By Cassandra Balentine
The print industry is increasingly competitive and complex. To ensure profitability, print providers must continuously reevaluate service offerings, equipment, sales strategies, and workflow. Maintaining the status quo often won’t cut it, therefore successful shops are always on the lookout for smart investments.
For Brandywine Printing, this means wide format. Based in Cumming, GA, the company started out as a basement operation when Derek Brooks, GM, Brandywine Printing Inc.’s father took on restoring an old AB Dick printing press as a hobby. This hobby turned into a legitimate family business in 1982, eventually moving out of the basement and into a barn that housed a 2,500 square foot print shop. In 1999, the print provider hired its first non-family staff member, from there it hit its peak employee count of ten in 2008. At this point, it was an offset shop, but Brooks says he knew that it had to make the decision to change or die.
Above: Based in Cumming, GA, Brandywine Printing expanded its print business by bringing in wide format capabilities.
The change came in the form of digital printing. The company installed its first digital press in 2010, a Canon imagePRESS C6000VP. It operated with an EFI Fiery digital front end (DFE). The addition of digital printing capabilities transitioned the business, and by 2012 the company sold off all of its offset and peripheral equipment and was considered an all-digital print provider. Today, it operates a Ricoh Pro C7100 with a fifth color option, white; as well as a Ricoh Pro 8200s monochrome press. It also relies on a variety of finishing equipment, including hardware from Duplo USA Corporation and MBO America.
The evolution continued, in 2013 the company decided to purchase a sign shop to get its feet wet in the wide format space. The purchase included a roll-to-roll printer, but when it came time to replace the machine, Brandywine Printing wanted bigger and better. Brooks says he doesn’t like purchasing new equipment without making an upgrade. He started looking into hybrid options, specifically something that provided white ink capabilities. “We started looking at hybrids and when I first saw an EFI VUTEk I was impressed. With little industry knowledge, I started researching the equipment,” shares Brooks.
In the Spring of 2018, the print provider decided on the EFI Pro 16h. Brandywine Printing purchased the device through Ricoh, with whom they already had a relationship. The shop is happy with the hardware as well as the EFI Fiery XF software. Brooks says the training was great, and it’s only made one service call on the machine in a year.
The EFI Pro 16h LED UV hybrid inkjet printer prints onto both flexible and rigid substrates up to 65 inches wide and two inches thick. It offers four colors plus white ink printing in a single pass. The machine features a resolution of up to 1,200×1,200 dpi along with near photographic images, saturated colors, and smooth gradations with true four-level, variable drop grayscale print capability and production quality printing at 476 square feet per hour. The Pro 16h includes an EFI Fiery proServer Core DFE featuring EFI fast RIP acceleration technology as well as RIP and print on demand functionality or the ability to print pre-ripped files at the printer interface.
As previously noted, white ink was a big selling point of the EFI Pro 16h for Brandywine Printing. Originally the shop considered the EFI 1625, but once it realized the Pro 16h featured a standard white ink option, it was a no brainer. “In the world of wide format you need to have white ink,” shares Brooks. Speed also factored into its decision, as the device allows them to do a lot in a small amount of time.
Automated and Efficient
In addition to a reliable equipment lineup, Brandywine Printing benefits from automation. With an integrated, seamless workflow, the shop is able to do more work with fewer people. This is increasingly important as the availability of skilled operators is in decline. “I don’t want to say it doesn’t take an artist to operate these machines, it does. But it’s a different skill set and one person can do a lot,” shares Brooks.
The print provider offers a range of service offerings with its versatile equipment portfolio. Its goal is to be a one-stop-shop for marketing materials. About 65 percent of its work is sheetfed, and the other 35 is wide format. Brooks says wide format is more profitable, but its base is a lot of sheetfed.
“When we brought in the EFI Pro 16h, we did not advertise the new services and were able to add $100K in wide format revenue the first year,” he exclaims.
Brandywine Printing produces a variety of wide format work on its EFI Pro 16h. In addition to commercial jobs, the press is employed with direct to consumer jobs from an Etsy storefront where it sells decals for $5. “We usually sell to businesses, not to consumers. However, Etsy brought us there without having to invest too much time. We just made our 1,000th sale, so it’s a cool way to bring in additional revenue,” admits Brooks.
Yard signs and banners, as well as work for local schools including event mesh are additional jobs the printer takes on effortlessly.
Prior to the EFI Pro 16h, the print provider did a lot of labor-intensive wide format work, which involved printing to vinyl and mounting to a rigid substrate. With direct-to-substrate printing capabilities, the process is greatly simplified. For example, a yard sign job that might entail 20 two-sided signs took about three hours of labor with the old process, but today that same job is completed in less than 20 minutes.
The hybrid wide format solution works well for Brandywine Printing because it also takes advantage of the benefits roll-to-roll equipment offers. For example, a job that takes hundreds of rolls of media can easily be handled in house.
Rooted in offset, Brandywine Printing continues to evolve. Along with traditional commercial print services, the company is growing with wide format. “If you want to succeed in the printing industry today, I think wide format needs to be part of the picture,” comments Brooks. Taking this belief seriously, the company continues to stay on top of trends, strategically investing in updated wide format equipment to offer new products and services.
Oct2019, DPS Magazine