By Melissa Donovan
Most business owners are on the look out for opportunities to help take their company to the next level. This is done in a number of ways—expanding with more staff, acquiring another entity, or leveraging existing practices to reach new markets. The latter method, utilizing what you know to place yourself in front of first time buyers, commonly occurs in the realm of printing.
Print service providers (PSPs) with digital printing and finishing equipment in house are perfectly poised for this scenario. Digital printing and the automation that is inherently part of it allows PSPs to create graphics on flexible or rigid material in short runs at a moment’s notice. The technology is designed in a way that pushes PSPs to stay quick on their feet, something that can be very helpful when the need arises during abrupt market transitions.
Above: RiverCity works with its Colex Sharpcut and HP flatbed to create kiosks to hold anything from PPE to menus, information pages, or coasters.
Everything is Up to Date
RiverCity Print and Imaging, based in North Little Rock, AR, began in 1977 as a small quick print shop. Fast forward 40 years and the company is a full-service print provider, offering promotional products as well as apparel services to customers across the U.S.
Printing, signage, promotional products, and apparel are its four main areas of business. Of that, 35 percent derives from signage of all types. In-house work includes production of posters, banners, vinyl decals, interior signage for business, retail, manufacturing, and wayfinding signage.
The graphics communications company is housed in a facility that totals over 12,000 square feet. Scott Levine, president, RiverCity, credits the equipment run in house for creating an “endless array” of services that meet customers’ needs. The equipment is integral in clients viewing the company as more than a seller of goods and services.
“We work with our clients every step of the way to understand their business branding requirements. This process is invaluable as we become a valued partner instead of just a vendor,” he continues.
One of the printers found in the AR facility is an eco-solvent roll-to-roll SOLJET Pro III XC-540 from Roland DGA Corporation. The 54-inch printer/cutter offers 1,440×1,440 dpi resolution and can print at a maximum speed of up to 445 square feet per hour. It is ideal for the production of banners, labels, and decals.
Levine says the company originally used the SOLJET Pro III XC-540 for signage-related pieces but overtime came to the realization that a flatbed UV printer would provide greater efficiencies as well as add to the company’s overall capabilities.
It decided on a Scitex FB500 Industrial Printer from HP Inc. The UV-curable flatbed device offers up to 1,200×600 dpi and prints directly to any rigid or flexible material, including corrugated plastic, offering excellent ink adhesion. Applications produced on the printer include everything from retail standees to outdoor signage and even fine art.
While the two printers are essential to the PSP’s process, it benefits greatly from its automated finishing device. A Sharpcut digital cutting system from Colex Finishing, Inc. features a triple interchangeable tool head, which allows RiverCity to take advantage of routing, scoring, and cutting options all on one device. A six-zone vacuum system is also useful when cutting challenging material, like corrugated board.
“The Colex Sharpcut is a tremendous addition to our equipment mix. Many sign projects that we would finish by hand are now completed in a fraction of the time. Having the Colex table cutter has opened up many signage opportunities that I would have had to source or pass on,” notes Levine.
The Colex Sharpcut paired with the HP Scitex FB500 is a successful combination for RiverCity. This was seen most sharply over the last nine or ten months throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. When it first started, the PSP offered products around personal protection equipment (PPE) like acrylic face shields and sneeze guards; in addition to vinyl floor decals and safety related posters and banners.
Levine points out that as a business owner he is always looking for new and innovative ways to utilize both the equipment on the floor and his staff and the beginning of the pandemic was no exception. “We saw this as an opportunity to think outside the box—to create products that would not only allow our employees to stay busy, but would also serve our customers and community by providing products to keep them safe,” he continues.
In addition to the aforementioned PPE, the RiverCity team also produced heat pressed cloth facemasks for customers in the retail and restaurant space. As part of the ordering process, RiverCity staff inquired where the finished facemasks planned on being stored or displayed. Interestingly, it seemed the clients generally didn’t think that far in advance.
As a result, the PSP’s design team developed custom kiosks for the presentation and storage of facemasks in addition to other items thanks to the flexibility of the kiosk design. “At some point in the future, the pandemic will subside and facemasks may not be as necessary as they are today. Our design team came up with the concept of custom die cut header panels that can be swapped out at any point,” explains Levine.
The multi-purpose kiosks are printed on the HP Scitex FB500 on eflute panels and then cut on the Colex Sharpcut. “The image quality from the HP is great and the fact that the printer is UV enables us to print the boards quickly,” adds Levine.
Shotgun Dan’s Pizza, a family-owned business based in central AR, is one RiverCity customer that took advantage of its custom digitally printed kiosks. Once open to the public, the pizza restaurant began offering disposable facemasks to its dine-in customers and RiverCity pitched the idea of the kiosk to provide a way to display the facemasks as customers entered the restaurant.
Collaborating with Shotgun Dan’s Pizza’s marketing department, RiverCity’s design team created both freestanding and tabletop versions of the kiosks—keeping in mind that the version chosen could be retro-fitted for other purposes in the future. The final display measured eight inches deep by 39 inches wide by 55 inches tall with a header panel. A freestanding floor display, the idea is once masks aren’t a necessity, the kiosk can be used to hold menus, coloring sheets, or other items. The header panel is also interchangeable.
From design to print to final delivery, the entire process took about a week, with the majority of the time spent in the design phase. Shotgun Dan’s Pizza was very happy with the result.
In another unique application, one unrelated to COVID-19, RiverCity created a custom countertop display for Earth Rugs, a manufacturer of natural fiber and jute rugs, coasters, and stair runners. The company recently added a line of monogrammed coasters to its product line for 2021 and needed a way to display them at various retail locations.
The initial order consisted of 50 displays. Each measured three inches deep by 13 inches wide by 14 inches tall including a header panel.
RiverCity’s ability to offer its customers more than its normal offerings throughout the pandemic is a credit to its staff’s ingenuity and ability to listen to its clients wants and needs. An example is when staff recognized the need for a customizable display that could store facemasks.
The PSP utilized its digital printing and finishing equipment to quickly adapt during an ever-changing situation, fully realizing that the outcome needed to be flexible as well. Now its customers can use their kiosks—initially built for facemasks—for anything they desire.
Feb2021, Digital Output