Never Stop Evolving
For some in-plant printers, convergence happens with deliberate strategy. The in-plant managers and stakeholders in a company come together and make strategic decisions about the services and technologies that will best fit current and future needs. For others, convergence naturally happens over time, as the company grows and changes, and the in-plant evolves alongside it.
C&S Wholesale Grocers’ in-plant falls into the second category. Lila Reddy, manager of the C&S Print Shop in Brattleboro, Vt., notes that her in-plant has grown exponentially ever since she first joined in 1998. Today, the operation has 14 full-time employees operating two shifts and has expanded into new offerings like garment printing.
Headquartered in Keene, N.H., C&S Wholesale Grocers is the largest wholesale grocery supply company in the United States, serving more than 14,000 stores in 50 locations across 15 states. Ensuring every department and store has the printed pieces they need, when they need them, is no easy task.
“We have always adapted and continue to adapt as needed,” says Reddy. “The goal is to get the company what they need to operate efficiently. We give them what they need, when they need it, so they can do what they need to do. That is the critical role we play.”
To rise to the evolving challenges, the C&S Print Shop today is a true “full service” operation, with offset printing, high-speed digital printing, wide-format printing, a full-service bindery, graphic design services and even a direct-to-garment press. Altogether, the shop is operating 12 different printing devices across the various print technologies and formats, printing roughly 2.5 million impressions per month on the offset side — and 5.5 million impressions per month on the digital equipment.
“Our work ranges from very high-profile four-color process, commercial-quality work to one-color pricing books for C&S customers,” says Reddy. That includes forms, letterhead, envelopes, business cards, indoor and outdoor signage, posters and apparel.
Robust Insourcing Business
And in addition to the work the shop does for its parent company, the C&S Print Shop also takes on outside work, producing pieces such as wedding invitations or signage for high-profile local events.
C&S also has a robust community involvement program, where local nonprofits can request donated printed work with a value up to $1,000 per year.
“One thing we do that may be unique is that we provide [pro bono] printing services to nonprofit organizations in and around our corporate headquarters,” says Gina Goff, senior director of Community Involvement at C&S Wholesale Grocers. “[Charitable groups], especially small, grassroots ones, are all struggling. We believe that we can help them focus on their missions to help people [and] to address a community or social issue when we can leverage this fantastic asset we have — our print shop.”
One of the newer services to be brought in-house was the garment printing operation. Reddy notes that C&S departments across the country were having shirts printed monthly for a range of purposes — one-time events, as giveaways or to recognize staff achievements, to name a few. By expanding the in-plant into garment printing with an MP10 direct-to-garment printer from AnaJet (acquired by Ricoh in 2016), the in-plant can now give customers full-color designs that stand out, she says. Previously, the shop did have a screen printing press, but it couldn’t provide the full color and speed that the growing demand required.
“One of the big advantages to printing them in-house is that we can do short runs,” notes Reddy. “Before, we just were not capable of that. In this area, there is no one that has a direct-to-garment printer like this, so we were driven by volume. But this new press is cool — it can do one or two shirts, which better meets the needs of community and company.”
The demand for garment printing, Reddy notes, started out small, but has grown as word of mouth has spread. Initially, the orders coming in were relatively small, but they have steadily begun to increase, with the shop now producing an average of 300-400 shirts per month.
Reddy says garment printing has been such a success that she is actively looking at options to add embroidery next.
“There is a demand already for embroidery,” she observes. “The company uses it for a variety of purposes; their 10-year awards get embroidered items, for example, and it is used for event garments. It would be advantageous to do that in-house; right now it is being outsourced, so we are looking at the ROI.”
Because Reddy has a “yes I can” attitude for nearly any request that comes into the in-plant, convergence has taken other directions as well. She purchased a small button and pin machine from Neil Enterprises, for example. Graphics can be printed on one of the high-speed digital copiers, then the button maker will press custom buttons, which are used for special events.
“That’s not used every day, but when we do need it, we do 200-300 at a time,” says Reddy. “It is something nice to have. I had been looking at it when I got a call asking if I could do pins, and I saw we could get into it pretty quickly. It’s a very slick little machine.”
Other technologies that are on her radar include foil printing and embossing, although she says thermography can sometimes generate a similar effect.
“Currently there is not a big call for those here, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be,” she points out.
The C&S Print Shop embodies the definition of convergence in the modern print industry. Reddy and her staff have embraced change as it comes, always willing to investigate new technologies, new services and new ways to push the boundaries of print, always with a goal of helping C&S Wholesale Grocers continue to grow and thrive.
Toni McQuilken has been writing and editing for more than a decade. Her work includes B2B publications – both in print and online – in a range of industries, such as print and graphics, technology, hospitality and automotive; as well as behind the scenes writing and editing for multiple companies, helping them craft marketing materials, write press releases and more. She is a self-proclaimed "tech geek" who loves all things technology, and she knows that she is one of a select group of people who get to do what they love for a living.