Bowen Griffitt: I'm Bowen Griffith. I'm the lead estimator and office manager here at post press specialties. I've been with the company for 22 years. We are finishing graphics, finishing company in Kansas city, Missouri. We specialize in finishing other people's projects. We are strictly a finisher. We don't do any printing. We have many embellishment options. We offer traditional foil stamping, foil embossing, embossing, as well as lamination on top of our digital embellishing capabilities with the MGI.
Kevin Abergel: That's I think that's very important because that kind of is the heart of the story is really when digital embellishment first came out, we saw the pricing was kind of like the wild west, right? Do you charge for a die than you would for a digital embellishment if there's no more die. And so at first people were charging outrageous amounts and now that digital embellishment has kind of gone more and more mainstream, We're starting to see a little niche that was being carved out where people understand the difference now more between digital and analog. And that's kind of what we wanted to talk about with you today is really about if you've seen that definition of a new market pricing and the difference between the two.
Bowen Griffitt: Okay. There is definitely a delineation in the market between digital and traditional embellishments. The digital embellishments, when we started this a few years ago with our original jet varnish 3d machine with I foil, we had one of the first five in the country.. And again, being just strictly a graphic finisher
Bowen Griffitt: we're taking in work from commercial printers. We, work with about 200 companies across the country. About 55 companies make up the core piece of our, our business. But we do small jobs for over 200 printers. What we have found when we first got into it, we being early adopters to the digital foil market. It was a challenge to be quite honest with you, finding foils that were compatible with, the digital UV option and et cetera. And what the other challenge we've really found is trying to get, the printers who are our clients to embrace the digital embellishment wave. People have a mindset that it it's like traditional embellishments, like traditional UV or traditional foil, where, where you're pricing by an image area or a block, which you are, but they have trouble understanding the concept that it's so consumption driven, digital embellishment is consumption driven.
Bowen Griffitt: So the importance of having a file before we estimate it. With traditional flat foil stamping it's, you know, that's a copper die that you're figuring the cost by square inch and, and the foil by square inch. But with digital embellishment, that's not necessarily the case. It's based on more on the varnish consumption.
Bowen Griffitt: That's also gonna drive your speed. Your micron height, things like that, that with traditional embellishments, it's not quite as. How do I wanna say it's not quite as coverage driven.
Kevin Abergel: It's not variable... it's not as variable.
Bowen Griffitt: Right. And getting, and getting the, our clients, the printing companies to buy into that and understand that has been a little bit of a challenge.
Simon Eccles: That was well part of what I was gonna ask, which was about the the digital artwork side. And, you know, are you using that as part of the estimating process? Particularly as a trade finisher you are then having to get what the printer customers are getting from their customers, presumably, or is it that those printers who know what they're talking about are actually adding the embellishment to the files? Rather than hoping that customers designers know what to do and how to do it?
Bowen Griffitt: There is a percentage. The, we have, we have some clients that have bought in more than others. Clients that have bought into the digital embellishment people that have embraced it, are more astute to what we need for accurate estimating.
Bowen Griffitt: We still have a fair amount of clients that just say, okay, we need a digital UV with a 30% coverage. Well, if you understand digital embellishment actually less is more, when you actually highlight areas and use less UV coverage, you get more of a contrast. So you're actually getting a better looking product a lot of times, without putting down that large block of UV, for example. Kevin, I'm sure you understand this problem better than anyone else I've been.
Kevin Abergel: I've been preaching this for years and not only does it allow you to go faster and in some cases, and obviously lower your cost per page, but it gives you a better product. So teaching the designers that exact line of where less is more is I think one of the key things that, that have led to the success and, and the adoption. So yeah, teaching designers, that exact thing is, so important.
Bowen Griffitt: And that been one of our greatest challenges. I mean, because people have a mindset of traditional embellishments where they're screen printing UV and it it's just a block and they think, okay, they wanna put down a block of UV and make this big contrast in the middle of the page.
Bowen Griffitt: Well, the way MGI is driven. Obviously being a digital ink jet style setup. I mean, you're not gonna get be efficient in applying a big block. Yeah. I mean, you're gonna have a big consumption of materials. You're, you're better just touching small areas for sure.
Kevin Abergel: Oh, for sure. And is there a big difference in in your rate of adoption for digital versus analog? How is that, how is that conversation go? Like walk me through like a typical process for you.
Bowen Griffitt: Typically obviously clients reach out to us with a project. They already have in mind what they want to do. Some of the folks that have embraced it, have an idea that they want to use a digital process.
Bowen Griffitt: Others, it's at our discretion. Occasionally, we will look at our equipment and look at the project and decide if it's a better fit on our digital machine versus our traditional foil stampers. And then try to steer the client in one direction or another. What we found is typically it's a little tough to, to paint with a really broad brush being a commercial finisher. Because we're bringing in work from up to 200 clients, people aren't using the same equipment. So we have some challenges when we go across our digital machine with surfaces and different substrates, et cetera.
Bowen Griffitt: And trying to explain that to, to some clients is a little bit tough. You know, I think that some people will read an article and they'll say, okay, I want to use digital UV, which is great. And they'll send us a bid request, but the stock will be an uncoated cover, for example. Which doesn't really lend itself to a digital application. So then we have to backtrack with them and explain to 'em the surface is so important. You know, we need a coated sheet. We prefer a coated sheet to be aqueous coated after it's printed. Or film laminated. One or the other. Explaining to people that uncoated doesn't work when they're wanting to do an embellishment on their business cards is tough because , business cards is something that traditionally has been uncoated cover forever. So, you know, convincing them to go to a dull coated cover where we can work with digital embellishments at a lower cost and they get more value is a little bit tricky sometimes.
Kevin Abergel: It's important that you're telling me that there's a request for digital specific, right. And people are specifically asking you, in some cases I want a digital UV or digital foil. Are you seeing an increase in that kind of behavior where more and more people are asking for digital specifically? Or is it just pretty stable in terms of the request that you're getting in.
Bowen Griffitt: The request for digital have increased. I mean with the MGI machines on the market and the Scodix machines, people are really embracing the digital technology. What I would consider the early adopters, people that have embraced it early are really looking for the value that are added by being able to do variable foil. Variable foil is a game changer. Being able to do personalization with a foil stamp is, how else can I say upside the game changing?
Kevin Abergel: Oh, but the question is not how you say it is. How do you charge for a product that doesn't exist until just very recently, how do you charge for variable data embossed foil?
Bowen Griffitt: To be quite honest, we really don't charge anymore for, I mean, a little more for file set up, but we don't charge anymore for that. We are not realizing what we, we could. I think that we're treating it pretty much the same way we would treat a static digital foil job.
Bowen Griffitt: You know, it's about consumption. It's about run speed, et cetera. Whereas like you said, with traditional foil stamping, you would have to buy multiple dies. You would have all that set up. It it's impossible to run.
Simon Eccles: What are the typically using variable for, I mean, I can imagine with business cards, it can be the names, but, but is there anything much else you're seeing coming across?
Bowen Griffitt: Direct mail pieces. The ability to give somebody a personalized postcard with digital foil, with their name foiled on it is something that we've seen.
Kevin Abergel: Yeah, we're seeing that. Also we're seeing cards, like American express will send out these paper cards as a promo say, Hey, you know, apply for American express and they'll raise the name, and the numbers with digitally embellished foil.
Kevin Abergel: So it's personalized that way. And they're making They're charging a fortune for those. But I think a lot of that comes down to your customers, which are the printers, right? They're the ones who are kind of dictating what the pricing really goes out for.
Bowen Griffitt: Yeah absolutely. And again, that's one of the challenges we have because we're not calling directly on designers.
Bowen Griffitt: We're being a trade shop. We're working with printers. our responsibility is to sell our capability to the sales people at the printing companies, who then take it to the Advertising agencies into individual clients.
Kevin Abergel: That's called push marketing. You gotta push it to your client. Hope your client pushes it to his client. And then that's what we're doing. We're going directly over everybody's head and going to the brands directly and kind of trying to educate them on, on how to use this kind of stuff. So yeah, I get, I get your challenges.
Simon Eccles: Just sort of extending that thought about working with the printers salespeople to reach out to the customers is that message getting through or are customers starting to say, oh yeah, we understand you can do digital embellishment and, we understand the cost implications. Either you can do variable data or you can do very short runs, which is the other great costing benefit of digital and you're not paying, you know, many dollars up front for a die that you're only gonna use for 50 copies or something like that and hopefully come back next year. So that must surely also be another costing benefit, but also building that into the estimates. But are, are, are the designers, are the printers aware of that or is that something you keep having to explain to them?
Bowen Griffitt: They are becoming more aware. we are definitely seeing a growth in that, in that market.
Bowen Griffitt: It's been slow to get people to come around to it, but they are more open to it and have adopted it. We're getting more and more requests for it, for sure. Part of the challenges on us and then part of that challenge is on our clients.
Bowen Griffitt: So we have to market ourselves as a company and marketing to people and getting them to change is a challenge, obviously. People are definitely adopting it and are excited about the opportunities that it provides. The shorter make readys, the less upfront cost without buying the die tooling.
Bowen Griffitt: it's nice to be able product back to the machine and, and have a 15 minute make ready instead of a multi-hour make ready with dies. So people are absolutely adopting it and they're excited about the possibilities that it brings.
Simon Eccles: Just do clarify what you are offering. You've got traditional hot foil stamping and embossing, . And then you've got a jet varnish. Is that correct?
Bowen Griffitt: Yes, sir.
Kevin Abergel: You just got a second one, right?
Bowen Griffitt: Yes. We have the, the new Evo model that we just installed earlier this year. Our digital embellishments are strictly done on our MGI machine.
Simon Eccles: And how do you estimate it? Does the embellishment just go through as a normal estimate, and what package you're using? Are you using what used to be EFI or something like that, or do you have your own MIS system , or how do you do it?
Bowen Griffitt: We have a custom MIS system we're actually using a custom file maker pro system. When we're lucky enough to get an actual file from clients for digital Embellishments, we use the consumption calculator that comes with the MGI.
Bowen Griffitt: So there is a, there's a consumption and run speed calculator. When you import the file that will tell you how many impressions an hour and what kind of a varnish consumption at what micron level. We still use that Kevin , and then plug the speed and consumption into our custom file maker setup to calculate the hourly rate.
Simon Eccles: Actually the question I was going to ask was assuming that you'd be printing as well. So maybe my questions irrelevant, but what I was going to ask is whether the margin, the profits on embellishment would be higher than straight printing.
Simon Eccles: But I guess that's a irrelevant question to you cause you're not doing the printing.
Bowen Griffitt: Yeah, unfortunately, that really doesn't fit us. But yeah.
Kevin Abergel: Well actually, what about you don't have to say specifically, but the margins between your digital embellishment jobs and your traditional embellishment jobs, if you look at it that way and instead the print is there a big difference between the two?
Bowen Griffitt: We are more profitable on the digital embellishment side. When we find the right project.
Kevin Abergel: Makes a hundred percent sense. .
Bowen Griffitt: You know, we can be very profitable on our traditional embellishment side as well, but when people prepare for digital embellishment, we can be very, very profitable. And the key is we've got to get that out there to people where they're preparing things in a digital fashion where they're building the four color file with the UV mask and where they're using, the less is more, keep it simple concept so that you can actually run faster and you're using less consumable. I mean, that's where you really shine. We're very profitable in situations like that.
Kevin Abergel: We've talked a couple of other estimators. They're saying a lot of the money that they make comes from the setup charge. So they'll charge like $150 to $200 for a setup charge. And that's already where a lot of it has been built in where printers are used to paying that for a screen getting made.
Bowen Griffitt: We are charging a setup charge, but we don't charge a straight setup charge like that. Okay. Basically we, we have our budgeted hourly rate for the machine based on the cost and the amount that we figured we would use it when, when we installed the machine. And then, and then we figure, how long is it gonna take us to get the machine ready? Typically on a simple job when we have correct files it's 15 to 20 minutes. So it's under a hundred dollars for a setup charge, but then there's times when we have to adjust files and , it can get up into the $150 to $200 setup range.
Simon Eccles: There's always the question of if the file comes in and it doesn't work do you charge the customer for fixing it or do you just kinda take it on the chin and they come back to you next time
Bowen Griffitt: Typically we try to work with them on the front end as much as we can to get the file correct, because it saves us so much time on the back with the new MGI, we have , the scanner technology. And Kevin, you know what a benefit that is. I mean you're actually in position within two to three sheets ,it's so fast. You know, you have to have the full four color file, as well as the UV mask on its own, where we spent the first four years of digital embellishment training people to build a mask on its own with camera marks at the lead edge of the sheet.
Bowen Griffitt: So we're going through a reeducation process because , we've told people for four years, we want files this way and over the last eight months, we've totally changed how we want the files.
Kevin Abergel: Yeah. I'm sure your operators loving , that side.
Bowen Griffitt: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Kevin Abergel: What percentage of the work coming in for the jet varnish is printed on a digital press compared to offset.
Bowen Griffitt: I would say it's probably probably 60/40.
Kevin Abergel: 60 digital 40 offset ?
Bowen Griffitt: Yes, sir. And you know that's really the biggest challenge because the different surfaces that you get with a digitally printed sheet. Sometimes we get into situations where we're having to film laminate it, which actually drives the cost up.
Bowen Griffitt: And you would be better off to go to a traditional embellishment. Let's say we have 500 thank you cards. Sometimes by the time we run the, run it over and laminate it to get the surface right. And then go back to the MGI. You would almost be better off buying , a $45 flat stamping dye and shoving on a Kluge and being done with it.
Bowen Griffitt: So it is tricky. There's a lot less of that with the new machine than with the original machine. It seems to work on a lot more surfaces. It seems to be compatible with a lot more surfaces than the original, the new varnish formulation is better.
Kevin Abergel: So you have a combination of that corona treater that equalizes the dyne levels. But obviously the varnish is much more flexible in terms of what it can it can get good quality adherence to than in the past. So, yeah. Big, big changes. you guys were OG, man. I remember you guys had one of those first machines where you had to move the whole thing over to the left and down and...
Bowen Griffitt: It's been wonderful for us. We've we've really embraced it. Our customers are embracing it. We we've actually had people come to us strictly for digital embellishing that can't do it in their own shop.
Bowen Griffitt: I pick at Andy humble, the owner we have a little bit of a field of dream strategy in our sales approach. If you build it, they will come. And being an early adopter of digital embellishment has definitely increased our footprint with our clients.
Simon Eccles: Extending that thought about the split between digital and traditional well, I guess it's mostly litho coming in or offset. One of the benefits that I think Kevin sort of hinted out of, the jet varnish is that it registers every sheet.
Simon Eccles: So, and digital printing, notoriously wanders on the sheet. . If you get a digital color job coming in. Does that more or less mean you'll always use the jet varnish because using a traditional, the print underneath is gonna wander around. So you might not hit it every time with the registration,
Bowen Griffitt: it is definitely a higher quality product. When we were able to run it through the MGI with the scanner system, you definitely get better registration and a quicker registration with the scanner system, usually within two to three sheets you're ready to go.
Bowen Griffitt: And then it skews the varnish in registration with the print. So it is a lot higher quality piece. You're able to trap a lot tighter than with a digital printed piece than a traditionally embellished piece.
Simon Eccles: Last question, cause I it was really an estimating question. We, we touched on the costing differences between traditional and digital, but you've also got, different fixed costs. I mean you've got more setup you've got more labor costs with traditional. But there, again the capital costs of the jet varnish is gonna be very much more. I dunno, what're using for your, for stamping, but they're all basically modified letterpress machines or, or patterns of something. I mean, they're very mechanical. They're not the hugely sophisticated digital machines. And a lot of them are converted letterpress machines that are 50 years old or something like that.
Simon Eccles: So you got, you got different fixed costs and I guess different labor costs. So is that doing a lot to your estimating when you're working there?
Bowen Griffitt: It does, and you're absolutely correct. You know, the original capital outlay for the MGI , is substantially higher than a Kluge which we also have in and in play.
Bowen Griffitt: You know, the operator hourly rate for the Kluge is a little bit cheaper just to be quite Frank with you, but the benefit, the fast make ready set , the saving on tooling definitely favors the MGI in smaller to medium size runs. The trick is when you get into larger runs, because it is consumption driven because of the cost of the varnish material sometimes the traditional letter press is going to win out.
Bowen Griffitt: When, when you get to, and I can't actually give you a fixed quantity because , it varies based on consumption. Kevin understands this probably better than anybody else. It is so much in play the amount of the amount of coverage and consumption that we're using the varnish material and it drives the speed of the press, where as a Kluge, if you're running an eight and a half by 11 letterhead, it's gonna consistently run 1200 to 1500 impressions an hour.
Bowen Griffitt: With the MGI, it's gonna vary depending on coverage, and then on top of that, the consumable of the varnish material.
Kevin Abergel: So if you had to give like a ballpark between your break even, and I know it's variable, is it like a thousand sheets, 5,000 sheets, 10,000 sheets?
Bowen Griffitt: A lot of times it's between 2,000 and 5,000 sheets. It's in that range. That's the sweet spot. Now it can go a little higher depending on format because we have the, the large format MGI now. So we're able to do a 29 by 41 inch sheet where With our traditional embellishment equipment we're able to foil stamp automated up to 23 by 29 inch sheet. And then over, over 23 x 29, we have to hand feed. So the MGI dominates all day long on a 28 40 sheet on a large format sheet for us. But that that's not really our niche market. Just to be quite honest. I mean, there's companies out there with bobst BMA's that on large packaging products, when you're dealing with tens of thousands of sheets, that just doesn't lend to digital.
Kevin Abergel: Well, I think that's linked directly to the printing technology that's out there, and there's not a lot of digital presses that are printing that format yet, but once you start seeing some of those come out, maybe there might be a bigger market for short run, 29 by 40 sheets. But right now that's linked to the printing technology and that's something that we identified back when I was an MGI.
Kevin Abergel: Can I ask you just a crazy question?
Bowen Griffitt: Absolutely.
Kevin Abergel: Cause a lot of the people I've talked to who are doing traditional embellishments are finding an issue with the labor finding people. A lot of the people who are running foil stamping machines are retiring or getting older, and it is very difficult to find people to run those equipments, but they're finding it much easier to find operators for digitally based equipment, especially people who are more on the creative side.
Kevin Abergel: Can you tell us a little bit more about what you're seeing in that space?
Bowen Griffitt: You hit that on the head, Kevin. I mean, it's exactly that. As we get older more of the traditional embellishments, the foil stamping and embossing it's actually, I, I joke a lot of times that it's one of the last pieces of actual craft in our trade where people are building make readys and patching areas up.
Bowen Griffitt: And I think that , there's still a skillset to that. Whereas with the digital technology, it seems to be a lot fluent to the young people that are, are coming outta college in graphic design. And, you know, they've all worked with Photoshop and, in design and they understand how to create a file, you know a lot easier transition there to get somebody to be able to run that machine than trying to teach those people, the mechanical setup of how to build a make ready and how to run the mechanical machine. I think that there's, there's something to that. It really as we get older, the traditional foil stamping and embossing is definitely getting harder to find skilled. I mean, and we're finding that everywhere and it's, it's everything.
Bowen Griffitt: It's die cutting, it's folding it's book binding. All those things. It, again, the younger generation that's coming out of out of college has a lot less hands on. I think that there's a lot fewer VO tech programs that are teaching that.
Kevin Abergel: You nailed it. That's it. Vocational schools aren't being pushed. There's a big shortage in the industry right now for people to run this kind of stuff. And the people who know how to run it are charging a premium cuz they know this. So the leverage is with them, they have, a skillset that's difficult to find that they're not necessarily teaching on a regular basis. And what we're seeing is that they're kind of throwing. As a way to get paid a higher hourly rage than, than maybe in the past. So yeah, I know, I know what you're running into, man. It's not easy.
Bowen Griffitt: Yeah. And, and, and I'm sure everybody in the trade is, is going through the same challenges,
Kevin Abergel: even in the print industry, not just the trade, even your customers are running the same issue running equipment. So it's it's across the board.
Simon Eccles: I do have one last relevant question about estimating. It is just about the consumables cause with traditional embossing, you've got no consumable at all, apart from what your printers supplied you.
Simon Eccles: So your costs are purely the you know, the machine costs and the labor whereas. You know jet varnish or SCODIX , you always paying a consumable cost on top of the foil. You know, you've got the varnish obviously, but with your Klugy then, your only consumable is only ever going to be the roles of foil, I guess.
Simon Eccles: So is that factor at all, or does it all cancel out with the greater efficiencies of short run digital
Bowen Griffitt: That's actually the largest factor to be quite honest with you. I mean because it dictates everything. It dictates our speed , the amount of consumable we're applying dictates our speed and the cost of the varnish itself is, is relatively high.
Bowen Griffitt: So it, it makes a huge impact. The foil manufacturers have seemed to come around. But when we first installed our original MGI with Ifoil, colors of foil were very, very limited for digital options, Kurz and, infinity have really seemed to step up their game lately and brought more colors and more options, which has been great. We're not, we're not as limited by that. And the cost , is fairly in line for the foil. it's not substantially different for digital foil versus versus traditional hot foil. .
Kevin Abergel: I'm so sick of gold. I was so sick of gold and silver. I was like bring out all the cool stuff, like the cracked ice and the, semi transparent and the mats and the the oil slicks and the, the hot pinks
Bowen Griffitt: Unfortunately we're still not quite there. I hope that they push that a little more, but it's getting better.
Bowen Griffitt: I mean, you're getting a couple different holographic options as well as a couple different silver options. I think you're pretty much still stuck with two gold options.
Kevin Abergel: Listen, ma'am I gotta tell you I really enjoyed our conversation and I, I just wanna know. Number one, would you be open to doing like a like a podcast with us one day to shoot the shit about digital embellishment and stuff like that.
Bowen Griffitt: I would be open to that. You know, I'm a little bit of an introvert, to be quite honest with you. I'm an estimator. You know, I'm used to working behind a desk. So this has been a little bit of a reach for me, but I'm, I'm happy to do it. I hope I've given you guys some good information and a, unique insight.
Bowen Griffitt: I think a lot of the insight you guys are gonna get, because I think the majority of digital embellishment machines are inside printing companies. And I think that the people that the printers that have them installed have an advantage because they're able to narrow down substrates, they're working with their own designers that can adjust files in house, things like that.
Bowen Griffitt: So, They're able to train their salespeople more on how to approach the product with their client, with the end client, with the user and say, this is what's gonna be the best bang for your buck, where, where we're trying to relay that through a third party. It's a little tougher. .
Kevin Abergel: You have to adapt. They don't really have to adapt. They have barriers set up. They say, this is we're playing inside this zone and you're just like, you have no zone. You just have to be able to make do. I understand man.
Bowen Griffitt: Yeah, I'm definitely open to that. I appreciate the opportunity to do this with you gentlemen this morning. I, again, hope that I've given you something that's a value
Simon Eccles: Do you have a website?
Bowen Griffitt: Our website is www.post-press.com.
Simon Eccles: That's a good one. You must have got that one early. Right?
Kevin Abergel: And you, you should see their shop. If anybody could survive a nuclear attack in the United States, I believe it's these guys. Cuz you wanna tell 'em a little bit about where you guys are located?
Bowen Griffitt: We're actually, we're located in independence, Missouri, which is a suburb of Kansas city. We're pretty centrally located in the country. Our physical business is in a cave complex, so we are in an underground complex. We have about 170,000 square feet.
Bowen Griffitt: We started out as a binder, but we've evolved into a full service finisher. I mean we do traditional embellishments. Pocket folders. We do some converting. We do book binding again, multiple types of book binding, saddle stitching, perfect binding plastic, coil and wire.
Bowen Griffitt: As well as mailing, we're doing a substantial amount of mailing. We have seven ink jet printers. We've mailed over 30 million pieces this year already. Then we get into our packaging area. We currently have 1 57 inch die cutter, four 40 inch Die cutters.
Bowen Griffitt: We're adding a 57 inch Bobst master cut with blanker. We have packaging gluing capability for straight line auto bottoms, four corners, six corners. We're doing a substantial amount of packaging finishing as well, traditional bindery. I mean, so it's, it's been a, it's been a stretch for us.
Bowen Griffitt: We've grown into pretty large operation being in the center part of the country has been wonderful for us because , we're pretty much a two day point anywhere. We're conveniently located. When I first came to work for post press in 1999 we were pretty much a bindery for the Kansas city market.
Bowen Griffitt: At this point we do work for people all over the Midwest and we're actually starting to get a little further outside the Midwest. It's hard for us to get into the Chicago and Wisconsin markets, but we're actually starting to get into those markets as well.
Kevin Abergel: Well, I think that is our time. Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about Bowen?
Simon Eccles: Fine. Thank you very much. I've asked my questions and got more than I was expecting, so that's been very good, Bowen. So thank you.
Bowen Griffitt: Excellent. I appreciate it!