Wide-format BIG at Fred Meyer In-plant

Randy Hogue runs one of the three new HP Designjet L26500 latex printers recently installed by Fred Meyer Corporate Print Services.

Randy Hogue operates one of the three new HP Designjet L26500 latex printers recently installed by Fred Meyer Corporate Print Services.

Wide format printing has become a big money-maker for Fred Meyer Stores Corporate Print Services, in Portland, Ore. It’s not only allowing the 19-employee in-plant to produce a wider array of signage for the retail supermarket chain, but it has opened doors to business with divisions of the company that did not previously use the in-plant.

Business is booming so much that the shop recently added three 61˝ HP Designjet L26500 latex printers. According to Manager John Payne, the new generation of latex ink used by the printers is noticeably better.

“Colors are more vivid, and the black is richer,” notes Payne. “The new formulation allows more ink to hit the substrate so less is airborne. In addition it bonds at lower heat settings allowing us to print on a broader range of materials.”

Those materials include adhesive-backed vinyl, fabrics, paper, perforated window film and polypropylene plastics. The in-plant is taking full advantage of these capabilities. It recently did a job for one store using perforated window film.

“From the inside it looks just like a window tint, but from the outside of the store, you see the image,” Payne says. “It’s opened up a whole new horizon.”

It’s also opened the in-plant’s doors to some new customers. When the product development group at The Kroger Co., which owns Fred Meyer, was getting ready to advertise a new line of furniture, it was delighted to find that the in-plant could do the work for much less than other bidders. The in-plant printed nearly 1,000 two-sided signs for the customer.

“We saved the company almost 40 percent compared to the outside vendor they were going to use,” remarks Payne. “We did not have one damaged sign in any store.”

Four years ago, the shop was producing signs on a four-color, 38˝ Harris sheetfed press. To open up more opportunities, the in-plant initially added a solvent-based wide-format inkjet printer, but employee complaints about the solvent smell prompted the shop to seek another solution. So it installed several HP Z6100 aqueous printers.

Last June, the in-plant added its first latex printer, an HP Designjet L25500. Payne and his staff were so impressed by the quality and money-saving potential of the latex ink, that they added three L26500 printers in February.

“We are enjoying a 30 to 40 percent drop in cost [compared with aqueous ink],” he maintains, “which relates to a savings in excess of $90,000 annually. We have been able to use a heavier, higher grade paper with the latex inks since they don’t require any special coatings. That relates to another 15 percent savings.”

Plus, the latex printers require no special ventilation.

“For employees, that was huge,” he says. The prints, too, are odorless.

Overall, the move into wide-format inkjet has proven a very wise decision for the in-plant.

“We’ve already more than doubled the billings out of the wide-format from what we billed on that 38˝ Harris press in this last year,” Payne says.

Bob has served as editor of In-plant Graphics since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited more than 130 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Graphics.

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