Plan & Print Systems
By Ed Avis
When the building market collapsed in 2008/09, Plan & Print Systems in Syracuse, New York saw its traditional plan and spec print business drop 75 percent. That kind of blow would have spelled the end for most businesses. But instead of folding up, Plan & Print, an IRgA Gold Level member, took a hard look at the reprographics industry and developed a three-step survival plan.
“In 2009 we realized we weren’t going to be able to stand still as a traditional technical printer,” says John Lipari, the company’s president and son of the founder, Frank Lipari, Sr. “So we did a number of things to move the company forward.”
Step 1: Equipment
The first thing the Lipari and his younger brother and co-owner Frank Lipari Jr. did was take action to expand the firm’s equipment sales business.
“We realized that the 75 percent of our printing work that we lost was still out there, it just was being printed on our customers’ floors. So we moved into equipment,” Lipari says.
Plan & Print’s service technicians were already authorized to service KIP equipment, but the Liparis expanded their market by having the technicians become authorized to service Canon and Hewlett-Packard inkjet printers, as well as Xerox workcenters. In addition to expanding their wide-format equipment sales possibilities, this opened the small-format market, too.
“The majority of our customers who were asking for wide-format would also ask for small-format, and we got tired of giving away that business,” Lipari says.
They sell equipment and establish FM services for their clients. “We do both transactional and contractual sales – each situation is unique,” Lipari explains. “Typically we do contractual sales when the customer prints over 5,000 square feet a month, and transactional when it’s under 5,000 square feet.”
Step 2: Scanning
The next new business Plan & Print entered was archival scanning. They visited institutions they knew had a large volume of drawings – such as universities, utilities, and developers – and offered to scan the drawings and return a digital copy.
“The projects range from 10,000 documents to over 100,000 documents,” Lipari explains. “For example, for the local water authority we converted over 55,000 documents to PDFs.”
The firm primarily uses large-format KIP scanners and table-top Fujitsu scanners for the scanning.
Companies only need this service one time, so there’s not much repeat business, but there are enough organizations that need the work done that Plan & Print’s scanners should be humming for years.
“We keep going from institution to institution marketing our services, so we’re still finding new clients,” Lipari says. “And we receive one or two calls a month from large institutions. It’s a budget item for them. It’s a 6- to 12-month sales process - if they call in February chances are it won’t happen until fall of this year or next year.”
Step 3: Large-Format Color
Rounding out the new services was the addition of more large-format color equipment, for both color graphics and color CAD work. The company had been involved in color since buying a CalComp electrostatic plotter in 1995 and large-format inkjets later, but they added a Canon 8-color, 60” wide aqueous inkjet printer and a toner-based KIP KC 80 printer.
For traditional AEC clients they produce color as-builts, marked-up drawings, and renderings. For graphics clients they produce floor graphics, window clings, banners, and other promotional materials. Much of this work is also mounted and laminated.
One innovative new color product they are experimenting with is a visual magnetic system. This involves painting a wall with iron ore paint, then attaching inkjet-printable magnetic panels. This allows the signage to be easily swapped out, and allows just parts of an image – say the price of an item – to be swapped without reprinting the entire image. “It’s like a refrigerator magnet,” Lipari says.
The firm hired large-format color expert David Goetter to train their sales staff and get that part of the business rolling. “David is very knowledgeable,” Lipari says.
Those three business lines greatly widened Plan & Print’s market, but they still have to get the word out. They turned to Facebook for that. One staff person is responsible for keeping their Facebook page up to date, and she posts a new item about one of their projects, people, or departments once a week.
“Someone recently found us during a search for KIP by finding one of our relevant Facebook posts,” Lipari says. “I would’ve never called on him. He saw a post about a KIP we had installed at another client’s location, and he said he needed one, too. He came down three days later and he’s issuing the purchase order next week – all based on the Facebook post.”
The Liparis realize their business will never be like it was when Frank Sr. founded the company in 1982, but they have a new path forward.
“Today the traditional printing has come back some, but not to pre-2009 volumes,” Lipari says. “But the new lines -- on-site equipment, small and large; institutional archiving projects; and technical and graphics color printing – have helped us survive and thrive.”