Heeter Boosts Inkjet Capabilities

As a long-time Ricoh partner, Heeter continues to expand its business and grow revenues with the addition of
the VC70000.

By Denise M. Gustavson, Published in the Special Inkjet Edition of Printing Impressions

Canonsburg, Pa.-based Heeter is always looking for new and better ways to meet customer needs and exceed their expectations. In 2015, high-production inkjet became a key element of its growth plan — a decision that has proven so successful, the shop recently added additional capacity and upgraded technology.

As a general commercial printer, Heeter based that growth strategy around creating an infrastructure of powerful technologies, then integrating that technology with their customers. “We’re very excited about high-speed inkjet,” says Kirk Schlecker, VP of operations, Heeter. “We’ve had it for over four years now, but what’s to come is obviously going to be more relevant to the commercial space than ever before.”

With more than 70 years of experience serving marketers, Heeter’s team manages a wide range of campaigns for customers in the casino, health care, insurance, retail, and higher education fields. To better serve those segments, Heeter took the first step into high-speed inkjet, becoming one of the first printers in North America to adopt the RICOH Pro VC60000.

Need for High Volume Inkjet

“We had a big need for continuous inkjet,” Schlecker says. “We were running Xerox iGens and HP Indigos for books and direct mail. We were running those presses 24/7 in our peak seasons and still had the need to outsource work.”
Print quality was the guiding principle of the company’s search for the right inkjet platform, a process that took about eight months. Another critical factor was the range of stocks the presses could handle in both coated and uncoated papers. The evaluation ended with the selection of the RICOH Pro VC60000, installed in August of 2015, and placed into full production one month later.


First to Install VC70000

In 2019, Heeter continued its commitment to cutting-edge production technologies when it took delivery of the new RICOH Pro VC70000, becoming — once again — the first company in North America to install the new unit.

“In the four years we’ve been working with the Ricoh team, it’s clear to us that understanding the needs of our business is their job,” says Scott Heeter, president, Heeter. “On top of that, the results speak for themselves. We can produce so much more, in terms of variety of output and media, and in terms of throughput. Working with Ricoh has helped us become more competitive on multiple fronts, and we are grateful for the insight and technology they bring to the table. Once the beta phase was over, it was a very easy decision to purchase this press.”

According to Schlecker, while the operators might have to spend a bit more time in the setup and the makeready, once the press is up to speed, “you could run for hours or days without deviating from a maintenance perspective. It’s legit,” he says. “We can run 35-lb. text weight all the way up to 9- and 10-pt. cover stocks.”

Flexibility of Substrates

One of the advantages of the VC70000 over the VC60000 is the breadth of substrates that can be run. Heeter primarily uses Verso Paper’s Sterling. “We run, right now, 600×600 dpi on the coated stocks. We can run 1200×1200 dpi, but our customers aren’t asking for any higher quality than what we’re currently doing. So, we’re running 400 fpm on coated stocks, and 500 fpm on uncoated stocks at 600×600 dpi,” Schlecker says.

Inkjet sales, however, is one of the big challenges that commercial printers will have to overcome. Schlecker says that “usually the sales organization, in the print world, are the last ones to evolve. They’re a lot of traditional offset salespeople that don’t think they need to educate themselves. But with this new technology, you have to understand the possibilities, otherwise you’re just going to miss the boat.”

One way to counter that, Schlecker explains, is that he and his sales staff are always looking at different ways to take a job and turn it into a program. “We’re chasing existing web offset direct mail jobs. It’s real sales — we can get jobs that used to run either offset shells and monochrome imprint or on a web offset press fitted with inkjet heads that are imaging an area of the sheet in full-color. We can price competitively with the VC70000 because we run on the same paper but now offer full-color personalization throughout the piece — there are no longer inkjet treated substrate issues to be concerned with. We’ve giving customers a more effective product, while producing jobs more efficiently. It’s a totally different solution that you wouldn’t ever see in the offset environment.”

Heeter is the ultimate example of how a commercial print shop can use high-speed inkjet to evolve alongside its customers. As customer demands for shorter runs with more personalized pieces driven by increasing amounts of data continue to grow, Heeter’s strategy of staying ahead of the technology curve will only continue to pay huge dividends.

This article ran in the Special Inkjet edition of Printing Impressions.