Bill Erickson: 'I Love What I Do'
“I take pride in my work, and I think that people appreciate that,” proclaims Bill Erickson. And after running the in-plant at Woolrich Inc. for 37 years, he’s got plenty of work to be proud of.
As the sole employee of the outdoor clothing company’s in-plant, Erickson has a lot on his plate, but his focus on fast service and quality printing has earned him respect from all levels of the company.
“Bill is an incredible printer and a great asset to our company,” praises Charlie Bittner, Woolrich’s director of human resources. “Bill takes great pride in his work and the craftsmanship, attention to detail and quality of his work shines through with each job.”
From Erickson’s in-plant inside the company’s central Pennsylvania headquarters, he’s watched the printing industry evolve. From his early days running a Multigraphics duplicator to his current expertise with digital color printers, Erickson has changed with the times, always focusing on providing Woolrich with a great printed product at a low cost.
“I’ve just saved Woolrich so much money,” he says with pride.
Through it all, he has retained his enthusiasm for the job.
“I love what I do,” he insists.
‘Oh Sure, Why Not?’
Born in Philadelphia, Erickson moved to Lockhaven, Pa., with his family as a child. During high school, he took a job with Hammermill Paper in 1966. Though he started in the billing department, that soon changed.
“They asked me if I wanted to learn how to run an old Multigraphics 1250 duplicator,” he recalls. “I said, ‘Oh sure, why not?’ So that’s how I got into printing.”
Employment in the paper company’s in-plant proved unstable, though, and after several layoffs he finally said, “There’s got to be something better than this. So I just joined the Air Force.”
His timing wasn’t the best. The country was deeply immersed in the Vietnam War, and he soon joined his fellow soldiers there, working as a material control specialist from 1969-1970.
Erickson got through the conflict unscathed and left the Air Force in 1972. That same year he applied for a job with Woolrich.
“I was hired on the spot,” he recalls.
He started as a billing clerk in the computer department, then became a third shift assistant computer operator. When he learned that the company had a printing department, though, Erickson offered to help out there when his computer work was finished. The in-plant used the same Multigraphics 1250 duplicator that he had run at Hammermill, so he fell easily into the work, and eventually became the assistant printer.
In April 1980, when the head of the printing department, Katie Bryan, moved to a job in accounting, Erickson was named printer.
“I was just a young buck,” he laughs. “A go-getter.”
Armed with youthful enthusiasm, he began making improvements. He installed a larger, more modern cutter and then added an updated metal platemaker. In 1990, he installed a two-color Multigraphics 1962 MC press.
“I could do four-color work, even though I had to run it through twice,” he says. One of his proudest moments was printing his first four-color process job: a company shareholders’ report.
After adding the second press, and a polyester platemaker to go with it, the in-plant’s workload increased. To help him produce the work, Erickson installed a Multigraphics 16-bin collator and a Baum 714 air-feed folder.
In 2009, the offset era ended at Woolrich when the in-plant added a Konica Minolta 6501 color printer and donated its press equipment to a school district. Erickson quickly embraced the new technology, impressed with the possibilities it offered.
“I could do a lot more color work,” he says. He began printing catalogs, Christmas cards, signs and tags for Woolrich outlet stores and more, always focusing on quality.
“If it’s going out to the customer, it’s got to be high-quality,” he reasons.
In 2015, the in-plant upgraded to a Konica Minolta bizhub PRESS C1070 with in-line folding and stitching. This year he plans to replace the shop’s color office copier, which he uses for very short-run jobs.
Erickson prides himself on providing faster service than customers would get from an outside printer.
“I had all the Christmas cards done the same day,” he says, including trimming, scoring and folding.
He also personally delivers everything he prints, which, combined with his mail and UPS delivery responsibilities, puts him in close contact with all of his customers.
Woolrich has been an excellent place to work, Erickson says. Not only is he fond of wearing Woolrich clothing to work. (“I love their polo shirts,” he says.), he likes that the company appreciates his hard work. Even the company president has thanked him for his service, he says.
“It’s nice to be recognized by the higher-ups,” he remarks. “I love what I do. If I had to do it all over again ... I would do the same thing.”
When pressed, however, he admits he would have also loved to be a writer or an astrophysicist.
“I love anything to do with the stars,” he says.
In his spare time, Erickson enjoys writing poetry, and has had his work published. But he also has a much more thrilling spare time pursuit: ghost hunting.
Armed with an infrared camera and various “ghost meters” to detect paranormal activity, he ventures into buildings reputed to be haunted.
“I got some good pictures of what I call a shadow man,” he reveals.
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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.