Ink-jetting into the future

Econoprint VP believes its new — and rare — HP printer is a game-changer.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Kevin Lucius, vice president at Econoprint Inc., seems to be floating on air these days. The company he’s committed his career to for over three decades recently invested in a digital printer that, in his words, could take the company “where it has never gone before.”

He should know. He researched it and lobbied for it.

Lucius, 54, a Minnesota native and diehard Vikings fan who spent most of his life living in the shadows of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, graduated with a fine arts degree from UW–Oshkosh before he and his wife relocated to Madison.

When he first joined Econoprint as a graphic designer, it was more of a quick-print business, turning out annual reports and wedding invitations.

A lot has changed over the years. Lucius now co-owns the Verona company with CEO Dave Roloff and Dave Genin, vice president of sales.

“We were one of the first printers to recognize the threat of the internet,” Lucius recalls, “but we decided to embrace it rather than run from it.” That decision led to the launch of Powderkeg, its web-design division, almost 13 years ago.

“At the time, many of our peers were saying we were sleeping with the enemy, but we never really felt like we were in the printing business. We’ve always believed we were in the communications business. We followed the lead of our customers.”

We recently spoke with Lucius about the industry changes he’s witnessed in his 32-year career at Econoprint, and the company’s decision to acquire an inkjet printer that he believes will propel it forward.

IB: Describe some of the changes you’ve experienced through the years.
In content design, my earlier years involved taking design from typeset to digital, but the late 1990s brought the biggest change as computers entered the business world and people began doing their own design. I came in just as the first Macs were introduced.

IB: Was it a frightening time?
It certainly was challenging. In the early 2000s, when people were proclaiming print was dead and that paper was going away, we experienced market erosion like anyone else. Now it’s swinging back, and we’re in a very unique position.

IB: Why the excitement over this new press?
It’s a big, HP Indigo 12000 inkjet printer that, when all is said and done, will be a nearly $2 million investment after ancillary items are added. There are only about 100 of these in the U.S. and Canada currently. In fact, printers from eight surrounding states have contacted me asking to use it because they are so rare in the commercial print world.

When it was delivered last fall, we had to cut a large hole about 14 feet by 12 feet into a wall just to get the equipment into the building. Big commercial printing companies may be used to that, but as a sheet-fed printing company we’ve never done anything to this scale before. We’ve been using it since December and expect it will triple or even quadruple our throughput.



IB: What are the advantages to customers?
Speed, responsiveness, customization, capacity. We’ve been in the digital print business for about nine years, but with this technology, every time the cylinder turns, the image or content can be changed to match the end user. It prints large sheets — 29 inches by 20 inches — which means longer runs and larger pieces at offset quality.

IB: And to Econoprint?
We can move into custom/boutique packaging and photography, for example, and print on heavier stock, plastics, or synthetics. It also has a longer predicted lifespan of seven to 10 years, almost twice that of its predecessor.

IB: Just curious. Have you named it?
Not officially. Someone floated the name “Zamboni,” but it’s actually much larger, about the size of a school bus!

IB: Is this your proudest achievement?
First, my wife and two kids are my life. Every accomplishment they have is my proudest moment.

Launching Powderkeg ranks very high in terms of our business, and researching and investing in this new press will be my moon landing, but honestly, I think my proudest moment is yet to come.

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