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Rockford Finds Big Opportunity in Pushing the Envelope

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  • Rockford Finds Big Opportunity in Pushing the Envelope

    By Brian Segnit, Worldwide Product Marketing Manager, Xerox Corporation

    Short-run, 4-color, digitally printed envelopes bring new value while lowering costs and boosting productivity

    Rockford Litho Center (RLC), Rockford, Ill., has differentiated its business in recent years by helping its customers make the most of their envelopes’ communications value.

    A key to developing this capability: moving from offset envelope production to full-color digital, where envelopes can be produced as efficiently and simply as standard print jobs. RLC now has lower production costs while providing new value: color matching that improves branding, personalization that grabs attention, and faster turnarounds that improve timeliness.

    RLC is not alone. A December 2018 survey of the largest in-plants in the United States by In Plant Impressions magazine found that digital envelope printing equipment was No. 1 on the respondent’s technology acquisition wish lists. Some 42 percent cited plans to acquire the technology in 2019.

    A One-Stop Shop
    RLC is a general commercial printer of everything from postcards to bound books, produced on a fleet of offset and digital presses. One specialty is short-run, quick turn jobs, which get especially intense around political elections, holidays and charitable appeals seasons. The firm also leverages its broad capabilities to serve as a one-stop print shop for many customers.

    Offering envelope printing has been part of the one-stop-shop mix for many years, initially on offset presses. Lynn Perry, RLC chief executive officer and owner, explained how that changed about 12 years ago: “Runs were coming in at 500 to 1,000 each, but we still had all the set up for offset envelops for each of those shorter runs. When digital became available, that’s when we moved because of less waste, shorter set up and better turnaround.”

    At the time RLC was one of the first digital envelope printers in the country. The big advantage then was turnaround time. Perry: “We couldn’t do those schedules if the work wasn’t digitally printed. It’s still cheaper than offset to print 500 to 1,000 envelopes on digital, and we don’t waste a lot of envelopes to get them done.”

    Initially, most of the jobs were for one or two colors. “Being able to offer four-color envelopes and personalization were bonuses,” Perry explained. “That wasn’t what we were thinking about, but once we were doing digital, we could tell customers we do four-color anyway, and you can do more with it. Bonus!

    “Once marketers start doing four-color work, they don’t want to give it up,” Perry noted. “We can add graphics to envelopes, and now clients won’t go back to offset. Those customers are locked in.”

    Differentiating With All Digital
    Today, RLC prints all its envelopes digitally—30,000 to 100,000 envelopes a month—and markets the capability. “We have a capability that others don’t, and it doesn’t cost any more to do it,” Perry said. Some marketers see the value of the enhanced envelope right away, he said, but others need educating.

    RLC focuses its envelope marketing efforts on businesses whose work with the firm is growing and includes envelope production. “Political campaigns use envelopes,” Perry noted. “So do other clients who also use lots of postcards, especially for fund raising. The appeals market fits this model, and having the ability to do envelopes helped us.”

    RLC was also helped recently by acquiring a new digital envelope printer when its existing printer wore out. “We didn’t want that same kind again because it didn’t handle everything we needed,” Perry said. “We wanted to upgrade.”

    Their search led them to the Xerox Versant digital press, a full-feature press that also prints envelopes out of the drawer or top tray. “We tested the Versant for three weeks running 80,000 envelopes. Other systems and envelope feeders couldn’t keep up,” Lynn said, and there was no price point difference from
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