Modern Litho moves forward with valuable partners

(Editor’s note: in In today’s printing industry, the concept of innovation is broad in its definition, but rather narrow in its focus. Large companies have seized many tools to define themselves, increase their profitability and differentiate themselves. They use new technologies, system integration, an expanded product line, exemplary customer service, and more.

The company featured below – among Printing Impressions’ 2022 class of six Innovators of the Year – was named by a group of printing industry experts and consultants who identified the company as outstanding. The summary that follows shares what makes it innovative, interesting and exceptional.)

Every business has a choice as to the direction of its operations: it can either move forward, update its technology and processes, or stand still. For Print impressions 2022 “Innovator of the Year” Modern Litho, the first word of his name says it all. With a focus on continuously improving its efficiency for the benefit of customers and employees, as well as strengthening its relationships with its technology partners, it has transitioned its workflow to a system based on the cloud and upgraded its GIS. As Pat McGrew of the McGrewGroup says, “Modern Litho is a company to turn to for modernization.”

Founded in 1937, Modern Litho is a full-service commercial printer with digital, wide-format, sheetfed and half-format offset, and packaging capabilities. “We do the full range of prints today,” said Jim Tomblinson, vice president of operations.

While he says the business is split between publishing and commercial work, it’s heavy on producing high-quality books, printing for 46 states. “We are huge believers in books,” Tomblinson notes. “People love books; they want to smell them and touch them. The impression is very much alive.

With its headquarters in Jefferson City, Missouri, Modern Litho has expanded with four additional locations in St. Louis, Kansas City, Missouri, and its Brown Printing operation in Jefferson City which includes digital and large format printing plants. In total, it has about 350 employees.

“We don’t say much about the types of jobs we do because we have a wide range of capabilities in one facility or another to be able to print and finish these products,” according to Tomblinson.

Not afraid to be an early adopter

What has also enabled its diverse offerings are Modern Litho’s valuable partnerships with its OEMs and suppliers. “Today in the printing world, we believe more than ever that you need good vendor partners to be successful, so that’s one of our goals,” he says, quoting Kodak and Heidelberg among these partners. “We work with them, we do betas and alphas, and test a lot of technologies. We’re at the forefront because we believe it’s so critical to our growth and what we want to do for the future.

And it is through these partnerships that Modern Litho has advanced its operations over the past few years. While having multiple installations was beneficial for being a one-stop-shop, it presented workflow issues with a non-cloud-based system. “If we lost our internet connection in Jefferson City, that meant all the factories froze, and it also meant all the customers froze – that’s not a smart way to do business, but that’s what we had to do,” says Tomblinson.

Modern Litho keeps its fleet of automated Heidelberg sheetfed offset presses up to date, including this eight-color Speedmaster XL 106 UV press.

That is, until, he says, talks began about moving Kodak’s Prinergy system to the cloud a few years ago. “Kodak has created technology and a structured partnership with Microsoft that has allowed us to finally move our Prinergy system to the cloud so it’s operational 24/7,” adds Tomblinson, noting that if Modern Litho loses internet , its customers around the world can always communicate with the team, upload files, approve files, etc., with any of the production facilities. Plus, it allows employees to work offsite without security risks.

“When this happened, not only was I sleeping better, but we were safer, more scalable, [and] the cost is no more than what we already had to do in the field,” reveals Tomblinson.

In addition to this 24/7 cloud-based system, Modern Litho focused on another aspect of its business: its MIS software, which Tomblinson says was an old legacy system that was no longer upgraded. “The software company MIS no longer wanted to invest properly,” he adds. “They were really setting us back and we weren’t going anywhere.”

Enter Kodak again, which had heard similar concerns from other customers and teamed up with Microsoft and GIS provider PrintVis. This collaboration created a technology with which Modern Litho became the first company to “invest a lot of blood, sweat and tears in modifying, developing and creating a GIS that can be used by printers all over the country. “, according to Tomblinson.

“It’s not just for digital; it’s not just commercial,” he adds. “We [have and are] create with Kodak and its partners an MIS system capable of managing everything, and this is something that has not been done.

Live since April and continuing to develop elements the operation has never had before, the MIS system is integrated with Modern Litho’s Prinergy system and will integrate with its Heidelberg servers to provide the team with accurate data. As Tomblinson notes, this is a complete package, not just for the shop floor or accounting, but for the entire factory. “We’re very excited about the direction we’re headed in and the progress that’s been made,” he says, noting its 24/7 multi-factory opportunities and anticipated scalability for print printers. medium to large size. “It will be something that we can all use and that we can all benefit from.”

Adopt cloud-centric solutions

“The Modern Litho team had every right to continue doing what they had always done and continue to grow their business, but they didn’t,” McGrew said. “They did their research and found that by adopting a cloud-centric solution for their prepress needs, they could both speed their work’s journey to production and gain flexibility that mitigated risk at the same time. It took trusting their supplier (Kodak) and their in-house team, as well as management support to make this work. And it does!”

Unsurprisingly, when it comes to the future of Modern Litho, Tomblinson says he continues to examine the technology and coinciding opportunities, having installed a new eight-color LED-UV sheet-fed Heidelberg offset perfecter at his facility in Kansas City which will help the company explore further growth. in the packaging. Leaders are also eyeing expansion opportunities as they take advantage of them.

There’s no doubt that Modern Litho is a progression-driven innovator. Ironically, Tomblinson recently read an article persuading companies to continue using their old GIS systems. “[With these] legacy GIS systems that exist that aren’t integrated—and they won’t be—businesses will stay where they are or roll back if they use them,” he says.

“It’s a new day; it’s a new time to come out and really create something for the future.

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