One Sweet Shop
Known for its award-winning, high-quality work, Hershey Printing Services is expanding its wide-format capabilities to provide more of the posters, wall murals and vehicle wraps the chocolate company craves.August 2013 By Bob Neubauer
You can't avoid chocolate in Hershey, Pa. Even the streetlights are shaped like Hershey's Kisses in this erstwhile company town about 14 miles east of Harrisburg. Named for local hero Milton S. Hershey, who opened his chocolate factory there in 1904, the town grew up around chocolate, flourishing thanks to Milton Hershey's passionate investment in the community.
That same sense of community permeates The Hershey Co. today, inspiring its strong support of its homegrown Printing Services operation. The 20-employee in-plant, in turn, is fully dedicated to the chocolate company's success.
"We know our customer better than anyone. Everyone in this department is fully invested in the success of the company," remarks Printing Services Manager Bob Wamsher, who has spent every one of his 45 working years with Hershey.
The in-plant, known for the award-winning quality of its high-end printing, is tucked into a 24,000-square-foot space in the lower level of Hershey's administrative offices, right on East Chocolate Avenue in the center of Hershey. With a five-color Shinohara press, a roomful of digital printers and a bevy of wide-format devices, Printing Services is ready for anything the chocolate company throws its way.
"Sometimes we have people from the company that come into the shop, and they're just awed by what we do," remarks Wamsher.
Though Wamsher sees the in-plant moving more toward a print-on-demand model in the years ahead, the five-color press is still the operation's workhorse, pumping out runs of 10,000 slick sales brochures, to be used by sales reps out in the field. A new Graphic Wizard UV coater provides a glossy finish to really make these sales materials shine.
The shop's handiwork is also seen by the public. Stores display its coupons, posters and window clings; local gas pumps sport signs printed by the in-plant; cards promoting new products are slipped into cases of candy; and all around town, company cars decorated with vehicle wraps printed by the in-plant can be seen. The in-plant even prints special orders of personalized candy bar wrappers.
Less flashy materials like manuals, reports and business cards are also handled by the in-plant, using its digital printers. The shop provides other services too, like design, sign engraving, CD/DVD reproduction and, of course, bindery.
Wide-format Growing Fast
What stands out most about Printing Services these days, though, is its booming wide-format printing business. The shop boasts six wide-format devices, including a new EFI Rastek 10000 flatbed printer and a 60˝ HP L26500 latex printer, both awaiting installation in the shop's planned wide-format room. The mailroom is vacating its 5,000-square-foot space adjacent to Printing Services, and Wamsher plans to renovate it and move all wide-format and sign-making equipment there.
"Right now, it's spread through the shop where we had room to place it," he says. Having everything in one room will greatly increase efficiency.
Printing Services has been building up its wide-format business over the past decade as demand for posters, signage and point-of-purchase displays has steadily increased.
"It started about 10 years ago as a by-product of some of the proofing equipment we had, and has grown into a full-fledged operation right now, supporting three full-time employees," Wamsher says.
The most visible product has been the vehicle wraps the in-plant produces and installs. This started when the in-plant wrapped an old delivery truck four years ago with Hershey promotional signage. It used its 54˝ Roland Soljet Pro III XJ solvent inkjet printer to transform the rusty Isuzu box truck from an embarrassment into a gem.
The in-plant next tackled a fleet of six electric cars that company employees use to travel to different locations around town. Each car was wrapped with a different product theme (e.g. Mounds, Reeses, Hershey's Kisses). Employees both printed and installed the wraps, which have helped to further promote the in-plant's capabilities.
"They're driven around town all the time, and people see this and then they find out we can do that," says Wamsher.
The in-plant has also done a lot of wall wraps and murals around the company. It wrapped the elevator doors in the in-plant and in several other Hershey offices, as well. Window clings printed by the in-plant are used in Hershey stores around the country, such as the one in Hershey's Chocolate World in Times Square.
Wamsher sees some good insourcing opportunities ahead and plans to expand it even more. Already the in-plant made a deal with a national chain to print all of its menu boards.
More Opportunities Ahead
Once the new 60˝ HP L26500 latex printer is up and running, it will be able to print on fabric and offer more flexibility when printing vehicle wraps. The EFI Rastek 10000 flatbed printer will be able to print directly on a board, as well as onto glass and metal. Wamsher plans to add a laser cutter to the wide-format area next year to allow the shop to produce other types of products.
"We're always looking to try to find another service to add, and the more ways we can do that, the more valuable we become to the company," he notes.
With runs getting shorter, Wamsher knows a digital press is in the in-plant's future. He wants to be able to print brochures on demand, and even customize them, but he wants to be certain they will retain the offset quality customers have come to expect.
"Whatever we look at in the digital environment is going to have to match that quality," he says.
His goal is to have a digital solution in place before he retires.
Is working at The Hershey Co. as much fun as it sounds? Wamsher thinks so—especially if you like chocolate.
"There's as much candy as you'd like to eat here," he laughs. Avoiding it may be the bigger challenge. "It's difficult, but we learn," he adds.
"I've been here for 45 years," Wamsher concludes. "I've enjoyed it all. I have great people around here."