Looking to start a print business & need advice

new2print

Member
With a production level digital printer you will want a service contract, that’ll generally cover your maintenance and toner costs. But everything is money. You normally pay a cost per copy for this, some vendors also want a minimum monthly charge on top.

I don’t know that Epson offers production level equipment in this field…wide format yes but not a conventional printer that you’d do most of your work on. Major digital production players are Ricoh, Konica, Canon, and Xerox.

Like another suggested, a lot of people here are like me, running an in plant. I’ve been doing this over 15 years. It’s probably best to first find the key people that’ll be trusted to make the equipment / etc decisions, instead of buying whatever and then trying to staff it. Will save you a lot of money in the long run, towards making the most efficient purchases, researching local service companies, and negotiating the best prices. Printer sales people are often like used car salesmen…greasy and will say what you need to hear to try to make a sale, and will take advantage of you if you’re not an expert. I cut our monthly print expenses by $3000 because our former owner didn’t negotiate the contracts and bought worthless to us accessories, not to mention huge efficiencies gained by bringing the right tools in.

There’s also more than just pushing print and finishing a job…especially if you are doing work for other people, my experience is many do not send print ready files, and require manipulation to get good results.

In a later post you ask about using a storage pod - absolutely not a good idea for paper. Printers and paper prefer specific temperature and humidity levels to avoid problems.
I can relate to the service contracts. We currently lease a couple of office copiers as well as own some but all of them have some sort of contract for either service or supply. I have one Konica Minolta that I’ve had good experience with and just bought an office that was also running a Konica. The other two are Canons. Only one do I pay on a per page printed (what I believe you guys refer to as clicks) method but I hate it because we always seem to go over and get hit with big charges. I’d prefer to own the machines if possible unless there is a big disadvantage to doing that.

I’m currently working with a couple of local colleges with graphic design programs to see if any seniors would be interested in coming on to do the graphic design work as well as run the machines. But, whether them or someone else, I’ll probably be starting the company with people who know very little about the business. Do manufacturers offer in-depth trainings or is it more of a “here’s the instruction manual, call us if you have questions” method.

I definitely know that I’m in this for a long, slow growth and am prepared for that but I also don’t want to buy a bunch of equipment that just collects dust. My Peloton already has that job covered.
 

new2print

Member
With a production level digital printer you will want a service contract, that’ll generally cover your maintenance and toner costs. But everything is money. You normally pay a cost per copy for this, some vendors also want a minimum monthly charge on top.

I don’t know that Epson offers production level equipment in this field…wide format yes but not a conventional printer that you’d do most of your work on. Major digital production players are Ricoh, Konica, Canon, and Xerox.

Like another suggested, a lot of people here are like me, running an in plant. I’ve been doing this over 15 years. It’s probably best to first find the key people that’ll be trusted to make the equipment / etc decisions, instead of buying whatever and then trying to staff it. Will save you a lot of money in the long run, towards making the most efficient purchases, researching local service companies, and negotiating the best prices. Printer sales people are often like used car salesmen…greasy and will say what you need to hear to try to make a sale, and will take advantage of you if you’re not an expert. I cut our monthly print expenses by $3000 because our former owner didn’t negotiate the contracts and bought worthless to us accessories, not to mention huge efficiencies gained by bringing the right tools in.

There’s also more than just pushing print and finishing a job…especially if you are doing work for other people, my experience is many do not send print ready files, and require manipulation to get good results.

In a later post you ask about using a storage pod - absolutely not a good idea for paper. Printers and paper prefer specific temperature and humidity levels to avoid problems.
Also thanks for the advice on the paper. I was afraid of that. I can still buy in bulk, I would just need to store at another building we own a quarter mile away.
 

new2print

Member
I had not been to the building in a while so I just stopped by. It is much smaller than I was picturing and seeing the size of some of the equipment I can certainly see it filling up quickly. I am thinking I can maybe make this the retail front with some basic equipment and then, if we grow, have that rest of the equipment and staff working at a warehouse style complex somewhere else.

With that in mind, I would still need some equipment here that I would probably move to the other location in the future (for example a guillotine) but I don’t have a ton of space, especially if considering I’ll now want to put in things like a reception counter. So, I can probably get 4-6 pieces of equipment in here at the most. Does that change any recommendations people have made before or is it still the same?

I’ve included some pictures here of the space. Please excuse the mess. I can move/create
D0C64C0B-66E2-4C9B-A98C-E8AA50111444.jpeg
6B415307-B55D-407F-887C-7326668ED790.jpeg
19A758D1-4041-4273-B69D-E71BCE979296.jpeg
any walls but I’m thinking open floor plan would make the most sense. I just need one space for a restroom and a utility room.
B65BE6DE-784A-4D2D-8CCB-76201B53B3F7.jpeg
 

tommyboy

Member
new2print, why not simply purchase an existing printing company that has the equipment you want, and has spent the time in setting up, ironing out bugs etc. Not to mention establishing themselves in the market? I've run an operation here in Northern Ontario for approx. 10 years now, and have established a great amount of clients who all have different kinds of needs when it comes to the printing industry. And, I am running my entire business in a few spaces inside an industrial building that is probably totaling 1,000 sq/ft or a bit more. Turn your new space into an apartment and buy my business if you want, I was looking to retire very soon anyway.
 

new2print

Member
new2print, why not simply purchase an existing printing company that has the equipment you want, and has spent the time in setting up, ironing out bugs etc. Not to mention establishing themselves in the market? I've run an operation here in Northern Ontario for approx. 10 years now, and have established a great amount of clients who all have different kinds of needs when it comes to the printing industry. And, I am running my entire business in a few spaces inside an industrial building that is probably totaling 1,000 sq/ft or a bit more. Turn your new space into an apartment and buy my business if you want, I was looking to retire very soon anyway.
Thanks tommyboy! Glad to hear 1,000 sq ft can be a functional space. I would love to buy your business but the commute from Boston to Ontario each day might be a bit much..haha. I did actually look into just acquiring an existing company first. A local Minuteman Press was for sale and I went down the road a bit with that but didn’t want to do the franchise thing. I do keep an eye out for other opportunities, and would be open to the right one, but most ones available right now are not really local to me.
 

Ynot_UK

Well-known member
@new2print - looking at those photos of your building, you may need a wider external door. The engine & paper decks on a digital press won't go through a standard pedestrian width doorway.

Thinking of our inventory, the guillotine, laminator and flatbed digital die cutter would also not go through a standard pedestrian doorway.

If you're able to add a permanent ramp on the outside, leading straight up to double doors, this will greatly assist with getting both machines and pallets of paper straight into your shop.
 

Ynot_UK

Well-known member
you can easily spend $300k in equipment
more importantly who will run all of them
...and you can also spend under half of that if you buy wisely and still set up a good little operation... which I think is what the OP is looking to do.

The learning curve will be steep but also rewarding.

My top tips would be:
  • Beware of auction sites and people online trying to sell second hand / refurbished digital presses, that appear to be bargains. If it seems too good to be true, that's because it's not good, not true, or both.
  • For digital presses, check out offerings from your local dealer channel as well as the manufacturers' direct channel.
    • We prefer the dealer channel because they're small enough and local enough to deliver excellent personal service, we have a 20+ year relationship and a regular engineer worth his weight in gold
  • Don't even think about going it alone - always have a CPC contract.
    • 'JustaPrinter' Dan (YT) is a skilled mechanical and electronics engineer in addition to a highly experienced printer/finisher and makes DIY maintenance look easy.
    • Don't think you can emulate what he's doing, because you can't and it will end in frustration, haemorrhaging your time and cash and leaving disappointed customers through jobs you cannot finish
  • Understand that each machine is a precision instrument and learn the 'how and why' about it.
    • Everyone has one rogue machine, but most of the time, if you're not getting the desired results, it is operator error.
    • Static can be your worse enemy in a digital shop, although leaving time between the finishing steps generally circumnavigates this.
    • If something is not quite perfect at an upstream stage, this will bite you later. Some examples we encounter are... if the relay unit curl adjustment isn't set to give a perfectly flat sheet out of the colour press, this can cause jams in the laminator feeder, particularly if there is an upward curl. Similar in the folder. If we haven't left a duplex gloss laminated job overnight to discharge the static, the suction pickup on the digital die cutter will frequently double feed (and jam). If the anticurl on the laminator is slightly out on a simplex synthetic job, the cutting table won't suck the corners to the belt and the kiss cutting head will jam. That's just a few for starters.
  • Don't be afraid to say 'no' to some jobs that are either beyond your capabilities or not commercially viable
  • Don't be afraid to sub out to litho any jobs where the volume warrants it. You can buy litho cheaply from a trade printer.
    • It may still be worth doing the finishing in house, every job is different
 

PricelineNegotiator

Well-known member
Don't even think about going it alone - always have a CPC contract.
  • 'JustaPrinter' Dan (YT) is a skilled mechanical and electronics engineer in addition to a highly experienced printer/finisher and makes DIY maintenance look easy.
  • Don't think you can emulate what he's doing, because you can't and it will end in frustration, haemorrhaging your time and cash and leaving disappointed customers through jobs you cannot finish
I've been running Xerox digital presses and know how to use everything else in our building (expertly), and I am still, after 10 years, not comfortable taking the machines apart to the extent Dan does. The fear of not putting the machine back together properly or shorting out a board keeps me terrified. You can't have the machines go down for any extended period of time - the service contract is the smart way to go. It's gonna take you 1-2 years just to conceptually understand the machine from front to back, as you won't get every type of job in the first few weeks/months.
 
Last edited:

realaqu

Well-known member
Thanks tommyboy! Glad to hear 1,000 sq ft can be a functional space. I would love to buy your business but the commute from Boston to Ontario each day might be a bit much..haha. I did actually look into just acquiring an existing company first. A local Minuteman Press was for sale and I went down the road a bit with that but didn’t want to do the franchise thing. I do keep an eye out for other opportunities, and would be open to the right one, but most ones available right now are not really local to me.
You need to find the right person first which will save you lot of money, basically you can lease a xerox like v280, a folder a paper cutter and collator with inline booklet maker like Dan had, for offset part you can always outsource to 4over, but most important part is find a handyman know everything about printing, prepress printing finishing, another Dan, btw, 1000 sq ft is too small to start a printing business, maybe only good for a copy shop, find one place in medfod malden somerville
 

Shawnd

Well-known member
Most people overlook the electrical needs for all this equipment. Also can your floors hold the weight?
 

davarino

Well-known member
I've read through this thread and I suspect that until you could find a really good production person, you might want to approach this as a printing broker, using either a local trade print shop or possibly one of the national trade shops like 4over.
Your solid capital investments would be lower, though you would still be wise to watch your $$ carefully.
Assume that any machine that you might buy will optimistically produce about half as much work as machine salespeople say it will, that wasted material will be about 20%, and that printing 1 bad job in 10 will destroy any profit that you make on the other 9 jobs. It may sound extreme to do this, but it is the reality that most small startups face. With experience this will temper itself.
On the other hand, a trade printer will have absorbed the experiences already and will probably turn the work out much faster and more cheaply than you could as a startup. And then you simply mark the price up 30% to 50% and keep looking for the moment when you can join the race more profitably.
 

jimas67

Well-known member
Look into a good Inplant printing group in your area, or a good college or university print shop in your area. They usually do the kind of work you are wanting to produce and may can point you in the right direction. As far as your space goes, your are going to need four or five times the space you have now, and also have the proper ventilation as well as humidity control for the machines. Proper storage for any paper you have on hand as well.
 

What About Profitability?

Canon 2022
The Video You Really
Need To Watch

Modern offset press performance comes with several nuances.
Chris Travis, Director of Technology at Koenig & Bauer, shares some details.
View The Video

   
Top