In another installment of our interview blog series Fresh Ink, we talk to SG360º’s Director of Digital Print John Zawisza. John gives us insight into SG360º’s history and technology evolution, and why he thinks SG360º often makes the impossible possible.
John Zawisza: My name is John Zawisza, Director of Digital Operations here at SG360º.
Marketing Team: How long have you been with SG360º and what brought you here?
John: Cumulatively I’ve been with the company for 26 years now; 23 of those primarily in digital print. Prior to that, I was in prepress and proofing. Historically SG360º was a powerhouse where web and sheetfed printing were concerned. When customer demand turned to digital it made better business sense to purchase somebody who’d already been doing it for a long time. My company (RT Associates) was bought by SG360º. We got lucky.
MT: In your role as Director of Digital Operations, what does your day to day look like?
John: My days can be pretty hectic. I’m primarily a problem solver responsible for keeping our Digital Operations running smoothly. That includes making sure customer files and schedules are correct and making sure the digital machines—presses and bindery—are operating efficiently.
MT: What excites you most about digital printing?
John: The changes in technology… I’ve been in digital print almost since its inception. I’ve done plenty of beta tests with all different types of digital print providers… everyone from Kodak to HP, and witnessed the technology evolve. We have very high printing standards and the digital devices have to measure up.
MT: What trends are you seeing?
John: A lot of projects utilize inkjet, however I see speeds going up on the toner devices. Speed is always a big issue; jobs are getting bigger and bigger, while desired turnaround times are getting smaller and smaller, which is a perfect fit for digital.
The SG360º difference
MT: What impresses you most about SG360º?
John: Our overall expertise across all plants. Our people are highly experienced in printing and mailing, and their depth of knowledge always provides solutions, often outside the box.
MT: What sets us apart as a company?
John: The capabilities we have… being able to do inline web printing and traditional sheetfed offset with all our specialty coatings; having so many different technologies, deep expertise in digital print, and our depth in postal and commingling. We are a one stop shop and the nice thing is, as big as we are, we’re also small enough to give us a more personal connection with our customers.
MT: What sets us apart from the competition in digital?
John: Our quality and experience. We’ve got digital down pat because we stay on top of technology changes. Printers who move to digital only because they have to have a big learning curve… with lots of mistakes. We run Digital Operations like our traditional offset shop. Our toner devices are G7 qualified, which is a system that provides color accuracy across devices. I am right now working with our G7 expert for our new inkjet Prostream to get that G7-qualified for different papers. Quality is a big focus here… and turnaround time.
MT: Can you give me an example of adapting to new technologies?
John: One of the biggest decisions with inkjet webs is how to execute the finishing operation. It’s a lot more productive to run roll to roll, but our first inkjet web was a single machine. We had no roll-fed devices to finish the product. With the addition of our second inkjet web we made the investment in a roll-fed near-line solution. This means our throughput on the press is a lot better, making things a lot more cost effective.
We further improved efficiency with our third inkjet web which incorporates an inline finishing system—for perfing, slitting, folding—enabling us to deliver either fully finished self-mailers or folded letter components that can go directly to our insertion equipment, reducing cycle time. The flexibility of our digital web technology enables us to evaluate a project and determine the most cost effective way to bring our clients’ projects to market.
MT: Tell us what equipment you have, and what type of work is produced on each of those pieces.
John: Let’s start with the Canon ColorStream 3700. It’s a roll-fed high-speed inkjet. SG360º was one of the first companies to use that technology for direct mail application. We do some high coverage things there. It will run up to 330 feet of paper per minute and we’re looking at upgrading it up to 417 feet. With the Hunkeler Popp6 finisher at the tail end we’re able to cut down to 8-1/2 x 11 finals coming off the back end.
We also have a Canon imagePRESS VP. That’s a toner-based device, usually used for our shorter runs. Orders tend to be small and work well using our automated system; they go straight to that press and comes off as a final finished booklet.
Next are our HP Indigos. Most of the work that we find on the Indigos are customers making the transition from traditional sheetfed offset + ink jetting (to vary copy), to full-blown variable where you can change almost any aspect of the content, including images. I have two 12000s and two 7600s. The 7600s are both six-color in a 13 x 19 inch format. They run approximately 17,050 sheets per hour. The 12000s are pretty much the same technology, however, they run a 20 x 29 inch sheet. Quantities range anywhere from 3,000 sheets up to 20,000 sheets.
We recently invested in a Canon Prostream 1000, giving us the opportunity to do variable jobs that become too big for the Indigos, or have too little turnaround time for that size or quantity. I’ve been very impressed by it.
MT: Can you tell about the digital bindery?
John: The digital bindery is very efficient. We have a UV coater, saddle stitcher, a couple of different cutters with folders. Because digital printing comes off the press already dry, we’re able to start the bindery process while we’re still printing. Many of the jobs that we run, we’ll actually be printing, coating, cutting, and folding it all at the same time.
MT: Why did we selected these specific machines?
John: We do a lot of investigation before we end up making a purchase. We look at all the different vendors and compare quality, speed, and cost. The most essential thing is the quality, and I think that the machines that we have on the floor at this time are the best-of-the-best in the market. A lot of shops have, through acquisitions, so many different technologies that they’re not able to match colors from press to press. With us having similar equipment from similar manufacturers, color management is much better.
MT: How are you partnering with Sales?
John: I’ve been doing this for a long time and have always been very approachable, so when anyone has questions, I provide all the technical information they need. I’m big on the more they know, the easier it is to understand and sell.
With our salespeople, I work to keep them up to date on new capabilities, demonstrating different applications, and letting them know if there’s a solution in the market that we don’t avail ourselves of and why not. Being supportive by keeping them in the loop is great and pays dividends. With digital you’ve got that quick turnaround expectation. We’re seeing more and more programs with tighter and tighter deadlines. I always give it my very best effort and usually find a way to beat expectations and deliver. But there are times when the only real answer is “no,” and I will always be upfront and honest about that.
MT: What about customer communications?
John: It’s much the same thing. I’m always up for requests to test special papers, inks, programs… anything of that nature. I’ve always looked at our customers more like partners, because we’re their direct Mailer. The most important thing is that they receive their ROI. If we do a good job, and they end up increasing sales because of it, then guess what? They’re going to come back to us because they know we can get the job done. That’s a partnership.
MT: What advice can you give our customers to better leverage what SG360º has to offer?
John: As far as digital is concerned, it’s not just for variable data jobs. There’s a lot of “traditional” work out there that would be very cost effective, even sometimes more efficient, on digital presses.
MT: What would you say to potential clients, who are wondering if SG360º is the right solution for their needs?
John: Give us a try and watch us make the impossible, possible. We have a history of doing jobs that “can’t be done.” A lot of our people, including myself, have been here for a long time. We take a lot of pride in the company, we take a lot of pride in our work. We’re professional tradesmen, and we really care about what we do.