Ann Arbor Area BUSINESS MONTHLY magazine brings the reader the latest business news and information important to the businesspeople in Washtenaw County. Each month articles cover real estate, legal, Internet, employee concerns and the climate of business in the greater Ann Arbor area. There is news about company employees and feature articles on local businesses. We cover business news from Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, Milan, Saline, Whitmore Lake, and Ypsilanti.
A2-World Leader In
Short Run Book Printing
Showing off the new presses at Malloy Printing are (left to right): Tom Hill, Moustapha Diop, Bill Hagerman and Jim Greene. Standing behind is owner Bill Upton.
By Sarah Swanson
Inside an unassuming building on a side street in Saline, enormous spools of paper roll into waiting machines and come out with neatly printed text. Jim Clark, Director of Customer and Business Services for McNaughton & Gunn, Inc., enthusiastically explains the many facets of how a book is printed and assembled in this plant that produces 30 million dollars of revenue per year and over 6,000 titles annually.
Patient employees stand at their stations and monitor their specific responsibilities in this well-oiled process. Noise permeates the spacious plant as huge laser machines, printers, trimmers, and binders pump out thousands of printed pages which will soon be assembled into a variety of books.
The Ann Arbor area has long been known for being a leader in short-run book printing, and McNaughton & Gunn is just one of several strong players along with Edwards Brothers, Inc., Malloy, Inc., and Cushing Malloy, Inc., in Ann Arbor; Thomson-Shore, Inc. in Dexter; and Sheridan, Inc. in Chelsea among others.
McNaughton & Gunn is a printing and binding company specializing in short to medium run (250-50,000 copies) "perfect bound" or soft cover book printing. Seventy percent of the company's business falls into this category, says Clark.
Edwards Brothers of Ann Arbor does similar type runs, according to President and CEO John Edwards, who is the fourth generation in his family to work for this long-running company founded in 1893.
"Our average run is 25,000 copies. We're really good at changing from one book to the next," says Edwards. Edwards Brothers also concentrates on ultra-short runs of 1-500 copies. Edwards explains, "This is usually not printing one book about someone's life story. Maybe someone is doing seminars or public speaking. They sell out their books at seminars, and then have another carton printed up." Short run book printers typically do not handle bestsellers such as Harry Potter or Tom Clancy books which require printers that can handle large volumes of 100,000 or higher.
Publishers identify authors, create content, and edit the work, and then go to printing companies such as the ones in the Ann Arbor area since most publishing companies do not house their own printing facilities. Edwards says, "We take electronic files at spec, and we physically make the book. Then we ship it to the warehouse or wherever the publishers want it to go."
About 30,000 printers operate nationwide, according to Edwards. Some do labels, postcards, and a variety of other printing jobs; others print books. Edwards Brothers is a two-color printer. An example of their work might be a textbook with black ink and red highlighted words. McNaughton & Gunn specializes in black print, and both companies have the capacity to print full-color covers.
Ann Arbor's history in book printing is rich and intertwined. Clark says, "Edwards Brothers started it all." Indeed Edwards Brothers' presence in Ann Arbor began 114 years ago when University of Michigan Law School students and brothers Thomas and Daniel Edwards began copying and selling their lecture notes, thus marking the start of a new era in local printing. The business grew steadily through the years, even surviving the Great Depression, and leadership passed down through the family as older members stepped aside.
The company broke ground at its current State Street location in 1954. In the late 40's two Edwards Brothers' employees formed competitor Cushing Malloy, and in 1960 Jim Malloy and his brother-in-law went on to form Malloy Lithographing, Inc., now called Malloy, Inc.
Even McNaughton & Gunn has affiliations with Edwards Brothers. Clark is the third generation in his family to work in this field. He started his career at Malloy where his father was vice president. After receiving his masters degree, the younger Clark began working for McNaughton & Gunn as a quality control manager and has now been with the company for 21 years.
McNaughton & Gunn has been on the scene since 1975 when Bob McNaughton, Mark Gunn, Jack Briegel, and two others formed the company. Although Gunn left early on, McNaughton and Briegel continued to nurture the business along with Dorothy Hart until she was bought out in 1995. Briegel retired seven years ago, but McNaughton retains the titles of President and Chairman; his daughter, Julie McFarland, is now CEO.
Edwards says the growth of these offspring companies came to light when the demand exceeded the supply in the 1970s and 1980s.
"It's a lot more competitive now," he says. "But that's actually made us better." He says the company is more efficient with better printing capacity, and this is ultimately better for the customer. Today Edwards Brothers annual revenue is 80 million dollars.
Clark says Ann Arbor is still well-known nationally for its place in the world of printing. As for the competition, he says, "We're jokingly known as the Michigan Mafia. We all know each other so well. We're all good competitors. We have fun and enjoy each other's businesses."
He also says, "To a degree everyone in town has their own specialty." Thomson-Shore is known for appealing to university customers, and according to Clark, "They are the largest player in the university press in town."
Clark explains that McNaughton & Gunn and Edwards Brothers work frequently with trade publishers who produce books, both fiction and non-fiction, that consumers typically find in places like Barnes & Noble and Borders, and on Amazon.com. Malloy is the leader in the education field, Cushing Malloy does work with universities and trade, and Sheridan also does a lot of work with trade. Clark adds, "Everyone dabbles in other areas as well."
McNaughton & Gunn often works with the self publishing community, such as people who want to write a book, but do not want to use a publisher. McNaughton & Gunn has a sales team which specializes in walking these customers through the self publishing process. Clark says that McNaughton & Gunn has a liberal policy about the content they publish, choosing to not censure customers whenever possible.
"With digital technology being what it is you can jump in relatively inexpensively," says Clark, who believes that print on demand, or printing the number of copies as needed, is where the book business will continue to move in the future.
"The old way of thinking was 'I'll print the book, and they'll come.' Now it's 'show the book, and then I'll commit to printing it.' This has shortened the lead time for the printing companies as they have to get it out as soon as possible," says Clark. "We used to dictate the pace; now the publisher does."
Ann Arbor book printers service a myriad of customers throughout the nation. Edwards says they handle work with colleges and K-12 education; scientific, technical, and professional fields; and particularly trade, the books one often sees in bookstores. Less than ten percent of Edwards Brothers' business is from Michigan publishers. Edwards Brothers is headquartered in Ann Arbor where its largest plant is located; two other plants are based in North Carolina. The company has affiliations in other cities as well.
McNaughton & Gunn's customers tend to be on the West Coast, where a large number of publishers are located. Printers send the finished product to distributors such as Amazon and bookstores, who often have their warehouses in the Midwest. Therefore, says Clark, "Ann Arbor is still a viable entity because of our location." He notes his company does a fair amount of business in Michigan, which along with Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania are "surprisingly strong" in this arena. New York is considered to be the publishing capital of the world.
Meanwhile the printing business and its technology continue to evolve. Today work is taken in digitally rather than through paper manuscripts. Clark says to some extent this has turned more of the editing process to the printers.
In the past images were shot onto film which was laid out to be burned on to a plate. Today a physical, recyclable aluminum plate is burned with a laser to create the book's images. This newer method is less labor intensive which has taken a toll on the workforce. McNaughton & Gunn has tried to handle this attrition rate resulting from technological advancement by not filling vacant positions when people retire or move on.
Environmental awareness is another area that has emerged in today's book printing. Although printing presses in the past were known for their noxious odors and potentially polluting wastes, many printing businesses today keep environmental awareness in the forefront while conducting business. Recycling is a huge priority as is the responsibility of caring for the forests. Filters are used to trap hazardous waste so that printing plants minimize air pollution. In many cases, petroleum-based inks have been replaced by more earth friendly vegetable-based inks.
"We are committed to doing all we can to protect the environment," says Edwards. He says 94.5 percent of all raw materials the company receives either goes into the books and their distribution or is recycled; Edwards Brothers has set a goal of reaching 97 percent. Edwards Brothers recycles extensively by sorting printed and unprinted stock, coated and uncoated stock, plastics, aluminums, CDs, inks, printer cartridges, and other materials. They even remove the spines of recycled books to make the process more efficient.
"We have done this for over 20 years!" says Edwards.
Likewise, McNaughton & Gunn continuously fills semi-trucks with paper waste to be recycled. They have a large designated recycling area within their plant where anything that can be recycled is recycled.
Malloy claims to recycle over 98 percent of the materials they discard, thus massively reducing their contribution to the landfills. Malloy and McNaughton & Gunn are both recognized by the Michigan Great Printer Project for their commitment to the environment. Clark says, "We were the first printer in the Michigan to win the Michigan Great Printer Award." The company was awarded the original Michigan Great Printer distinction for pollution prevention activities from 1996-2007.
Both McNaughton & Gunn and Malloy note they are certified as Waste Knot Partners through Washtenaw County for their track record in recycling, using recycled products, and creating less waste.
Thomson-Shore and McNaughton & Gunn are part of the Green Press Initiative, which has a primary focus on utilizing recycled product.
Additionally, McNaughton & Gunn became the first printing company in Ann Arbor and one of the first in the country to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) through the Rainforest Alliance. This means paper can be tracked back to the exact tree from which it came, and anyone who handles the paper must be FSC certified. Customers can produce the FSC logo right on their paper as a stamp.
"This says we're taking care of the forest the right way," according to Clark. "There's been a big push on sustaining the forest. How do we make sure we are cutting down the right trees?"
Edwards says there are a number of environmental stewards and organizations geared toward printers, and Edwards Brothers relies on their paper suppliers to conform to good environmental standards. In fact, their main paper supplier, Xpedex, is certified through the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI), a program based on the idea that responsible environmental behavior such as sustainable forestry and sound business can successfully work together.
Clark says McNaughton & Gunn became environmentally conscientious starting with Jack Briegel 20 years ago. Clark says, "With every product that McNaughton & Gunn uses, we try to look at from an environmental standpoint. We look at every product to see if it can be recycled right down to the shrink wrap."
With all of the changes through the years, both McNaughton & Gunn and Edwards Brothers recognize that the strength in their employees' commitment helps keep their businesses thriving and successful.
"Our business runs because of our people," declares Clark. "They are the ones that each and every day run our business. We think that gives us an edge."
McNaughton & Gunn currently have 204 employees. Malloy employs approximately 350 people. Edwards Brothers, which employs over 750 employees, says an employee's average stay is over nine years, and 150 employees have been with the company for 20 years or longer.
"We try to create an environment where people come and stay. Everyone is an apprentice. People in important jobs started on the shipping floor and worked their way up," says Edwards. "We keep employees in the loop about how the business is doing and how it runs. That is a unique aspect of the company."
Both Clark and Edwards feel the book printing industry in the Ann Arbor area is alive and well. Edwards says of Ann Arbor, "We've been called the short run book manufacturing capital of the U.S."
"The thing we pride ourselves on at McNaughton & Gunn is we can service the customer, and we can do it better," explains Clark. He mentions that the company does not use automated phone services by design as just one example of wanting the customer to know they are important and one of their employees will talk with them directly rather than sending them to a recorded message.
Edwards says he's proud of the family run, financially sound company started by his relatives years ago.
"We're not going anywhere," he says. "This is what we do."