Inkjet Takes the Floor at Shaw
As Content Delivery manager for Shaw Industries, a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Dwight Blackwell handles a lot of data.
“We manage the delivery of content, whether it’s digital or physical,” he explains.
And while one of the company’s goals is to move more of its content online, Blackwell knows there’s still a huge amount of printing required by the Dalton, Ga.-based flooring company, a provider of carpet, hardwood, laminate, tile and stone flooring products and synthetic turf to residential and commercial markets worldwide.
The company consumes a broad array of printed products such as reference materials, manuals, tags, placards and labels, all printed by its Print Solutions operation, which Blackwell oversees. The shop’s employees operate a collection of Xerox printing devices as well as wide-format printers and bindery equipment.
Last month, though, this rural in-plant stepped into the international limelight when it became one of the first printers in the world to install the brand new Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1 cut-sheet production inkjet press. With 1,200x1,200-dpi print resolution and an impressive 23x29.5˝ sheet size, the KM-1 can print up to 3,000 sheets per hour.
The inkjet press was delivered to Shaw’s in-plant at the end of August and was expected to be printing live jobs by the end of September. It will be joined by two new toner-based digital color printers with in-line finishing and a black-and-white printer.
Blackwell notes that the larger sheet size of the KM-1 will bring more productivity and cost savings to Shaw. Its lower internal temperature will allow the shop to print on specialty stocks that it previously was unable to handle with its toner-based printers.
“One of our biggest goals is to be a trusted advisor to our company for print,” Blackwell remarks.
G7 Master Printer Qualification
To ensure that all of the shop’s color output stays consistent, the in-plant is getting its devices and software G7 calibrated. G7 (which stands for grayscale plus seven colors: CMYK and RGB) is an internationally recognized methodology for calibrating printing devices and proofing systems to ensure visually accurate color reproduction. Konica Minolta sent a G7 master to train the in-plant’s staff on the G7 process, which involves using spectrophotometers to measure color wavelengths. Attaining its G7 Master Qualification status will be a big feather in the in-plant’s cap.
“It’s a valuable certification for our high-end needs such as collateral literature, where consistent color quality is a big deal,” notes Blackwell.
Shaw’s in-plant also just expanded its bindery by installing a Duplo Pro UV coater and a Duplo die cutter.
“We bought them to increase efficiencies and reduce turnaround time for a variety of books and labels,” he explains.
He has plans to add a guillotine cutter and a paper jogger as well.
Expansion and Evolution
Shaw’s Print Solutions’ impressive expansion and evolution into an inkjet leader began three years ago when Blackwell — a 25-year Shaw employee — was promoted to Content Delivery manager. His first move was to create the positions of print lead and mail lead to add efficiency to the workflow.
“That’s helped a lot,” he observes. “It’s helped the print operators to focus on printing.”
In 2015, Blackwell made the decision to buy out the in-plant’s printers that were then on lease.
“At that time we also decided to buy [Rochester Software Associates] WebCRD,” he adds. “That helped us to get even more organized. There were a lot of things we were having to do manually that WebCRD took care of.”
For example, he says, WebCRD’s template-based business card ordering has saved the designers a lot of time.
“So it made us even more efficient,” he says.
In 2016, after observing the cost-saving potential of wide-format printing, Blackwell purchased an industrial wide-format printer, which is able to print on virtually any rigid media up to 2.5˝ thick. This joined a latex wide-format printer. In addition, the in-plant added a Colex automated contour cutter.
“It opened up a whole new world for us and for Shaw,” he remarks. Work that had been labor intensive and inconsistent can now be done faster and with more consistency on the Colex cutter.
“Each year we’re adding things that make us more valuable to the company,” he says. As a result, the in-plant is being viewed increasingly as a trusted print advisor.
With the new KM-1, he expects the pace of business to accelerate. Blackwell is hopeful that the expanded productivity the KM-1 brings will make the in-plant more attractive to other Shaw business partners.
“The KM-1’s going to allow us to incrementally expand the work we’re capable of doing while driving down our costs,” he says.
Blackwell insists that the in-plant will only take on work that it can produce quicker, at a lower cost and of equal or better quality. With the KM-1, the shop should have no difficulty meeting all three of these criteria, he says.
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.