Liturgical Publications Inc.: Color Inkjet Bulletins Have Mass Appeal
Advertising-supported chuch bulletins and newsletters.
Full color 16 to 32 page booklets with coupons integrated into the printed product.
Sheeter 568 with TC 1550 PLUS Dynamic Perforator to a Baum Signature Folder.
Sheeter 568 to an IBIS Smart‑binder.
Liturgical Publications Inc., LPi, began printing church bulletins 43 years ago and the family-owned company continues to grow their core business. Specializing in Catholic congregations, the company currently produces advertising-supported bulletins and newsletters on a weekly or monthly basis to their customer base of more than 4,000 churches across the U.S. Headquartered outside of Milwaukee, the company operates satellite offices in Cleveland, Hartford, Orlando and Denver to better serve customers in those regions. In recent years, LPi has moved into website design and hosting, online giving and other services and evolved into a full-service communications company connecting religious and community organizations and their members. Their printed products have also expanded and include welcome packets, ministry directories and calendars.
“Our customer expectations have changed significantly in the past five to seven years,” said LPi’s Vice President of Operations Frank Horning, who has been with the company for 36 years and witnessed first-hand the changing marketplace. “Customers are looking for more color on their pages. We’ve grown from a one to two-color product, four to six pages in size to full color 16 to 32 page booklets,” he said. “The color complexity and need for quality and consistency required us to explore different technologies to meet our customer demands.” With revenues coming primarily from advertisers in their printed products, rather than from purchasers of an improved print product, that new technology had to provide the versatility and high quality needed without causing a significant increase in advertising prices.
As a company, LPi prints a total of 18 million pages a week, with 7 million of those in the Milwaukee plant alone. Formerly utilizing mostly offset presses, some equipped with UV, along with digital printers for shorter runs, the company transitioned to a high quality inkjet printer with roll-to-roll, along with two Tecnau Sheeter 568s, one hooked up to a Baum Signature Folder and Tecnau’s TC 1550 dynamic perforator, and the other feeding sheets to an IBIS Smart-binder. “We installed the inkjet and finishing lines in our Milwaukee plant; they were up and running the next month and seven months down the road we’re already producing 3.8 million pages a week on them,” Horning said. “That’s 55 percent of our workload and we expect to be up to 4.5 million pages in another couple of months.” The inkjet printer ultimately replaced four of the plant’s seven offset lines, and only two digital printers remain operational, reduced from five total. While there is a significant cost of entry for inkjet technology, it has allowed their larger customers to experience the consistent quality of their offset presses at a lower cost. “Even with the cost of ink, our coverage is in a range that doesn’t make it cost prohibitive as compared to the toner based digital equipment’s more expensive per click charges,” Horning said. “Our customer service department has experienced a notable decrease in complaints about color consistency.”
“The inkjet provides us with consistent color week in and week out and gives us the ability to use different types of paper,” he said. “Before we used one main type of paper through our machines but now we can do a gloss, a matte finish or a plain treated sheet.” The Tecnau Sheeter 568 system for in-line saddle stitch features the Unwinder 550, Cutter 561, Stacker 566, Feeder 568 and conveyor, and generates individual sheets for stitching or neat paper stacks for book blocks. According to Horning, the multiple page bulletins, produced from three 11 x 17 sheets folded, stapled and trimmed into one booklet, account for 75 percent of their workload and are produced on the IBIS Smart-binder-equipped line. The remaining 25 percent of their workload is 11 x 17 single folded or 11 x 25 double folded, on the Baum folder, which includes a TC 1550 FL1 W dynamic perforator that allows for coupons to be integrated into the printed product.
Originally LPi considered utilizing Tecnau’s inline equipment but decided to go with a roll-to-roll configuration with near line finishing to increase efficiencies and reliability. The Stacker 566 builds 8.5” stacks either1, 2 and 3-up, to be easily transported to near-line or off-line finishing units, such as perfect binders. “We chose Tecnau due to the total value they brought to our operation, from the dependability and flexibility of the equipment, to the ease of integration with our entire production process,” said LPi Operations Manager Ken Shanovich. In the Milwaukee plant 1,200 publications are produced weekly on a very tight schedule. “The files come in and go out so quickly because our customers need quick turnaround,” Horning added. “We get the file, process it, print it and ship the same night using a two-day ground delivery system.”
“We often come into work in the morning to find rolls waiting to be finished, then we stack up the inventory on one of the finishing lines and then box it for shipping.” Previously, two press operators were required for the offset press whereas Horning said only one team member is required for the inkjet. The finishing lines allow for more frequent roll changes and also reduce jams and downtime. “We have experienced higher quality, lower labor cost and waste,” he said. Previously the amount of waste could average as much as 50 to 60 percent per run, especially for their smaller jobs. “For customers needing a quantity of 300, we often ran 600 sheets before we had the first good one, and the resulting waste could be as high as 200 percent on offset,” he said. “Now we’re averaging five percent waste per line and the inkjet handles most digital jobs and there’s a noticeable savings from lower click charges.” “Tecnau’s sales, technical support and training efforts ensured a smooth transition to dependable and consistent manufacture of our products,” said Shanovich.
Both Shanovich and Horning said LPi is currently evaluating where to next invest in the inkjet technology and Tecnau finishing lines. “Every year for the last 15 years our customer base has grown and there’s definitely potential to increase that growth in the years ahead,” Horning said. “As we faced a changing business model, we had to get out in front of our customers’ expectations for quality,” he said. “These new technologies along with our expanded service offerings have put us in a stronger position to help all of our customers engage with their communities and congregations through more sophisticated communication tools.”