by Cassandra Balentine
For print and marketing service providers, the ability to serve a wide range of needs is instrumental to success. This is especially true for local shops with a geographically regional focus.
Many of these are franchised businesses, like AlphaGraphics. With over 50 years of expertise and more than 270 locally owned centers worldwide, the franchisor is dedicated to helping its owners transform their ideals into reality.
Established in 1998 by Jeff Bittner and his family, AlphaGraphics of Wood Dale, IL, offers its expertise in print from small format color printing to large format signage. It currently operates with a staff of seven out of its 6,300 square foot facility.
The franchise offers a variety of print-related services including creative, direct marketing and mailing, as well as mobile and online marketing. Applications consist of everything from from blueprints and site plans to book printing and binding, booklet making, business cards, calendars, cards and invitations, custom stationary, flyers, forms, labels and decals, manuals and catalogs, photo books, and presentation folders.
All in One
Wide format is a significant growth area for AlphaGraphics of Wood Dale and includes building signage; exhibits and displays; point of purchase and promotional; wayfinding and directional; and window, wall, and floor graphics.
While the core business for this AlphaGraphics location is Wood Dale and its surrounding communities, it does have a much larger reach. “With the web and shipping partners we are able to handle just about everything our clients request,” assures Jeff Bittner, owner, AlphaGraphics, Wood Dale, IL.
The company started with offset and analog presses. As time went on it continued to adapt, investing in small format digital printing as it started to emerge. “We saw the advantage of having a digital copier back then, allowing us to print originals instead of making copies. We were one of the first in our area to invest into that technology back in the late 1990s,” he adds.
Currently it utilizes a range of digital printing devices, including a Canon imagePRESS, Ricoh 7110, and Xanté envelope press. For the large format and signage side of the business it employs an HP Latex 365, HP Latex 560, and EFI 16H Pro printers.
For finishing, it relies on versatile solutions like a Duplo 616 slitter, Standard bindery equipment, and a Colex Sharpcut flatbed cutter.
The company also utilizes automated workflow tools, including XMPie from Xerox. With this online ordering system, clients place orders, which are automatically entered into its point of sale system. The files that accompany them are dropped into the print queue. Bittner says this is a big time saver. “We usually use templates from EFI Fiery drivers to impose the files on the front end of small and large format projects,” he shares.
AlphaGraphics Wood Dale understands the importance of investing in technologies that help win bids and differentiate them from the competition.
When the shop recently had the chance to win a very big business card order, it evaluated its equipment line up and decided that an investment in a new slitter/cutter/creaser could make it more efficient. It found and purchased the Duplo 616 Slitter/Cutter/Creaser, which proved to be a great addition to its arsenal.
“We started looking at the Duplo 616 as a time saving device for business cards. We had a contract we believed we would win and with that we needed a faster way to turn business cards around,” explains Bittner. “We did win the contract and there is no looking back. Without the Duplo not sure we could have done it.”
Bitter explains that the device allows the same person that is running the press to cut the cards coming off. For this particular order, the client was redesigning the style of business cards for all of their 800 employees. The final run called for 800,000 business card masters of which 450,000 needed to be imprinted.
The orders were submitted via XMPie, files were imposed on the EFI Fiery, printed on the Canon imagePRESS, and cut with the Duplo. “It was a great way to process that many orders at one time. The biggest challenge to this project was how much time it took to run. We were very efficient with our staffing to keep it running, but at the end of the day the machines only run so fast,” says Bittner.
For every business worldwide, COVID-19 has made some type of an impact.
“We noticed an 80 percent reduction in sales in our small format business immediately and that went on for four months,” shares Bittner.
The shop slowly started to see some work come back, but it took a long time. “I would say that we are back to pre-pandemic levels now and then some but seemed like forever,” he adds.
The large format side of its business actually grew during the pandemic, helping to keep the shop afloat. “We were able to keep all of our staff paid thanks to the PPP money we received. We are still seeing some residual challenges from the pandemic but for the most part we seem to be business as usual,” he confirms.
Right now the shop is focused on its staff, getting newer team members up to speed and back on track for getting out in front of its clients.
It recently added an EFI 16H flatbed printer, so one of its top priorities is keeping that busy. “We’re hoping 2022 allows us to get back on track with lunch-and-learn meetings with clients as well.”
AlphaGraphics of Wood Dale is an excellent example of a successful print franchise. With its versatile equipment line up, the shop is able to provide its customers—locally and beyond—with a variety of applications. dps
Jul2022, DPS Magazine