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Behind the Fun and Games

Hasbro Inc.’s in-plant doesn’t play around. The printing and packaging it produces play a big part in the company’s success, and its recent sustainability certification further demonstrates its commitment to corporate goals.

March 2012 By Erik Cagle
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A little background on Santa's unofficial U.S. division:

  • A lion's share of East Longmeadow's work consists of box labels, game board labels and card decks.
  • The average print run is 10,000, and the shop is working on driving that figure down.
  • A sister plant located in Waterford, Ireland, is about half the size of the 55,000-square-foot printing section in the East Longmeadow facility.

Several years ago, the in-plant printed a good deal of premium trading cards for games such as Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. According to Brennan, the exacting nature of the card product made it perhaps the most challenging job from a print production standpoint.

"It has a very demanding type of customer, along with the fact that you have to match every print run...from its inception to completion so that, from a game-play standpoint, one card matches up with another."

East Longmeadow also features a contract manufacturing arm, 360 Degrees Manufacturing Services, that bids on work outside the corporation that involves generating product complementary to the shop's core competencies. Any work that is bid on—virtually all of which is geographically local—must meet with the parent company's approval.

"Before this year, we were looking at doing finished product only. We're now marketing our processes as well, so we can do straight printing for a customer as opposed to only full product," Brennan notes.

With sustainability such an important part of Hasbro's corporate mission, the in-plant recently took the extra step of earning certification from the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP). The certification is a key result of Hasbro's Corporate Social Responsibility program, and shows its commitment to integrating sustainability throughout its manufacturing process (see sidebar).

A Flexible Operation

East Longmeadow Site has right of first refusal on non-product related work, such as brochures and catalogs, and the plant definitely boasts home-field advantage in enabling the parent company to respond to customer and consumer demand. The shop can "flex up" or down depending on demand patterns, Brennan says, and Hasbro won't be caught short on supply of a hot ticket item because its production crew—buoyed by its ability to handle short lead times—can answer the bell.

Due in part to of this responsiveness, the relationship between East Longmeadow and the corporation is solid. Brennan says the shop can count on Hasbro's support when it needs new equipment or software, as long as the initiative meets corporate standards for return on investment.

"If it fits with the overall strategy going forward, we don't have much trouble getting the corporation to support us," Brennan notes.

In terms of recent acquisitions, the Hasbro in-plant has added cutters and enhanced its bindery. Prepress software has been augmented, and the shop is in the research stages for possible pressroom acquisitions. Primarily a wide-format printing operation, the shop is determining future packaging variability needs.

Studying Shorter Runs

Brennan is intrigued by developments in digital printing technologies, and notes that Jim Hare, technical manager, will be attending the drupa trade show in Germany this May, surveying the options on a range of gear. The shop is studying shorter runs, an initiative tied to reducing inventory levels and supporting emerging global markets. The aforementioned packaging variability is another key issue the in-plant seeks to address.

"We have, in the past, been primarily a rigid box shop with other offerings," Brennan says. "The challenge for us is to have a wider portfolio of packaging offerings that we can take back to the marketing and sales group, the design and development function, and gain additional product into the building."

Brennan admits that Hasbro's design and development (D&D) team is always pushing the envelope with creative and innovative products that keep the in-plant on its toes. But he values the close relationship with D&D; after all, it allows the shop to stay on the same page as its celebrated parent corporation.

"We do a lot of what I call engineering pilot runs, looking at [print] technologies that would favorably impact game play and add different types of functions," Brennan concludes. "I think the creative team here is pretty innovative, and that's part of our strategy. We look at electronic applications with printed materials, look at the possibility of printing on different types of substrates, depending on what types of products they introduce.

"It's all part of making certain we're aligned with them going forward on the types of work we'll do here. It's important that we know where they're headed." IPG



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