SOLON, OH - September 7, 2023 – Last December Graphco and RMGT, providers of the leading 8 UP sheetfed offset press in North America, delivered an RMGT 970 five-color machine (with LED curing) that is producing postcards, booklets, and other products by the millions each month for Range Printing, Inc. in Brainerd, Minnesota. With 9 full months of production under the new fully automated sheetfed device’s proverbial “belt,” the press has become a second “workhorse” in Range’s 36,000-square all RMGT shop floor.
The bottom-line rationale for the new technology investment is that Range Printing needed additional production capacity, according to President/CEO Shawn Sundquist, son of Steve Sundquist and grandson of founder Phil Sundquist, who started the company in 1968. “We wanted redundancy for our ‘commodity’ work to complement our existing RMGT 920 color with coater, which features six color printing, LED and Aqueous coating capabilities and provides the high value-add work that Range is known for in the industry.”
“We’ve been running the heck out of that 920 for more than five years now, piling up well over 100 million impressions,” reports Sundquist. The firm, which employs roughly 70 people (on two shifts), tallied 2022 sales of approximately $14 million. “We are actively looking to grow by acquisition,” Range’s chief executive added. After a slow beginning to 2023, attributed to the sluggish U.S. economy and rising inflation rates, its two press schedules started filling up in mid-May and running strong all summer long.
On the new RMGT 970, Range is running 6x9” postcards as well as 9x12” booklets. “The bigger, 25” x 38” sheet size has more ‘real estate’ and lends itself to this type of work,” Sundquist noted. “We can go 6-up [on a sheet] for the millions of 12x12” scrapbook pages we print annually on both coated and uncoated paper. Our customers love the crisp LED print we produce on uncoated jobs.”
The micro-orders that make up this huge volume come through Creative Memories, which is a fellow Minnesota corporation and 15-year partner with Range. With a reputation for offering high-quality scrapbook products, Creative Memories pioneered the memory-keeping industry in 1987. Scrapbook hobbyists, looking for something to do at home during the 2020-21 pandemic lockdowns, were a welcome silver lining in the dark, dreary clouds cast by COVID-19. Range prints some portions of these popular jobs digitally on its HP Indigo presses, but the much lower costs and higher print quality of the RMGT produced jobs are key advantages.
Coverage, Color and Versatility
Derek Gordon, Midwest Regional Manager at Graphco, stated: “The RMGT 970 press gives Range Printing the versatility to reproduce diverse products, including the booklets and packaging applications that feed Range’s high-speed die cutter. Shawn has told us that his press crews particularly appreciate our Benford LED curing system, since they have no dry-back and they can ship our vibrant color jobs on all substrates without waiting.”
“The LED cures from the top down,” Sundquist explains, and adds that ink coverage never has been a problem for his RMGT presses. He and his Range employees have noticed the manufacturer’s “tech refresh” on the 970 model press. “The RMGT engineers have made a lot of modifications and improvements that really improve our throughput and ease-of-use,” he observed.
Another benefit comes by way of a closed-loop, LithoFlash color-control system, from Lithec USA, that was added to both presses during this investment cycle. The in-press system is saving Range money by yielding less paper waste, maintaining super-tight color tolerance throughout the run and allowing pressmen to run full speed without worries. “We can get up to color now in 100 to 150 sheets. Our average makeready times between jobs has dropped from 15 minutes on the 920 to 10 minutes on both presses with the LithoFlash system,” reported Sundquist. “It was a huge plus that Graphco was also able to add LithoFlash to our existing RMGT 920ST six with coater. I sure was glad this major upgrade didn't require a forklift,” adds Sundquist.
This, of course, means that Range can churn out more work, which is the key to sustaining profitability in today’s competitive commercial print landscape, and all while avoiding the added expense in equipment costs, supplies and labor associated with a 40” press. “Once we learned that we could do 9x12” publications, 6x9” postcards, and our 12x12” scrapbooking jobs on the 25” x 38” sheet we saw no reason to go back to the 28” x 40” format,” confirms Sundquist.
“We fully recognize that Shawn coming with Graphco and RMGT back in 2017 was a big leap,” comments Chris Manley, President, Graphco, “since Range was coming from decades of investments with one of our main competitors. As a fellow business owner, it’s rewarding that he and Mary decided to continue our relationship. Additionally, as fellow SOBs (sons of the boss) I am so glad to be part of Range Printing’s third generation in our industry. Shawn and Mary’s sons are keen on Range as well, so there are many chapters left to be written up in Brainerd.”