The fine print

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm

Delzer Lithograph Co.
Strategies executed:
– Added equipment for print-on-demand business to adapt to changing marketplace.
– Followed through by training staff to operate the equipment.
– Installed security system to attract customers concerned about the sensitive material in printed documents, adding value and differentiating the company from competition.

Executives at Delzer Lithograph Co. say their firm might not be profitable today if it had not recently added print-on-demand capabilities.
"It would be a real struggle," said Eric Delzer, president of Delzer Lithograph. "That’s sort of a battle cry for all printers. They’re being told, ‘You’ve got to diversify. You’ve got to get into different markets.’ The growth that’s taking place is in the digital and print-on-demand area and literature management. Commercial print itself, as everybody knows, has been a pretty struggling marketplace."
The Waukesha-based company, which has annual revenues of about $13 million, was founded in 1949 and moved to its current West Avenue location in 1960.
For years, Delzer Lithograph typically printed large quantities of materials for its commercial customers. Each copy of those documents looked exactly the same. However, the demand for such materials has declined in recent years, Delzer executives said.
About five years ago, the company acquired a new press that prints in black-and-white, with print-on-demand capabilities. The press enables Delzer Lithograph’s clients to tailor each document that is produced, such as a mailing, to suit each individual customer or potential customer who receives it.
The market for print-on-demand materials is growing rapidly, and Delzer Lithograph is executing a strategy to keep up with the demand by investing in additional equipment.
Last year, the company purchased its first color printing machine with print-on-demand capabilities. Last week, the company added its third black-and-white machine with print-on-demand capabilities.
In about six months, Delzer Lithograph plans to add one to four additional color printing machines with print-on-demand capabilities, according to Jerry Wick, sales and marketing director of the firm’s digital print division.
"We’re able to do things like one-to-one marketing," Delzer said. "We can address people on an individual basis, customize brochures and sales materials."
The Milwaukee Brewers are one of Delzer Lithograph’s customers that have used print-on-demand materials. One product Delzer created for the baseball team was a mailing to 2003 season ticket holders, asking them to buy season tickets again in 2004.
The mailing showed a photograph with a Brewers jersey hanging in a locker. The last name of each recipient was printed on the image of the back of a Brewers’ jersey. The mailing said, "We want to claim you off waivers."
Inside, a letter from Brewers general manager Doug Melvin was addressed to the 2003 season ticket holder, and his or her name and address were already filled in on the renewal form.
"As soon as you start doing things like this, your response rate goes up," Wick said. "So you’re doing targeted marketing."
The print-on-demand machines print digitally produced documents. Delzer Lithograph’s customers can make changes to those documents, so they can be targeted to a specific individual, and they can order additional copies through a Web site.
Allowing customers to make their own changes to documents and place printing orders online speeds up the processes of creating, printing and delivering documents, Wick said.
"We can reach your customer with a printed piece of material faster than ever before, and it can be customized and personalized," he said.
The quality of the digitally printed materials is comparable to materials produced by conventional printing machines, Wick said.
Company executives decided in late 2002 and early 2003 to increase the company’s focus on attracting print-on-demand business.
"We just keep in touch with what’s going on in the industry," Delzer said. "And it became very apparent that this variable data printing was going to be the new direction."
Print-on-demand jobs comprise about 15% of the company’s business and growing, Delzer said.
Delzer also said the company’s employees played a critical role in executing the plan to add more print-on-demand business.
"It’s one thing to go out and buy a piece of equipment or try to introduce and adopt a new process, bring a new process to the market," Delzer said. "But without the right kind of people, you can’t execute a plan. We give (the digital print division) pretty much free reign on how to operate. We’ve got an overall charter, if you will, and they take it forward."
The company’s sales approach is focused on building long-term relationships, Delzer said. Customers will hire a printer not just for one job but, if they are satisfied with the product, for many jobs over several years.
"These are long-time programs for our customers," Delzer said.
Delzer Lithograph keeps the print-on-demand work behind locked doors, so any sensitive information provided by their customers is kept secure. Only employees with key cards can enter the secured area.
Wick said the company decided to add the security system because of concerns that sensitive information sent into the digital print-on-demand system could be accessed over the Internet or in a dumpster.
Delzer Lithograph executives listened to those concerns and saw an opportunity to differentiate themselves from other printers in the marketplace.
"We decided this is a market worth pursuing," Wick said. "So we built this (secure) room and wrote a complete protocol that states exactly what we are going to do with the data once we receive it, how we handle it internally and how we are going to print it. We’ve handled it from the very beginning through the end."
The security system, added in March, recently helped Delzer land a contract for printing high school test results.
"The first year right out of the gate I’m sure we’re going to do over a half million dollars (from the test scores contract)," Wick said. "And for a company of our size, that’s huge. This is brand new business for Delzer Lithograph."
The company, buoyed by the growth in print-on-demand business, has increased employment by about 10% in the last year to about 90 employees, Delzer said. The company’s profitability increased significantly last year, he said.
"We’ve got a lot of momentum," Wick said. "Not everybody can do what we’re doing here. There’s very few that have taken (print-on-demand) and elevated it to the level we have taken it. It’s so exciting. I’ve been in the printing business for 25 years, and I have never been more alive."

May 28, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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