Steve Amitrano: A Wealth of Experience
The opportunity came out of the blue.
“My brother worked at a printing company,” recalls Steve Amitrano. “He said that there was an opening for a bindery person.”
It was 1976, the summer after his graduation from Cinnaminson High School, in southern New Jersey. Amitrano was taking classes at Burlington County College—recently renamed Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC)—the same school ide-here he now serves as manager of Print & Mail Services. In need of part-time work, he followed his brother’s lead and took the job at Yoh Reprographics, where he was put to work on a 25-station collator. Over time he was trained in the dark room and on the web press and eventually became lead web press operator.
“And that’s when I kind of fell in love with it, I guess,” Amitrano says.
It’s a love that’s spanned nearly four decades and has taken him through a half dozen New Jersey graphic arts firms, before settling him in at RCBC, in Pemberton, N.J. There, for the past 15 years, he has used his extensive printing and prepress experience to drastically improve the quality of the college’s printing.
The Journey Begins
Back at his first printing job, Amitrano learned all he could about stripping, bindery and web presses. When Yoh closed its doors in 1979, he took a job as lead pressman on an eight-color flexo web press at Weyerhaeuser Corp., in Pennsauken, N.J.
“That was difficult work,” he recalls. He would end each shift splattered head to toe with ink.
He moved on to sheetfed presses at two other companies, running four-color process work on a one-color GTO for a time, before changing course and joining a prepress company called Colorlith. There Amitrano served as lead color stripper, preparing negatives for high-end clients in New York who were very particular about quality. He joined another prepress company, Prism Color, and when it added a six-color press, he was made production manager, overseeing prepress, press and bindery.
“I loved what I was doing,” Amitrano says—but he was also looking for a bigger challenge. So when he saw a newspaper ad for his current position, he decided to give it a shot. Four interviews later he was hired. He started at Burlington County College in September 2000.
In many ways, he was back to square one, overseeing a collection of one- and two-color presses that rarely ran four-color work.
“The shop was a very, very nice print facility,” he says, diplomatically, adding, “I believed that we could do more.”
Mining his prepress experience, he showed his staff how to use a pin system to position film more accurately and enable the shop to improve the registration on its printing. He added a scoring/perforating attachment to the Baum folder to enhance the quality of folds.
In 2003, he supervised the purchase of a two-color Ryobi 582H half-size press, enabling the in-plant to run four-up 8.5x11˝ pieces.
“That was a major, major expansion,” he recalls. “It changed the whole direction of everything we did here.
What that added was high speed, high quality and production. And it also allowed us to reduce the cost associated with running everything.”
That press opened the door to more jobs such as annual reports, course packs, newsletters, booklets and student handbooks.
“It also allowed me to cater to [more] external nonprofit clients,” he adds.
Amitrano didn’t stop upgrading the shop there. Over the next few years he brought in an automatic punch, upgraded the folder, added a programmable cutter, got a new proofer, replaced analog copiers with Canon digital devices, implemented EFI PrintSmith print management software and ended film production by purchasing a processless Fuji Dart computer-to-plate system.
The biggest change, though, came in 2010 when Amitrano oversaw the installation of a four-color Ryobi 524GE press, a move that enabled the in-plant to produce high-quality four-color work. Jobs previously printed in black and white were redesigned in color. What’s more, the press greatly improved productivity, he says. (Watch IPG's video about the press.)
A Team Decision
With each equipment addition, Amitrano has made sure to involve his seven employees in the decision-making process.
“I have a team who is interested in the same success that I am,” he says. “I give them the tools to get the job done the right way.”
His concern for his staff is evidenced by the numerous hydraulic lifts he has installed in the shop to raise piles of paper for easy loading into machines, so employees don’t need to bend over and possibly injure their backs.
In 2012, Amitrano was given oversight of the college’s mail operation, which he relocated into the print shop’s warehouse area. He subsequently added addressing and tabbing equipment, and started using Satori bulk mail software to cleanse mail lists and save the school money.
When the in-plant received a 63˝ Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 wide-format printer from the graphics department, Amitrano was quick to take advantage of it to produce banners and window clings for marketing, athletic and student events.
“That opened up a whole new set of doors,” he says.
Amitrano is proud of his staff for embracing these changes the way he has and eagerly taking on new responsibilities.
“We’re prolific. We can do a lot of things for a lot of different customers,” he says. “We feel as though we’ve contributed to the mission of the college.”
In 2008, Amitrano joined the Association of College and University Printers. He’s been an enthusiastic fan of the group ever since, and now serves as its vice president. His involvement gave him the opportunity to travel to Cheltenham, England, last year and attend the Association of Print Managers in Education conference.
“I’ve learned so much,” he says.
One lesson he’s taken from these conferences is that in-plants need to look for more ways to add value.
“You have to be more versatile, so therefore you need to do more than print on paper,” he says. In the future, he intends to look for opportunities in garment printing and expand his shop’s wide-format capabilities to produce floor wraps and other unique applications.
Outside of work, Amitrano enjoys playing music on the keyboards and spending time with his wife, kids and two grandchildren.
Related story: New Digital Printers Enhance Quality at NJ College
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, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.