Overnight Prints runs its entire business through its website, where loyal repeat customers comprise a large percentage of overall output. Here's the secret behind its success.
Quality, Consistency...and High Volume
It is well-known within the printing industry exactly how online printers are able to offer business cards and other printed products at such low prices: They generate a large volume of orders for the same (or similar) products and move them through the print workflow all at one time. For example, by arranging (imposing) a press sheet for a 40-inch (B1) press with as many as 143 standard-size business cards—for different customers, but each ordered in the same quantity—the price-per-card lot is substantially lower than if printed as a single lot.
Many "storefront" printers would be contemptuous of the practice of gang runs with widely disparate designs, believing the jobs could not possibly be reproduced with the same precision and quality as they would if each order were treated separately. But what if the online printer used waterless printing exclusively on all their sheetfed presses? Wouldn't the concern about quality and consistency go away? A recent visit to Overnight Prints answered this question while also revealing a truly sophisticated printing operation.
Overnight Prints does all of its sheetfed jobs at its Louisville, Kentucky, facility using waterless printing. Its presses include two KBA presses—one an 8-color Rapida105 and the other a 5-color 74G UV—along with four Karat 74 presses, all of which are waterless equipped.
As the International Waterless Printing Association's 2011 white paper (http://www.waterless.org/white-paper) proved, waterless printing is superior to conventional offset in two important areas:
1) Waterless has lower dot gain and higher ink densities across all screen ranges, conventional or stochastic screening, using 200 lpi screens. The result is much better quality, something the company lays claim to on its website (overnightprints.com); and a sophisticated computerized workflow guarantees precision in addition to printing excellence. The popular UV coating option, chosen in one-third to one-half of the orders Overnight Prints receives, offers an enhanced visual effect.
2) Waterless allows for substantially less make-ready paper waste: just four sheets on the Karats and on the 74G, and fewer than 70 sheets on the big 105 press. These low numbers mean that the waterless process keeps excessive paper waste out of recycling bins. The 15 pt. card stock used for all business cards is from environmentally sustainable forests. That, combined with low waste and the inherent environmental qualities of waterless printing, makes for a very clean and sustainable printing process.
A Streamlined Business Model
For a company that first started offset printing in 2005, Overnight Prints is today one of the most advanced printers around. Everything is under the control of a highly sophisticated system that begins in the firm's IT department instead of a traditional prepress department. The company's "in and out the door" process is designed for maximum production, highest quality and utmost precision. Just as Overnight Prints relies on its factory workers to produce the product, it also depends upon what seems to be an army of computer programmers, who can be found at the company headquarters in Irvine, California, in Las Vegas, Nevada, and even in Russia and Germany.
The extensive programming begins with the company website. The home page is constantly changing with a variety of offers (no wonder the plant relies on so many IT specialists!). "Overnight Prints" is the name of the company, and they really mean it. A ticking deadline clock gives the precise time an order must be placed to ensure the overnight-rush delivery option. A table on the order page lets the customer choose rush delivery (overnight), fast delivery, standard or economy; prices pop up as the customer "mouses over" each option. As long as the home page clock still shows time remaining, the client can submit an overnight order. The cutoff for rush orders paid by credit card is 8:00 pm Eastern Time. The only exception is printed full-bleed envelopes, which require three-day delivery times but may soon be shortened to overnight as well.
Overnight Prints' website accounts for 100 percent of its business. As a testament to the company's quality and service, Overnight Prints boasts a large percentage of loyal repeat customers.
When ordering business cards, the customer can upload a design in a variety of file types. Another option is a customized business card using an online library of industry- and theme-specific design templates. Or a card can be interactively designed using a wide choice of backgrounds, with an easy interface for adding personalized copy and uploading a company logo.
The Secret Is Waterless
Once the order is placed, the electronic files are inspected by IT specialists for conformity to print specifications. If the customer errs in any of the specifications, a member of the customer service staff contacts the customer to work on correcting the job. Once verified, jobs are assembled (imposed) for the chosen press with the aid of a specialized computer program in 30 minutes or less.
A specially coded black-and-white tracking sheet is produced that matches the size and layout of the plates. Each coded piece in the layout contains all the information about the product and customer. This sheet accompanies the jobs as they pass through the different production processes. The number of business cards on a single press sheet is 143 for the largest press. More complex press sheets might consist of three or four different-size products. The two KBA presses use Toray waterless plates imaged via one of two platesetters that are connected to the Toray plate processors. One of the firm's Toray plate processors was recently replaced after having processed more than 1 million plates.
Once the plates are imaged, they are mounted on press and enough sheets are printed to come up to targeted color. Two definite production advantages of the B1 press runs on the KBA 105 are that plates can be changed on the fly and that a closed-loop system monitors each printed sheet to provide consistent color.
After each press run is printed, it is sent along with its coded sheet either to be UV-coated or to go directly to the cutting and folding department. Once each job is separated and finished from the large press sheet, it is boxed and sent via conveyor belt to the shipping department, where each order is finalized according to the customer-specified delivery date. At their current production rate, Overnight Prints sends more than 4,000 shipments a day.
Although a printed item is part of a large press sheet, each job has different postpress options. The firm's coded and computerized system keeps everything in order. At any time, an individual job can be tracked to its exact location. General Manager Paul Barnum demonstrated this function to us. We had placed an order online for our business cards late the day before. All Barnum had to do was "dial up" the job on his iPhone and, within an instant, we were shown where the printed and boxed cards were. The firm's 15 managers are all connected in the same way, by iPhone, iPad or iPod.
How they process a dizzying amount of jobs in a day is magical. But how the blindingly fast production schedule allows them to print with such high quality and precision is almost beyond belief. Credit is due to the IT department, the process engineers, the waterless presses and to the rest of the employees there.
Adapted from the October 2012 issue of Waterless Currents, written by Arthur Lefebvre, published by the International Waterless Printing Association (http://www.waterless.org). Toray thanks Mr. Lefebvre for his thoughtful and tireless efforts to promote waterless printing.