This is one of the pressrooms at Quad’s Saratoga Springs, NY, plant. In the background are three Goss M1000 presses with 6-page capacity. In the adjacent pressroom is another row of machines, ending with an 8-across Goss Sunday press on two floors.
This plant was the first plant built by Quad outside of Wisconsin, and it has presses so large that they remind me of the engines of merchant ships. All the plant’s presses are offset lithographic machines; the largest is the Goss Sunday press that can print eight pages across a 66-inch web of paper. Other machines are “just” six-across, making them among the largest offset presses in the U.S.
Several days each week, the Saratoga Springs plant prints newsmagazines; then the plant turns to monthly magazines, commercial printing and catalog work.
This is what 55 million pounds of paper looks like. As we toured, we were “greeted” by fork-lift trucks zipping back and forth with paper rolls, taking them to the presses.
The supply of paper on-hand is mind-boggling: 55 million pounds of paper fill a section of the huge facility. One learns in this industry that a large supply of paper is not necessarily a good thing (large inventory equals large money—idled), but when queried about the inventory, Dan Frankowski, the Plant Manager, told me that this represents only 30 days of work in the plant. A rail spur and lines of semi-trucks keep the plant supplied with more.
With turn-arounds and press capacity like those in this facility, production of 55 million pounds of printing in one month seems like an easy task, and the Quad team makes it look easy. They do it with a smile.
Quad Graphics Plant Manager, Dan Frankowski, shows one of the Sunday presses to my wife Ashala during the tour. The press was printing 66-inch wide paper at the time on two “decks” (two floors) at about one mile of paper per minute.
Quad’s corporate culture is legendary, with company-supplied medical care (several doctors on-site), an expansive exercise facility, and rewards for good health, the employees want for nothing in this plant. Everywhere we went, we were greeted by smiles and handshakes. The press operators and bindery workers beamed as we walked by.
Here we were shown the controls of the Sunday presses. Above the ink controls table is a computer showing ink consumption by press unit. Over to the right is the control console for the second deck of presses.
This is printing as manufacturing, but manufacturing with a heart. The company puts nothing (read that again: nothing) into landfill. All scrap materials are recycled, composted, incinerated for energy, or used again. The plant’s bailing operation is itself a model of efficiency, three huge vacuum systems lift paper scraps from the machines as they run, then shred the paper into small bits, and automatically bail the resulting materials for shipment back to the paper mills.
Quad is a company that uses Lean as a focal point for all their activities. I saw Toyota-coined terms like Kaizen and Kanban written on pages and posted on progress boards. And, many of the most important activities — planning and keeping track of jobs — are done on paper with felt pens in a large room called the War Room. People meet with people to discuss production challenges, and to create human solutions to these challenges. In the most impressive room in the plant, I saw a device called a Cisco Telepresence, which is a teleconference room for various Quad plants to meet online. While in the Telepresence, I witnessed a meeting taking place between three local Quad employees and a man in another plant (we were told he was in Wisconsin). Though he was on a large television screen, he seemed to be in the room.
The Telepresence cuts costs for travel, and cuts short many of the difficulties caused by people not being able to see eye-to-eye. The room opens up opportunities for people in four plants to meet simultaneously, and it appears that they are each in the room. I have never seen teleconference technology so appealing and so transparent. In every other location where I have seen it, the machines stand idle, a result of technical clumsiness or people’s reluctance to use the technology. It’s nice to have seen Telepresence, because it really works.
The printing technology that impressed me most was the company’s “multi-mailer” facility that sorts magazines into carrier-route sort bundles. Not only does the machine put these magazines into the right carrier route, but into proper mailing order so that the postal delivery person takes each recipient’s mail in order from the bundle. This means that each house or apartment is in properly delivery order when it leaves the Quad printing plant.
Being the prankster that I am, I imagined how fun it would be to drop a stack of Hot Rod magazines into the Fitness pile. I was told that it wouldn’t matter because the system has a machine vision quality-control device that photographs the cover of each magazine, and compares it to the delivery list to ensure that the correct magazine is being addressed to the correct recipient. It would have caught my trick immediately, and that takes all the fun out of my would-be prank.
What an amazing company! What an amazing plant! Quad Graphics knows how to run a company, and how to produce excellent printing. Most important: they know how to treat people right, and it shows.