P-O-P Star KDM
Cincinnati shop's customers range from food retailing giants to regional and national corporations.
Whether a customer is looking for banners, floor graphics, window clings, end caps, wobblers, shelf strips, hanging mobiles, aisle displays, posters, counter mats, literature holders, tent cards, or decals, if it's point-of-purchase (P-O-P), then KDM produces it.
Leveraging its competencies and experience in large-format inkjet, screen printing, and offset, the Cincinnati-based company has become a one-stop shop for all-things P-O-P. Not only does it print the graphics, but it also finishes the printed banners and displays, assembles store kits, mails them out, and stores extra graphic elements.
KDM's customers range from food retailing giants to regional and national stores and corporations. They all rely on the print provider to deliver graphics to their stores throughout the country-sometimes on tight 24-hr turnaround timeframes.
The best of all worlds
Founded nearly 40 years ago as a screen-printing company, KDM was purchased by one of the original founders and his wife. 'It started as many entrepreneurial ventures do,' says Tom Kissel, KDM owner and purchasing manager, 'in a less-than-desirable neighborhood where the rent was cheap, with equipment that was more than slightly used, and the unwavering commitment to grow by taking care of the customer first. Everyone wore a lot of hats, and not only was dinner late sometimes, but vacations were sacrificed to meet deadlines.'
Year by year, the shop expanded, and the technologies it used changed with it. In the early 1990s, it added a Gerber vinyl cutter, and then brought in HP and Encad digital printers in the middle of that decade. By 1998, KDM decided it had outgrown its location and built a state-of-the-art 150,000-sq ft shop in northern Cincinnati. It added commercial presses in 2001 and then, in 2003, added its first flatbed printer-an EFI Vutek PressVu, complementing it with a second PressVu shortly thereafter.
Since then, KDM has done nothing but get bigger and busier. Still family-run, this second-generation-run company's mantra has been to 'do the impossible,' often offering same-day or 24-hr turnaround. To accommodate the rapid-fire job pace, the shop employs a crew of 250 staffers working three shifts per day, five days per week (and weekends as necessary).
With three printing technologies under its roof, KDM is able to offer customers the best of all print worlds. Having print options available allows it to attract and keep all printing aspects of jobs in-house.
'About two or three times a week, jobs involve two or more areas of the company,' says Kissel. 'The combination of technologies makes a good mix for business.' On jobs that do involve all presses, KDM typically produces the commercial pieces first (since it has a more limited color gamut), then screen, and then digital.
KDM's ever-expanding set of printing equipment includes:
- Digital: two EFI Vutek PressVu 200/600 6-color flatbeds, chosen because their 1200-dpi resolutions match 150line screen from offset presses, as well as the fact that they print on rolled and rigid media; an HP Designjet 5500; a Zund UVjet 215-C; and three Agfa Sherpas, which are situated in the prepress room for proofing screen jobs.
- Screen: three banner presses, including a 4 x 18-ft unit that is one of the largest screen presses in the country; three multicolor in-lines; and three 5284 single-color screen-print presses.
- Offset: four presses (ranging from 2- to 6-color), plus a newly acquired 6-color 4464 press.
But, as indicated earlier, the company doesn't stop with just printing the graphics. It has a full array of finishing machines-laminators, guillotine and die-cutters, sewing machines, drills, folders, binders, stitchers, and more-as well as a large kitting area.
The kitting area-where 'packs' for retail stores are assembled-is one of the hardest jobs in the company, says Kissel. 'Generally it's the last minute when all of the pieces come together. Then the kits have to be assembled and mailed to stores around the country.' Each kit might contain a variety of printed materials, including display pieces, fliers, banners, and planogram diagrams of how and where to display products in the store. KDM produces approximately 5500 of these kits per week.
And when finishing tools to do the job aren't readily available, KDM will put on its innovation hat and create its own. To speed up its packing and kitting process, for instance, the company worked with a local engineer to develop a banner-rolling machine. Now, instead of having to rely upon hand-rolling a 20-, 50-, or 100-ft banner, this machine does the rolling automatically in seconds-saving time, as well as employees' backs and wrists.
P-O-P and more
Few customers need P-O-P more than grocery stores. In 1970, KDM began working with Cincinnati-based Kroger, which now has 2500 stores across the country; importantly, the chain also has specials that change weekly as well as new inventory and products that are constantly begging to get more attention from shoppers. To accommodate the giant grocer's needs, KDM produces P-O-P banners, end caps, floor and window graphics, shelf graphics, and more.
Work with Kroger was just the beginning of a grocery focus for KDM. In 2000, the shop added a salesperson that's specifically dedicated to the grocery market, and more grocery chains, such as Piggly Wiggly and Dillons, are now using KDM for their graphics needs.
National retail chains also come to KDM for their P-O-P graphics. The company prints and kits print jobs for name-brand chains such as Lowe's, Value City, and Linens 'n Things. KDM also stores extra printed inventory for restocking these stores and for new store openings.
And prototyping has entered into the shop's product mix. For instance, it has used the one-off capability of the flatbed to prototype some standalone displays for Value City, even though these are time consuming and 'there's a lot of problem solving to do with these jobs,' says Kissel.
Another prototyping job, for Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co., involved printing a prototype diaper cover (the final design would be printed by another company). The 0.002-mil polyethylene used for the outside plastic cover of disposable diapers, however, was too thin to run through KDM's Zund printer without melting when the UV-curing lamps hit it. Ever the creative problem solver, the KDM staff mounted the thin plastic to a strip of styrene to print it; the styrene absorbed the lamp's heat and the client got the printed diaper cover samples.
To tie all its work together and track the jobs, KDM has incorporated EFI Logic throughout the building. At present, the EFI workflow is being used in the commercial and screen area, but not yet in the digital shop. The company also is working on customizing the software to better fit its particular business: 'There is lots of information to be input for the work ticket, and currently a limited amount of space to write in job details,' says Kissel. 'We need to rework the program to allow us to enter all details and all parts of the jobs.'
Just as this issue goes to press, Kissel reports that KDM has purchased an HP Scitex TJ8500, which offers 6-color (CMYKcm) rollfed UV-curable printing. Kissel says that the shop will move its smaller 1- and 4-color banner jobs-250 banners and fewer-from their screen-printing presses to the new TJ8500. 'We view this as a production press, as it prints up to 2000 sq ft/hr in production mode,' he says.
The combination of printing capabilities at KDM-wide-format inkjet, screen printing, and offset-allows it to function much like a family: In a family, everyone has chores, but smart parents quickly learn the strengths of each child and assign jobs based on those strengths. KDM is the smart parent: The company optimizes its capabilities by playing off the strengths of each printing process.