the confidence that issues at the shop can be managed from afar. “I believe that we have only scratched the surface and the more we learn and techniques we develop will further push the limits,” he concludes.
Jul2019, DPS Magazine