The graphics house prides itself as being the first in Eastern Canada to enter the direct digital market in 1993. Since then, it has removed all traditional darkrooms and eliminated optical printing.
Since ’93, digital has shown continuous growth and presented a learning curve that this progressive lab has managed to stay ahead of. Digital has evolved so much that (continued from page 32)its staff are “not even thinking in terms of negatives and slides, only in terms of files,” says Bernard Nadler, VP.
When Photoshop became a stronghold in the industry, adds president Samuel Yampolsky, Champion sent 11 of their technicians, all with photographic backgrounds, to school to learn digital imaging and file manipulation techniques. They’ve been riding the crest of that curve since then.
Champion was a small commercial lab at the time it was established in 1975, providing custom lab services to large corporate clients, ad agencies and some photographers, details Nadler. Over the years they were able to maintain their existing customer base. With the addition of the new output devices, they gained the capacity to provide value-added services to their present customer base and also go after new business, he notes: “Adding the Lambda helped on both ends.”
In conjunction with technological innovation, the lab has found its niche in offering a complete package of services. With the exception of conceptual work, the 35-employee lab produces a full spectrum of output and product installation, even if they need to partner with local installers to get the job done.
“We offer a complete package,” says Yampolsky. “We can better serve our clients’ needs and at the same time maintain an element of control. Rather than have them looking around for added services such as printing, we do the looking for them and keep the business in-house.”
To keep that business in-house, the 20,000-square-foot custom lab remains open 24/7, 365 days a year. “We have never missed a deadline,” says Nadler. Once they even rented a warehouse for six months to produce a huge job for Victoria’s Secret. “We can claim to have consumed the world supply of black-and-white Agfa paper for that job,” says Nadler, which incorporated splashy 3-D images produced on the Lambda with lenticular lenses that consisted of “three-flips” or poses to attract attention in shopping centers. The job consisted of 3 x 5–foot posters for three launches in 900 stores for a total of 8,100 units.
Champion is also keeping busy meeting deadlines for large national and international clients the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, L’Oréal Canada, Bombardier Aerospace and General Dynamics. The lab produces a wide variety of images for these clients—from Duratrans backlit work and floor and outdoor graphics for L’Oréal to POP retail displays for Tommy Hilfiger and trade show graphics for Bombardier and General Dynamics.
For each new retail outlet opening for Tommy Hilfiger, Champion supplied a complete imaging package, which included kiosks, all photographic display images in frames, banners for windows and magnetic walls with installation included. Since it prints directly onto textiles, the new Rho printer also made it easy to produce graphics for a tent and flags for a charity golf tournament sponsored by the fashion designer.
Throughout the imaging business, competition is tightening. Labs need to stretch and grow if they are to stay viable. “In the next year or two, we will see some fallout,” predicts Kauls.
These two labs, however, appear to be thriving. Keeping up with technological innovation pays off, they say, and technology is getting better and faster all the time. When asked for the ingredients of their success, Champion’s Yampolsky responds. “We must maintain a high-quality level in production, deliver on time—and we must always be at the forefront of technology.”
“[Technology’s] really changed the marketplace,” echoes Graphic Systems’ top exec. “For us it’s been a very good thing.” With its “bowling alley” filled with innovative output devices, Kauls is already looking for more space.
- Flatbed printers: 2 Durst Rho 160+ flatbed digital screen presses, Durst Rho 160+ w/flatbed digital screen press
- Wide-format printers: Durst Lambda direct digital photographic imagers
- Processors: 3 Colex processors
- Cutters: 2 Durst XY cutters, Zund digital die cutter
- Laminators: 2 Seal 60-inch thermal laminators, Seal 80-inch mounting press
- Scanner: Fujifilm C-500 Lanovia scanner
- Color management software: Monaco Color Management
- Software: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Quark