Magazine Article


Burrell Colour Imaging is Back
Putting the "U" in Digital Colour and Rebuilding Bigger Than Before

(l. to r.) Don Burrell, Cindy Agans, Jim Letko, and Judy Georges
Elizabeth Cunningham

Don Burrell is rebuilding Burrell Colour in the digital age.
Elizabeth Cunningham

Production Manager Diana Anderson working on an Agfa d-lab2.
Elizabeth Cunningham

Much of the lab work is still being done by hand; however new equipment is being brought in to bring the labs up to today’s digital standards.
Elizabeth Cunningham

The art of retouching by hand.
Elizabeth Cunningham

Cliff Reed holding up a finished print.
Elizabeth Cunningham

Hand retouching is still done with an expert's eye.
Elizabeth Cunningham

When asked about one of the biggest changes he sees, Don says, "Customers today want their jobs in 24 hours. It's amazing, the turn-around time, yet everybody wants the quality with it." Burrell laughs when he talks about change, yet some old products remain. "People still want a photo in their wallet; how we make it is secondary." Although they can make digital photo murals with their ZBE Chromira, they are one of the first to get the new Epson 62-inch-wide inkjet printer. No one can say that murals remain as important as on-demand printing.

Before Burrell can solve his new equipment needs, the 65,000-square-foot plant requires extensive renovation. The new Burrell look includes trendy wood flooring throughout. Fortunately, he was able to get back the real estate that covers nine acres.

While in the throes of remodeling and ordering new equipment, the marketing department is going full steam ahead. Postcards are being mailed, and the sales staff is busy contacting former customers. "We've got to let everybody know we're back," he says.

One department that is melding the old with the new is finishing and mounting. "This department is growing," explains Don, "because we are offering so many new products." Cliff Reed, who runs the department, has his hands full. Print wraps are a former staple product that look just like they're framed. The old McDonald process of stripping the emulsion off a Kodak Metallic print, putting it through a heat press for a custom finish, then spraying with a clear water-based coating is a high-demand product. But soon Reed will be dealing with an array of new products like photo books, album assembly with their new Unibind bookmaking PhotoStory Binding Center, and a Wizard International CMC and CutArt System.

Agans and Reed said it's important to note that Burrell Colour is the only remaining lab stripping the emulsion off of prints. In addition, they remain heavily into airbrushing, texturizing, and spray coating.

Don Burrell always believed in education-keeping his clients abreast of what the lab produces is an extension of his vast marketing program. The renovation includes an Education Center that will seat 75. Since Don acquired his first corporate Cessna jet in 1990, he has flown in big clients for seminars. Today more than ever, he understands the need for holding one- to two-day seminars covering new products, production methods, web access, and acquainting customers with all the tools Burrell Colour can offer to grow their clients' businesses and make them more profitable in the digital age.

But when it comes to explaining the digital drive software, Burrell defers to Agans or Marc Struble, director of systems and technology. Kodak's DP2 drives all their printers, and will also include the NexPress. "DP2 talks to our own ROES custom software," says Agans. "ROES is the front-end and billing part. It grabs the order off DP2 and sets up the bill." This includes all the production elements, PostScript time, printing, finishing, etc.-ROES simply spits out the bill at the end of production.
Struble stayed through the Kodak and Jasco years and is happy to be reunited with Burrell. His current focus is integrating the NexPress into the workflow. "We are automating the workflow as fast as we can." The new Burrell requires a lot of electronic processing power. Fortunately, Struble was able to reuse some of the electronics from the closed facilities. Dell is their primary server equipment; a T3 line handles the incoming/outgoing files, and the lab is fiber-optic-wired throughout. He comments that incoming files from photographers are getting bigger due to the increase in photographers' shooting raw.

The BIG Burrell Plan

PTN asked Don Burrell what his business plan is. It appears he's still figuring this out. At the time of this interview, Burrell and his company family are only three months into reorganizing the lab and melding traditional photographic services with new digital production.

"We'll do anything that has to do with photography to stay competitive in the photographic industry," he says. "Our goal is to help that photographer get out of bed and take the photos, and we'll do everything else, even bill it for them. Our big advantage is we have a team of people who have been with me for many years and can develop a process. Digital imaging is just another market to develop. We are survivors, and survival makes new opportunities."

You can read Burrell's mission statement-it tells us that his people are the most important part of the business, and he has always tried to give back to the community a part of what the photo lab industry has given him. The St. Jude facility for abused women and the Burrell Cancer Center are only two of his philanthropic endeavors.
Don Burrell believes in the photo imaging industry and he plans to be in the mainstream, active in all the associations and attending the important conventions and tradeshows: "Next year we'll be at 26 state and national conventions."

Why is Don back? This has been a question asked by many of his old industry friends, for which he has a great answer: "One of the things people in the photo industry should know is, if Don is willing to do this, there must be something viable in the photo lab industry. I know there are a lot of opportunities, plus this is the one thing I love most, or I wouldn't have done it.

"I'm back chasing rabbits," he adds, but just like the hunting dog who doesn't know what to do with the rabbit if he catches it, he has no intentions of ever catching the rabbit. "I love the industry and will continue chasing rabbits far into the digital age."