MAR Graphics Automates Production of Self-Mailers

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Rather than add another sheet-fed printer in order to accommodate more volume, MAR Graphics figured out how to automate the production of self-mailers from a printed roll of paper to the point where pieces are ready for the mailstream.

Last year, MAR Graphics installed an automated digital printing and finishing line made up of a Nipson VaryPress 400 digital production press integrated inline with a Hunkeler Variweb finishing system. It was the first such integrated system in North America.

"We have direct marketing customers that have some rather unique needs, and we thought we could develop a production process and a method to give them what they want," MAR Graphics president Rick Roever said of the new system.

Those unique needs involve high-volume runs that have to go from press to mailstream in a very short time.

"The time frame for production gets smaller and smaller every year, and I don't think that is ever going to change," Mr. Roever said. To give clients the turnaround times they want in a sheet-fed environment, a printer would need a whole room full of printers, he said.

MAR Graphics' new automated system, however, can produce up to 4 million pieces a month and run several programs consisting of a similar product at the same time.

"We've improved our productivity by three to four times," Mr. Roever said.

The company's direct marketing business has grown 10 percent to 12 percent since installing the system by gaining new clients and getting more business from existing clients, much of it self-mailers. MAR expects further growth from this segment and recently installed a Muller Martini 10-color UV press to accommodate DM clients further.

In MAR's integrated line, four-color offset printer paper is roll-fed through the Nipson VaryPress 400, which adds variable information. The Hunkeler Variweb handles laminating, die cutting and self-mailer piece production.

The VaryPress also has variable speed control.

"Some jobs, the way they are made, you are not going to get full speed," Mr. Roever said. "With the VaryPress, we have the ability to slow down and still finish the job in one production pass." It also can print on various surfaces, such as coated stock, matte stock, foils, plastics and labels.

For example, MAR Graphics used this system to produce parking lot decals for the Formula 1 Grand Prix car races that included variable information such as dates, lot zone and a unique barcode linking each decal back to a central database. The information was printed onto a label affixed to a four-color, perforated sheet.

The Valmeyer, IL, company is also the printer for an ongoing targeted promotional customer loyalty program that lets customers redeem coupons they receive in the mail by visiting a Web site for product information. This lets the marketer monitor response rates. Recent production runs of this type have exceeded 3 million coupons monthly.

By automating a crucial production process, MAR Graphics lets its direct marketing clients get mail pieces in customers' hands sooner.

"If it's a timely campaign around a holiday, the sooner the client can get in front of that end user, the more likely they are going to have an effect," Mr. Roever said.

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