Gustavus Goes Wide
Prior to October, wide-format printing at Gustavus Adolphus College was the domain of the Media Services department. There, student workers, using an Epson Stylus Pro 11880, printed the posters and other items needed by faculty and students, working mostly in the evenings.
For Naomi Quiram, director of Print and Mail Services at the St. Peter, Minn.-based college, this was not the ideal scenario.
“I had been advocating that we should put all print under one department,” she says. “When you’re trying to print high-end posters, they really require the printer’s eye.”
Ensuring the accuracy of college branding and colors, and providing the best possible quality are the in-plant’s strengths, she says. If a professor gives a presentation at a conference with a poor quality poster, she reasons, “that brings negative attention to the academic program, as well as to the entire college.”
Quiram got her wish last fall when the in-plant inherited the Epson, and the business that went along with it. A big chunk of this was printing posters for student projects. But Quiram saw even more opportunities. The Epson, an acqeous printer, could not produce outdoor signage, so those jobs were being outsourced.
“We were looking to bring all those jobs back to campus,” she says.
So after convincing her vice president of the benefits of expanding into outdoor printing, Quiram got approval to install a new 64˝ Mutoh ValueJet 1624 eco-solvent printer, along with a Mutoh ValueCut cutting plotter.
“We knew we had a market here on campus for outdoor [items], we just didn’t have the equipment,” remarks Andy Biedermann, production coordinator.
The in-plant, with two full-time, one part-time and 12 student workers, is still exploring the potential of this new printer/cutter combo, but Quiram has grand plans. Among them are wall graphics for the sports programs.
“The coaches are just really excited about options for expanding that kind of thing,” Quiram notes. “Wall graphics are going to be huge.”
Other possible items include table runners, window clings, outdoor banners and personalized bumper stickers. For example, parents can order stickers or car window clings with their students’ names on them. These can be ganged up on the paper, then cut using the ValueCut.
“We’re looking at possibly floor graphics, especially for signature events,” Quiram adds. To find out what customers want, the in-plant will hold an open house in the fall, show off what the printer can do and gauge how customers react.
This equipment isn’t all that’s new, though. The in-plant is in the final stages of implementing a Web-to-print solution from PrintNet Solutions. The software architecture is being custom built to fit the shop’s needs. Biderman is overseeing the project.
“This is probably the toughest project I’ve had to put together in my career,” he says. “With only two full-time employees in the department, we needed to find a way to automate a lot of this stuff.”
Currently, he says, jobs come into his e-mail box, which he must check constantly.
“It just gets to be too much sometimes,” he laments.
Having templates for business cards and other items will greatly simplify things.
“It will streamline billing, it will streamline estimating,” says Quiram. And because customers key in their own information and approve a proof, she adds, “it puts the responsibility for the final product on the sender of the information.”