Sunday, July 23, 2000

Pressed for time


Printer upgrades technology to improve quality, speed

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

        If Rich Bethart were a chef, he'd be serving haute cuisine on a fast-food timetable. And he'd cater to single diners as readily as to banquet parties.

[photo] Bethart marketing manager John Boyd with (from left), owner Rich Bethart and Stan Anderson of sales/marketing
(Dick Swaim photo)
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        As owner of Bethart Printing Services, Mr. Bethart's goal is to offer high-quality commercial printing with quick turnaround. And, thanks to his new computer-to-printer press, customers don't have to buy many copies of documents to ensure printing economy.

        Bethart Printing Services is pressing forward to be a leader in an industry characterized by rapid change. Scarcely more than a decade ago, preparing to print a high-quality document required many hours of prepress time. During the 1990s, computers have eliminated or streamlined much of that work, and Mr. Bethart has invested in the newest technology.

        In May, the company purchased a Heidelberg Quickmaster Direct Imaging press. It takes information directly from computer sources, eliminating film, photographic plates and all the chemistry that was necessary for traditional lithographic printing.

        Not only does the Quickmaster cut preparation time, it can produce 10,000 full-color images in an hour, said Gary Wolf, Bethart's sales and marketing manager.

        “It's geared to runs of 10,000 and less,“ explained Mr. Wolf. “If you need 500 sales fliers in 48 hours, we can do it.“

        Bethart Printing Services has changed tremendously from the quick-print shop opened by his parents in 1974. Rick and Paula Bethart began their operation as a PIP franchise on Main Street in Hamilton, specializing in simple offset printing and photocopying. Their son worked alongside them when he was a teen-ager and became the manager of their new Middletown location when he was 20.

THE ROAD
1974: Rick and Paula Bethart open a PIP printing franchise in Hamilton.

1979: Their son, Rich, is made manager of a new Bethart operation at 3523 Roosevelt Blvd. in Middletown.

Late 1980s: Bethart converts to computer typesetting from traditional typesetting.

1988: Bethart Enterprises Inc. opens a new store at 6600-M Dixie Highway in Fairfield.

1992: The Betharts drop their PIP franchise and become Bethart Printing Services.

1994: The company buys its first computer-direct-to-plate printer, eliminating negatives.

1996: The company's first computer-connected color copier arrives, generating seven copies per minute.

1996: Rich Bethart buys his parents' share of the family business.

1998: A new color copier arrives, with a 31-copies-per-minute capability.

2000: Bethart updates its technology further with the Heidelberg Quickmaster DI and a Xerox Docutech, a high-speed black-and-white digital copier.

Late 2000: Bethart's Middletown store will move to 4496 Marie Drive, and a fifth Bethart operation will open in Hamilton's Renaissance Center.

        “I learned everything from my mom and dad,“ said Mr. Bethart, who now shuttles among four stores in Butler County.

        One important lesson was to remain poised for future developments in printing. In 1992, the Betharts dropped their PIP affiliation partly because they believed the corporate organization wasn't leading the way into computer technology.

        So the company became Bethart Printing Services, and soon afterward purchased a press that transferred computer images directly onto plates, making negatives unnecessary. The next piece of state-of-the-art equipment acquired by Bethart was a color copying machine connected to computer.

        Said Mr. Wolf: “Rich has the ability to see what's going to happen in three to four years and buy the equipment necessary to get there.”

        The other lesson Rich Bethart learned from his parents was to always stay on the same page as his customers.

        “I'm very fortunate to have a great staff who have accepted the fact that our company is a service company,” he said.

        Printers come and go with great regularity in today's market. Mr. Wolf believes that Bethart has thrived because it stays abreast of new technology but never loses sight of quality, cost and deadlines, which are the customer's main concerns.

        And that's why Mr. Bethart and his staff are eager to talk about their new Heidelberg and its black-and-white counterpart, a high speed Xerox network copier.

        Mr. Bethart explained how the new equipment changes the way people order printing: “Customers don't have to place large orders to get price breaks. Basically we're into "print on demand.' People used to have to order tons of an item. Something would change, like their area code or personnel list, and they'd be stuck with the excess on the shelf. We cut their inventory and spoilage costs.”

        As an example, Bethart has started printing high school football programs. Instead of having to order thousands of these publications before the season's start, the schools can order the number they need each week, based on prior attendance figures. Each week's game information can be included in that week's run.

        “The short run, full-color market is a nice market to be in,” said Mr. Wolf. “We also have oversize capabilities. We can print anything from one poster or sign to 20,000. We're now trying to carve out our unique niche, not just in Butler County but in Hamilton and Clermont counties.”

        “They are one of the best printers we've ever used,” said Todd Channer, graphic design manager in the Cincinnati office of Parsons Brinkerhoff, an engineering firm that's supervising the reconstruction of Fort Washington Way. “We started using them when our other printer started doing just high-volume jobs.”

        Mr. Channer praised Bethart's quantity flexibility as well as the quality of the company's work and ability to complete jobs quickly.

        “Rich goes out of his way to see that you as a client get what you need in a timely manner,” he said, recalling one job that was due in Parsons Brinkerhoff's Louisville office on Christmas Eve. “He worked through the night and drove it to Louisville himself.”

        “The bottom line is we use technology to enhance our services, and our people are committed to offering great service,” Mr. Bethart said.

       



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