University of Pittsburgh Embraces the ‘Effects’ of Change
Change is a necessity for growth, improvement, and ultimately, success. For University of Pittsburgh Printing Services, change has meant not only automating its western Pennsylvania operation, but expanding the capabilities it offers to university departments, students, faculty, and staff. Those capabilities now include digital embellishments and special effects.
“We are doing things to make our operation better and show our customers and the university itself that we’re here to help support them — and help drive students to our university,” declares Robert Fitzgerald, senior manager.
Formerly two separate centers for offset and digital printing, the now-combined Printing Services operation has largely transitioned offset jobs over to digital and cross-trained staff. While the in-plant continues to use offset for envelope production, its acquisitions over the last three years have been mostly for the digital part of the operation:
- A 100-ipm Canon imagePRESS C10000VP digital color press;
- A Duplo DC-746 IFS slitter/cutter/creaser;
- A Duplo UD300 diecutter;
- A Duplo iSaddle Duetto saddle stitcher;
- And, most recently, a Duplo DDC-810 raised spot UV coater and Duplo DFL-500 dry coat/foil/laminator, both of which have enabled the 14-employee shop to add embellishments to its printed pieces.
The embellished recruitment and marketing pieces the shop is producing are so impressive, the in-plant recently won an award for them. Duplo USA honored the in-plant with a bronze 2020 Shima Award, which recognizes innovative printing operations that are leveraging the power of spot coating, texture, and tactile effects to produce high-impact applications using the Duplo DDC-810. The in-plant was the first higher education print shop to install this equipment.
Creating Standout Pieces
Effects, such as spot UV, lamination, and gold foil, Fitzgerald says, set a printed piece and shop apart from everyone else. “When our Admissions Office sends them out to a student or any affiliate with the university, we want to make sure when they get that piece, they are interested and it’s engaging and gives them the feel and the look, and they want to read more when they touch it,” he says.
The shop has also embellished holiday cards, business cards, postcards, stickers, and playing card boxes.
The effect of embellishments continues to catch on in the industry. In the 2020 PRINTING United Alliance/NAPCO Research report, “Adding Value to Digital Printing,” 55% of more than 650 brand owners/marketers surveyed responded that it is highly important their print providers offer unique ideas to enhance the print they purchase. When asked about the benefits they expect from printing enhancements, 77% indicated enhancements give their brand a premium look; 64% said they capture the attention of recipients; and 63% said enhancements make them stand out from the competition.
“Adding a soft-touch varnish increases tactile appeal, encouraging recipients to want to touch, open, and read direct mail,” noted Ron Jacobs, CEO, Jacobs & Clevenger, in a session on direct mail trends during the PRINTING United Digital Experience. “This creates an impression of sophistication, prestige, status, and value.”
Embellishing: The Truth
As a father of a high schooler starting the college search, Fitzgerald understands first-hand the value and impact of an embellished mailed piece on this demographic, whether drawing prospective students to the university or creating a lasting impression on incoming students.
“If those pieces are flat and not interesting, they don’t hang onto them,” he notes. “But the ones that are really cool and have texture to them or have something that catches their eye like a gold foil piece, they have a tendency to hang onto them because it’s a memento or memory for someone accepting them and making them feel a part of something.”
Not everything the in-plant prints gets embellished. Its standard offerings include business cards, postcards, invitations, flyers, brochures, envelopes, notepads, manuals, course materials, calendars, and wide-format posters. It also uses its Duplo UD-300 die cutter to create hang tags, parking passes, stickers, and playing cards.
“Anything you see come through a copy center or production center in a university setting, we do all those same things for the most part, with the added embellishment pieces that we brought on,” says Fitzgerald.
The in-plant recently transitioned to a nearly all-digital operation, retaining only its Halm Jet Press offset envelope press. It relies on two Canon imagePRESS systems, a C10000VP and a C7011VP, and two Ricoh Pro presses, a C7110 with a 5th color station and a 8320s.
In addition to no longer needing to outsource gold foil effects, the in-plant’s investment in Duplo equipment has streamlined and improved the quality of its embellishments from previous equipment.
“We had another product that was doing the clear coat, and we weren’t particularly happy with the process,” says Fitzgerald. “It was a good value, but we found we had to run it a few times even to get it to show up a little bit.”
Though the in-plant is providing both foil and spot UV coating, the latter gets the most attention, Fitzgerald says. The DDC-810 raised spot UV coater uses a liquid chemical that works on toner, offset ink, or dry lamination. The DFL-500 bonds metallic foils to toner, a process called sleeking.
“It works really well; it sticks well. It also sticks to the dry laminate that the foiler uses,” he says. “So when we do something [where] we’re actually doing the foiling sleeking, we can use the dry lam over top and we can still embellish on top, too.”
The in-plant usually lays down the four-color printing first, then dry laminates, then prints black toner, to which the foil adheres. Spot UV coating can be added on top, and the whole piece can then be diecut.
Though COVID-19 shutdowns occurred shortly after the in-plant installed and trained its staff on the DDC-810 and DFL-500 — halting potential projects with the business, auxiliary, admissions, and financial departments — Fitzgerald says volumes are picking up (with the exception of invitations and event-related items). He continues to generate excitement for the embellishments by sending images to the different departments and utilizing social media.
“It’s been a really great response,” he says, noting how the in-plant offers to help departments break out the art file layers to achieve effects.
Effects aside, the in-plant has also been busy automating its processes, as Fitzgerald knew four of his employees, who primarily worked with offset technology, were on the brink of retirement.
“We’re trying to find avenues where we can really automate our processes and do away with some of the older pieces of equipment that required a lot of manual setup,” he says. “We had several pieces that we let go as we brought in the Duplo equipment. It’s a better fit for our volume.”
The DC-746 slitter/cutter/creaser, for example, now handles jobs that would previously require three different machines for those processes.
“[It’s] just a better way of managing the workflow,” he reports.
There are more changes to come at the in-plant, Fitzgerald reveals. Printing Services will soon revamp its website to showcase video footage of the finishing equipment in action, and it has invested in an Epilog laser engraver for signage and metal engraving, as well as an Ultimaker S5 3D printer. He says the shop is looking into new products it can create and sell, such as utilizing embellishment work for thank-you, sympathy, or holiday cards.
For Fitzgerald, the changes the in-plant has made not only engage the University of Pittsburgh’s students and affiliates, but have shown Printing Services’ staff they are a priority by improving their technology and workflow.
“It says a lot to the employees that we are doing things for the long haul,” he says.