Sweet Home Alabama

Jim Thorne, of The Colonial BancGroup, has doubled the size of his in-plant, brought in new equipment and shown his company he can save it money.

Fresh out of the Navy and looking to take an architectural drafting course at Patterson State Technical College, Jim Thorne was disappointed to learn that the class was full. So he took a graphic arts class instead. From taking that class, Thorne says, printing “got in my blood.”

Thorne worked in various print shops in the Montgomery, Ala., area during the day and took classes at night, earning a degree in graphic arts. He was then hired to help move the in-plant for The Colonial BancGroup from Birmingham to the home office in Montgomery in 1988.

Thorne is now director of corporate purchasing/printing for Colonial, and oversees the in-house purchasing department, print shop and forms distribution center, which employs a staff of 14. The shop serves 240 branches in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Nevada.

The shear number of branches has caused Thorne to change the way he deals with his customers. A separate internal operations department now trains employees on how to order the printed material they need.

“I used to go around and visit all the branches, when we were just in Alabama, to get feedback,” Thorne says. Most contact with customers today, however, is through faxes, phone calls and mailings.

When he started at Colonial, Thorne says the shop only housed two offset presses. It now boasts six offset presses, including an A.B.Dick 3500 that the shop added in November, and a Minolta copier.

“Because of our run lengths and the color requirements for special projects, the small offset presses work real well with our workflow,” Thorne says.

At the end of last year the in-plant also implemented a complete design and desktop publishing system with Macintosh G3 computers. The end of 1998 was also a time for physical growth at the shop. The 6,500-square-foot facility almost doubled in size to 12,500 square feet in December. The in-plant also has a complete bindery department including a Duplo air-feed collator/bookletmaker/stitcher/folder and a Challenge cutter that is pre-programmed for jobs common to the shop. In addition, Thorne has changed the way work goes to press.

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