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Can A Company Be A "Classless Society?"

Whenever I write a story for Printer's Ink that is sort of philosophical, it generates all sorts of comments. Readers appear to appreciate the stories that relate directly to book manufacturing but it's the occasional stories about the "soft stuff" that really gets the response.

So, since it has been a couple issues since we wrote any of that, (after the last philosophical story I vowed I'd not do another but it's about time to break that vow) here's our next, and final, attempt to describe how we function at T-S.

Since we began in 1972 we have tried to make T-S represent the best combined thinking of all of its employees. As far as we know, we've never had any single person who was blessed with so much talent and ability that he or she could handle all of (or any of, for that matter) the company decision making by themselves.

So, we decided our best strategy was to get everyone involved and try to succeed through the sheer weight of input from lots of people... usually as many as cared to offer an opinion.

In order to get this kind of involvement, we set about to work on creating something that approaches a "classless society." While this takes a considerable intangible effort by all our employees there are some tangible things we do to reinforce it. Here are some of those things.

At T-S, no one has a special parking place, no one is addressed as "Mr. or Mrs.," no men dress up...I don't think I've ever seen a T-S male wear a tie to work and certainly never a jacket or suit (except as a gag). The women, for reasons I'm not privy to, occasionally do dress up a bit but then after a day of wearing a skirt, it's right back to blue jeans. There are not special lunch hours for anyone. Everyone who has a lunch hour has 1/2 hour and people either eat at their work station or together in the lunch room. There is some segregation in the lunch room because the women prefer not to talk about Big Ten football or basketball. Additionally, we have had a profit sharing program at T-S since the year we were employee committee sets the guidelines as well as determines the formula...and all of our full time employees are given stock in the company.

Our approach to decision making is also as egalitarian as we can make it. Any problem worth its salt that comes up is attacked by a committee. We've just about got everybody at T-S convinced that two heads are better than one.

When a person receives their annual "performance appraisal" it contains input from most of the people they work with. Actually, for years I've personally thought we should not even do performance appraisals because it relies too much on one person judging another and this, I believe, goes somewhat against out philosophy but so far the other employees don't agree with me...and I've never been able to come up with an argument that will sway them.

That, more or less, briefly describes our attempt at a "classless society." We have no great charismatic, all knowing leader. To make up for this shortcoming, we use the whole team.

In case you're interested in the results of our efforts, here is my unbiased opinion.

Overall, the results are good. I believe we have the best motivated and best contributing work force in this business. When people visit us, they invariably comment that the people look happy, they talk with each other (and with the visitor) and they seem to be enjoying what they are doing.

That, in my opinion, is reason enough to call the whole thing a huge success. However, there is additional evidence that we're doing something right.

Thomson-Shore is growing faster than our industry is growing and we are considerably more profitable than the typical company in our business...and we're doing this without having outside sales people. Customers tend to seek us out and that has to be because of our reputation...which reflects directly back on our people and our culture.

However, I believe we have done little more than scratch the surface. I think we should be two or three times more profitable than our competitors.

Our management style should, we believe, produce the most productive, motivated and efficient work force known to man. This style is unique in our industry and I think we should be miles ahead of our competition.

You probably should sort out some bias in my views on this but I do think we're on the verge of great things. Lord knows we're a long way from you can verify when you read the story on page one of this Printer's Ink...but we think we've got the right formula for maximizing business success. The game plan is good, we just have to learn to execute it a little better. We're working on that.

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Paper Prices

We're back in the silly season on paper pricing.

Glatfelter, who makes our natural text stock, announced a 5% increase in their entire paper line in September then canceled the increase at the end of October.

Champion, who makes our Joy white, announced a 6% increase in September, a 2nd increase in October as well as a reduction in the discount they give for roll paper vs. sheets. This was actually three increases in 2 months however one of those 3 has now been eliminated.

The paper people we talk with say there's a chance Glatfelter will try again to raise their natural paper and there's also a chance white will have to rescind some of the increases they still have in effect.

At any rate, as I am writing this, natural is back where it was 2 months ago...and where it has been for most of the year. It is currently about 11% higher priced than white...though that could change soon.

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Thomson-Shore continues to get about 500 hits a day on our Internet site...and we're also getting more comments about it. The September issue of Management Portfolio, a newsletter of Printing Industries of America (a trade organization that we do not belong to) said, "Perhaps it was creativity born of the endless Michigan winters, but the Thomson-Shore web site nicely avoids the endless lists of equipment printers see the need to produce for their customers. By clicking on a full-color map, you get the cook's tour at your own pace. My click on Electronic Prepress brought me to a page with direct links to 1) a schedule of their customer training seminars; 2) EP guidelines; 3) EP related hotlinks; 4) OPI information; 5) helping programs; 6) four separate links to photos, bios and helpful info on the EP staff. You can see for yourself at"

A second publication (this one is actually a web site called "Books A to Z" that claims to "provide all the information you want to know about the publishing industry") had this to say about Thomson-Shore and our web site, "T-S is a small, friendly, innovative printer of books with the best digital production facilities in America."

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Here is a text paper (not pricing, however) update. All T-S floor sheets are acid free and they are also all free of elemental chlorine...or ECF. Our natural floor sheet, Glatfelter Supple Opaque, is also recycled. The material composition of Supple Opaque is 60% total recovered fiber with 10% being consumer waste. The PPI's and opacity of this sheet are 50lb is 420 ppi with 93% opacity, 55lb is 392 ppi with 95.5% opacity, and 60lb is 358 ppi with 94% opacity. We stock this sheet for 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 6 x 9, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, 7 x 10, and 8 1/2 x 11. However, we don't have 55lb for 7 x 10 and 8 1/2 x 11.

Our white text stock we call Joy White and it is made by Champion. We stock this in 50 and 60 pound for all the above trim sizes. It is acid free but is not recycled. The ppi and opacity are 50 lb, 520 ppi, 90% opacity and 60 lb, 440 ppi with 92% opacity.

We also stock Glatfelter's Thor white for 6 x 9 in 50 and 60 lb and for 8 1/2 x 11 in 60 lb. This ppi is 500 and 420 with an opacity of 92% and 90%. This sheet is acid free as well as recycled.

The Supple Opaque and Joy white are stocked for sheet fed as well as in rolls for the Variquik for 6 x 9" and 6 1/8 x 9 1/4" sizes.

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The following items are in response to suggestions for articles that came from customers when they returned our Customer Satisfaction Survey.

1) Film Laminating: All the film we use on covers, whether gloss or matte, is layflat. On jackets we do not use layflat because the static electricity it generates causes a problem for our jacketing machine and the layflat characteristic is not as important for jackets. Layflat gloss and layflat matte film are now approximately the same price. One disadvantage to layflat matte film is that it is soft and can scratch fairly easily.

  1. The approximate comparative prices of various book binding methods (these prices are deliberately skewed a bit to protect our privacy) for a 6 x 9, 256 page book are as follows:
1000 2000
A. Perfect Bound $630 $890
B. Case Bound in a Jacket $2090 $3480
C. Smyth Sewn Soft Bound $950 $1430
D. Plastic Bound $1170 $1970

If the books are bound on their short dimension the prices would be:

1000 2000
A. Perfect Bound $1340 $1750
B. Case Bound in a Jacket $3254 $5030
C. Smyth Sewn Soft Bound $2120 $3010
D. Plastic Bound $1880 $2830

If there is no dust jacket the case bound prices would come down about $.10 a copy.

3) We can make small quantities of from 1 to 50 of slip cases, for "presentation copies" of a case bound book. Unstamped they will run about $25.00 each. Stamping with the die we'd use for the book's spine will add $15.00 each.

4) The person who writes Printer's Ink is Ned Thomson, he's 65 (but just barely), prematurely gray and he's the T-S president.

5) For the guy who asked for a story on the 1994 Colorado-Michigan (and the infamous "Hail Mary" pass). I would like to comment that this year Colorado's Hail Mary pass was incomplete and the best team ended up winning. Now if we could just figure out how to beat Northwestern...

6) Our quality control "system" does not utilize inspectors as such. We give each person the responsibility of determining that what they are doing represents a product quality level that they would be happy to pay for if they were the customer. It is our experience that this produces a uniquely high overall quality level.

7) As far as ways to avoid common problems when creating text, cover and jacket files, there is a bold faced box on the back of our EP Data Sheets (one for text and one for covers and jackets) that lists potential trouble spots and things to do and not to do. If you'd like to see these sheets they are on our web site or we can fax them to you.

8) All of our EP guidelines are available to anyone via fax, mail, or downloading from our web site. They contain all the news that's fit to print about electronic prepress. A complete list of the subjects covered in these sheets is shown separately in this issue in a box.

9) Our EP preflight software is basically Flightcheck for application files and Download Mechanic for PostScript files.

10) The removable media drives we now support are all 3 1/2" floppy disks (we discourage using 5 1/4" floppies as preflight software will not handle them but we do have a work-around if that is all you can provide), all SyQuest drives, all Magneto Optical drives up through 1.3 Gb, Iomega Zip drives and Iomega Jaz drives. The Zip drive is the most popular of all these drives and the Jaz drive is new.

11) PostScript conversion takes longer for us to do as the number of files increases. Since we do not charge for PostScript conversion, we encourage your sending in as small a number of files as possible. Some conversion jobs take up to 3 or 4 hours of EP time and that's a lot for us to absorb.

12) For correction to EP jobs at the blues stage, we charge $60.00 per hour. Most corrections only require a few minutes and if it takes us 5 minutes, you would be billed just $5.00. If we give you an estimate of correction time on a job and it takes less time than we estimated, you will be charged the lower amount. If it takes more time than we estimated you will be charged just for the time we estimated and not the additional time.

13) Our FTP server can be used to send us page corrections and small stuff but not for entire books. The file space available there and the transfer speed just aren't practical...yet...for large transmissions. Also, since you need to send laser proofs with your file (and can't do this over phone lines yet), you may as well send the file with the proofs via Fed Ex or some such service.

To send something to an FTP server you need Internet access and some additional software that is actually available free, via the Internet. If you are interested in using FTP, ask us for our FTP guidelines and we'll mail or fax them to you or you can access them by visiting our web site.

This does not cover all your suggestions but several more are addressed elsewhere in this Printer's Ink and some others will be covered in later issues. Please keep the suggestions coming. They really stimulate my imagination and I'm sure they improve the quality of the stuff we write about.

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Most short run book printers stock text paper, board, cover and jacket stock, end sheet stock, etc. for 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 6 x 9, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, 7 x 10, and 8 1/2 x 11" trim sizes. For variations of those sizes like 5 x 8 or 8 x 10, we would usually just trim off some additional paper from the next larger standard size, so there is not a real big production problem in achieving most non-standard sizes. However, in case bound books, producing non-standard sizes is complicated by not having the proper size binder board and that can't be accommodated in the final 3 knife trimming. So, for case bound books, we stock several special sizes of binder's board to accommodate the following "non-standard" sizes: 5 x 7, 5 x 8, 5 1/4 x 8, 5 1/2 x 8, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4, 5 1/2 x 9, 6 x 9 1/4, 8 x 10, and 9 x 12.

If you select one of those 9 non-standard trim sizes for a case bound book, we can still produce it fairly effectively. If you have a trim size other than one of those, it would cause us to either order special board or cut an existing board down and that's not as simple as cutting paper.

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PreQualified Typesetter List Update

When you send T-S a job with the text copy in an electronic file format instead of as camera copy, you may be eligible for a discount of $.30 per page off our quoted price for the job. To get the discount your file must 1) be imposable by us (most all Mac generated files are) and be error free or 2) have been prepared by a typesetter who is on our list of PreQualified Typesetters.

We have already checked out these "prequalified" typesetters and they have demonstrated to our satisfaction that they can produce good files. If something does come into question on one of their files they will help us work out the solution without having to get the publisher involved. And if you use one of them you automatically get the $.30 per page discount.

This list of typesetters that we have "prequalified" is as follows:

Robert Eckert
Agnew's Electonic Manuscript Processing Service
2215 Oak Industrial Dr., N.E., Suite 15
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
Phone: 616-458-4499 Fax: 616-458-3432
Kay Ballard
Alabama Book Composition
4400 Hogan Rd.
Deatsville, AL 36022
Phone: 334-569-1586 Fax: 334-569-1587
Sharon Denk
Beljan, Ltd.
2870 Baker Road
Dexter, MI 48130-1114
Phone: 734-426-2415 Fax: 734-426-5886
John Dertien
1000 Three Mile N.W., Suite C
Grand Rapids, MI 49544-1650
Phone: 616-784-7843 Fax: 616- 784-7806
Marc Bailey
Books International, Inc.
5555 Oakbrook Parkway, Suite 340
Norcross, GA 30093
Phone: 770-242-6223 Fax: 770-242-6209
Robert D. Bartleson
Composing Room of Michigan
2303 Kalamazoo Ave. S.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Phone: 616-452-2171 Fax: 616-243-3126
Tom Lewis
Crane Typesetting Service, Inc
4288 Jotoma Lane
Charlotte Harbor, FL 33980
Phone: 800-214-0023 Fax: 941-627-6684
Bill Grosskopf
G & S Typesetters, Inc.
410 Baylor
Austin, TX 78703-5312
Phone: 512-478-5341 Fax: 512-476-4756
Dwight Agner
Graphic Composition, Inc.
240 Hawthorne Ave.
Athens, GA 30606
Phone: 706-546-8688 Fax: 706-543-9655
Joyce Jackson
Impressions Book & Journal Services
2016 Winnebago, PO Box 3304
Madison, WI 53704
Phone: 608-244-6218 Fax: 608-244-7050
Jeffery L. Jarrett
Jarrett Engineering
603 S. County Road, 450 E.
Sullivan, IN 47882
Phone: 812-268-3338 Fax: 812-268-3380
John O'Rourke
Loyola Book Composition
723 Camino Plaza #207
San Bruno, CA 94066
Phone: 415-871-2855
Vivian Bradbury
Sans Serif, Inc.
2378 East Stadium
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Phone: 734-971-1050 Fax: 734-971-7534
Paul Zomberg
Shoreline Graphics
30 Linden Street
Rockland, ME 04841-3639
Phone: 207-596-0064 Fax: 207-596-0064

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T-S Shoots Itself in the Foot With an Overload of

Work, Capacity Problems and Missed Schedules

The best laid plans of mice and men sometimes can suffer in their execution. That saying seems to appropriately describe the situation T-S found itself in this Fall. By the time you are reading this our crisis will be behind us and the fruits of our efforts, that were definitely sour from late July through October, should have us turning out work faster than ever...but we sure went through a painful 12 week lesson.

Here is a description of what we tried to do, what actually happened and where the situation stands at the moment.

Thomson-Shore has traditionally had something of a busy season in the Fall of the year. During July through mid-October our incoming work typically runs above normal and this tends to coincide with the period when our people like to take vacations...creating a capacity bind in the late Summer and Fall.

About 18 months ago we embarked on a program that had the goal of accomplishing two things... 1) increase our capacity as well as our manufacturing efficiency so we could stay ahead of things all year long and 2) put T-S in a position of leadership in the coming technological switch from books that are produced from camera ready copy to books that are produced from electronic files.

To accomplish these two goals we planned a two year, $10,000,000.00 expansion plan that included, 1) a 75,000 square foot building addition, 2) an all new Variquik press that is designed to combine web printing and folding with sheet-fed quality and very fast plate ideal combination for short run book printing; 3) A full format Imagesetter that would efficiently and accurately take the customer's file and reproduce a full 16 page, perfectly imposed negative that is ready for proofing or platemaking. This would be combined with some additional hardware and software plus a lot of employee training to put us in the forefront of this technology. 4) A state-of-the-art plate scanner that creates a digital file from the art for both covers and jackets. This device provides the link between the customer's file, the negative, the plate, and the printing press working in conjunction with a scanning spectrophotometer, it determines ink densities, sets the fountains on the press and does other things that I hardly understand but it leads to near perfect registration and absolutely consistent color printing.

5) Two new state-of-the-art 4 color Heidelberg presses that are designed to work with the equipment we described in 4 above.

6) A newly designed Kolbus casemaker that would greatly speed up our ability to make the cases for case bound books and lower their cost as well.

That was the plan and it all got carried out. Every piece of equipment was in place as planned and on time. It was sometime after the installations of this equipment that the problems, that have since been addressed, reared their heads. Here's what happened and what the current situation is.

The Variquik press came in March but it was August before it began producing. In the meantime work that we had been scheduling to go on it had to be taken off the press, relayed and moved back to the Heidelberg perfectors. When this combined with four months of all time record incoming orders created an unprecedented backlog of work in the pressroom occurred.

As I write this, the Variquik is now running, the backlog is dropping fast and the plans that were to increase the speed of work through our pressroom should be working. However, our press operators suffered through many weeks with no days off and our customers suffered through long delivery schedules and missed dates because of this delay in getting the new press running.

Our full format Imagesetter came in March and was up and running in about a month. This did everything it was expected to do but when our number of incoming jobs went up dramatically in the summer, and the percentage of electronic vs. camera ready jobs jumped from about 25% to close to 60%, we could not handle that large an increase. Our preflight area, the "Server" which stores all electronic files before sending them to the Imagesetter and the Imagesetter itself, all fell far behind.

To overcome this setback we added a third experienced preflight operator, added a RAID unit to our server (increasing its capacity from 16 Gigabytes to 96 Gigabytes) and we put in a second Imagesetter. These things were done in August and early September.

After about one month of "installation" time, these are now all operating and steadily reducing the backlog in those areas. The preflight backlog is down to less than 1 day vs. 10 days at its peak, the Server backlog has been completely eliminated and the Imagesetter backlog has been more than cut in half.

Our casemaking operation was the third area where we had capacity problem. We saw this coming a while ago and in January we ordered a new high speed Casemaker that sets up quicker than our present one and runs 50% faster.

This did not seem to be an urgent need at the time we ordered it but the increased workload combined with an increase in the percentage of orders that were for casebound books vs. softbound books, ended up making it urgent.

The new Casemaker was installed in early November and it is now producing and, as you read this, the backlog is gone.

That is our story...good plans that didn't come through as proposed...or at least not in the scheduled time we had expected. Instead of helping immediately, we temporarily made each of those areas more of a problem.

We goofed and both our customers and our employees suffered. We're recovering now and should come out of this series of events scarred but humbler and, hopefully, smarter. Time will tell but I can guarantee we are all...320 of us...pledged to not let something like this happen again. If you were one of the ones who suffered because of our problems, we all offer our sincerest apologies. What happened was the last thing we intended to have happen.

Out of all this we finally have the added capacity we set out to get long last...we'll be able to reap some of the benefits we we're planning on.

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EP Guidelines and Technical Documents

Thomson-Shore has developed a host of user guidelines for producing copy on electronic files. These guidelines are available to you on our Web site, via Fax, or regular mail. A brief description of each of them is given here and if you want to see the whole thing, let us know.

Electronic Prepress Data Sheet v 7.0: Main EP Data form that conveys all the information we need to know about our customer's electronic book job. Required to be submitted with every EP job.

Electronic Data Sheet for Cover & Jacket v 1.0: Data form that covers all the necessary information for submitting electronic cover and jacket files. It is required for all electronic cover and jacket files.

Standards for Submitting Clean and Trouble Free Electronic Text Files: Technical document which outlines our requirements for submitting trouble free electronic files in order to qualify for a discount on your job.

EP Guidelines for Application Files: Guidelines to follow for submitting files in native application format on Macintosh platform. Applications supported include QuarkXpress, PageMaker, FrameMaker, FreeHand, Illustrator, & PhotoShop.

EP Guidelines for PostScript Files: Guidelines to folllow for submitting PostScript files from any application or platform. We also have additional guidelines for printing PostScript files from the following application files for Windows 3.x: PageMaker, QuarkXpress, Corel Ventura 4.2 & 5.0, Word 6.0, and WordPerfect 6.0. Windows '95 support is yet to come.

Guidelines for OPI: If you're interested in our OPI process (we provide you with lo-res files after we do the scanning and we "swap out" with the hi-res files when you submit your electronic book job), request these guidelines. Soon to be updated with new features.

Telecommunications Guideline: These guidelines describe out telecommunication accessibility through both the Internet and connectin to our BBS via modem.

Guidelines for Connecting to our FTP Server: Two sets of guidelines are available for connecting to our FTP server, one for the Macintosh platform and one for the Windows platform.

Removable Media: A listing of the different removable media cartridges that are accepted here at T-S's EP Department.

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Printer's Ink is a quarterly newsletter written by Ned Thomson, president of Thomson-Shore, Inc. A hardcopy version is sent out to approximately 20,000 addresses, world-wide. If you are interested in being added to our mailing list please contact us one of the following ways:

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