Church of Scientology Opens New In-plant
WITH CELEBRITY practitioners like Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its members, Scientology has gotten its share of media attention over the years. The growing church, founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1954, boasts more than 9,000 churches, missions and affiliated groups worldwide.
To keep its millions of members informed and fulfill its social improvement goals, the church generates a tremendous amount of printed materials—millions of magazines, brochures, direct mail pieces and educational materials each month.
For many years those publications were printed by commercial printers. That all stopped in August, though, when the church opened a massive, 185,000-square-foot in-plant in Commerce, Calif., 15 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. Called the Church of Scientology International Dissemination and Distribution Center, the new 60-employee in-plant features large web and sheetfed presses, bindery and mail capabilities and even a garment manufacturing operation. It is staffed entirely by church members working two 10-hour shifts.
"It was really a must to set up such a facility that could cater to the scope of the church's activities," remarks Jamie McClintock, senior project manager. "No commercial printer had the scope or the range to do all these different products efficiently and cost effectively."
A Shipshape Shop
Inside the impressively clean and orderly in-plant, employees clad in gray uniforms maneuver skillfully around the large equipment. Around them, the walls are decorated with banners depicting the magazine titles they print, along with artwork showing the different churches around the world.
McClintock says wearing uniforms fosters a team environment, while presenting a more professional look. And the extreme cleanliness of the plant is a direct reflection of church teachings, he says—as well as a productivity enhancer.
"The better organized one is, the more one is capable of producing," McClintock notes. "The cleaner the shop, the easier it is to produce more and move product through the workflow."
Time is set aside each morning for the study of church scriptures. It's time well spent, McClintock maintains.
"I think it has a positive effect, considering that a lot of the success in establishing the new facility comes from implementing an organizational methodology established by the church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard," he observes. "So in many regards the study [of scriptures] directly relates to increasing efficiency and proficiency of the staff to perform their assigned duties."
The decision to create such a large printing operation was not made lightly. The church did an extensive analysis of current and future volumes, including its plan to expand its publications into 50 languages. (Magazines are currently printed in 17 languages.) The study concluded that the church would not only save a significant amount of money by printing in-house, it would be able to control its printing schedule, rather than being at the mercy of outside printers.
"Our decision to bring sheetfed printing in house was based on cost, quality control and our desire to gain the capability to produce up to 50 language versions without paying the exorbitant makeready and changeover costs associated with outsourcing," stresses McClintock.
Not its First In-plant
Also, he notes, the church has had some great experience running an in-plant. In 2006 its Bridge Publications division started up a digital book manufacturing plant to produce copies of Hubbard's books in 52 languages. Housing two Xerox iGen3 digital presses, eight DocuPrint 1050s, four HP Indigo 5000s, a new roll-fed HP Indigo W7200 twin engine digital press and much more, the in-plant has been turning out 20,000 hard-cover books (up to 450 pages in length) every two or three days. In 2009, this operation was expanded into a 276,000-square-foot facility in Los Angeles.
Still, despite the success of its digital in-plant, the church didn't race into offset printing without a lot of planning.
"Originally…we approached various large printers with the concept of being a single-source provider for us," reports McClintock. "In the end, just due to the amount of different items we produce and the different language versions that we want to be getting into…there wasn't really a single provider that we could use that would make it clean and simple."
Since firing up the presses in August, things have been going very well, McClintock says.
"The majority of our publications are now produced in-house," he notes. "We saw a 30 percent price reduction in terms of cost."
One example of major cost savings was noted in a Church of Scientology video of the International Dissemination and Distribution Center: For the same amount of money that was previously spent to print 3.5 million drug education booklets, the in-plant can now produce 35 million of them.
Custom Gear Reduces Labor
One reason for the cost savings is the custom-built equipment the in-plant uses, which is heavy on automation, thus reducing the amount of manual labor required. For example, one piece of equipment McClintock calls the "assembly machine" is a folder/gluer that has been adapted to assemble complex social betterment campaign packets. These are folders with fact sheets and booklets inserted into pockets, along with a DVD pressed onto a mount. The assembly machine does it all, with little manual intervention.
"A lot of the intricate marketing materials we produce are expensive to produce unless equipment is tailored to those styles of designs," he continues. "We can afford to automate the process and thus significantly reduce unit costs."
Automation was also an essential requirement for the presses the church selected. These were a five-color Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105 with a coater and a six-unit Goss Sunday 2000 web press.
"We were impressed with the automated features of the XL 105 because we felt that they would enable us to shorten our learning curve and get us up and running faster, which we saw as a huge benefit," says McClintock.
In addition to the XL 105's speed and larger sheet size, one of the most attractive features of the new press was Prinect Inpress Control, which McClintock views as essential to minimizing color variations in the production process.
"We were accustomed to having an automatic color control and measurement value and not having to set such things manually," he says. "Heidelberg's Prinect Inpress Control was the only sheetfed-based system we found that was comparable to the closed-loop color control one would find on a web press. The available presets also were very impressive, especially considering that we wanted to forward as much data as possible to the press to cut down makeready times and simplify the skill set required to properly set up and run the press with confidence."
Automation on the 121-ton Goss web press, which prints about 55,000 signatures per hour, has also proved essential. Goss Automatic Transfer technology enables the shop to change jobs without stopping the press, so language changes for various products can be completed on-the-fly. This has drastically reduced makeready costs, McClintock notes, and lessened the amount of operator skill required to run it.
No Experience Necessary
This last point was of major importance to the church, since all of the equipment operators in this new facility were trained from scratch. Rather than hiring experienced operators, the church opted to train interested members at Cal Poly and Rochester Institute of Technology, and send some of them for apprenticeships at Creel Printing, in Las Vegas.
"Fundamentally it's worked well," reports McClintock. "There's been a lot of value in bringing people who want to work in the facility and then taking the time to do a proper training exercise with them and continue training on site."
True, they don't have all the troubleshooting experience of a veteran, he acknowledges, but these freshly trained operators also don't have to overcome bad habits, and they are more willing to trust the automation features of the machines.
The church also sent operators to Heidelberg's Tech Center in Kennesaw, Ga., for pre-installation training on the XL 105.
"The two weeks operators spent familiarizing themselves with the press ahead of time were invaluable in streamlining the actual startup once the press was installed," McClintock says.
Heidelberg also supplied the new facility with two Polar 137 XT high-speed cutting systems with Comp–u–cut software, a Stahlfolder TH 82 folder and a Varimatrix 105 die cutter with foil stamping.
"Like the Speedmaster XL 105, Stahl folders and Polar cutters are rock-solid products with proven track records," McClintock observes.
He also notes that the in-plant chose binding equipment from Muller Martini (a Primera E140 saddle stitcher and an Acoro 7 perfect binder) because of the favorable experience the church has had with Muller Martini equipment in its digital facility.
Busy Mailing Operation
The International Dissemination and Distribution Center also includes a busy mailing center, capable of addressing 150,000 pieces every eight hours. Domino inkjet heads on the saddle stitcher provide inline addressing, while off–line addressing is done with Domino heads on a Buhrs 4000 poly wrapping system. Both are controlled with a FASTech controller. BCC software is used for mail preparation. A Buhrs BB300 envelope inserter, also with Domino inkjet addressing, completes the operation. The entire shipping line is capable of shipping more than 500,000 boxes and individual items each week.
The in-plant is also in charge of producing signs and banners. It uses a trio of HP wide-format printers, the largest of which is an HP Scitex XL 1500 grand-format plotter. McClintock says one recent job required the shop to print on a large piece of carpeting.
The center additionally includes facilities to manufacture uniforms for the growing number of volunteers within church-supported programs. This includes shirts, caps and jackets, each sporting the emblems of an individual church or organization.
McClintock is enthusiastic that the new International Dissemination and Distribution Center will save time and money for the Church of Scientology. Since August, the in-plant has already successfully produced millions of magazines, mail pieces and educational materials for church-sponsored human rights and drug awareness programs. In short, the center is allowing the church to pursue its mission with greater efficiency than ever.
"We've now got something that facilitates programs we consider important," he concludes.
Related story: Scientology Church to Launch Second Massive In-plant
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.