Large format color reprographics transforms Newfax
The Newfax yellow pages display ad says the company caters to rush work. And true to form, the day of our interview owner Albert Gossman asked if we could push our appointment back an hour – a client’s old piece of equipment had broken down and Gossman wanted to deliver a replacement.
Newfax operates out of a three-story red brick building in the Old West End where Gossman’s father founded the company in the mid-sixties. Trade magazines displayed on a rack opposite the reception desk reveal the firm’s scope: Digital Graphics, American Printer, Modern Reprographics, Graphic Arts, Signs of the Times, and Sign Business.
The Newfax array of services – digital imaging and large format printing, reprographics services, and traditional offset printing is in fact broader than what most reprographics facilities offer. “They’re getting more involved all the time, but I think we were a little ahead of the curve,” said Gossman.
Newfax also sells much of the media and equipment they use things like copiers, scanners, plotters, inkjet supplies, and computer task furniture. If a product doesn’t work for them, they won’t sell it to their customers. “That gives us, I think, a little more credibility,” said Gossman.
Thirty-five years ago, Newfax’s core business was engineering supplies and reproduction. Then in the early nineties largeformat color came on the scene. As Gossman tells it, the reprographics houses were some of the first to really capture that new market because the technology employed the same tools that their traditional architecture and engineering clients used: large sheets and digital files. “What large-format color did was allow us to introduce our services into a new market, which was the graphics community,” he said.
As Newfax reached out into the graphics community for clients, the company drew a distinct line between what they do and what the design firms do. “We do not want to compete with the very people that we want to embrace as our customers,” said Gossman. “And so we’ve been very cautious over the years to develop relationships with designers, with graphics houses, so that they’re comfortable [bringing] their work to us, knowing that they’re not going to be in the market competing against us the next day.”
Today, writes editor Karen Lowery Hall in the September 2002 issue of Modern Reprographics, more than half the output of the reprographics industry is in full color. “Today’s reprographers can take a full color digital image and wrap it around a bus or a building,” she continues. “They can turn it into a poster or a wall mural. They print on fabric, vinyl, plywood, ceramics. Plus, they still produce highly detailed drawings for architects and engineers.”
In the old way of making a blueprint, explained Greg Scheuerman, an equity partner in Newfax, you took the original drawing from the engineer or architect, put it on a coated, li ght-sensitive sheet of paper, and ran it through a machine – to get one copy. Then you took a second sheet and ran it through the machine for a second copy. Today, you scan the drawing to capture an electronic image. Then software takes that image and prints as many hard copies as you need. The resulting “blueprint” hasn’t been blue for years.
In the past, architects went to the blueprinter and ordered a large volume of materials that they would then distribute for bid purposes. But today something called an electronic plan room has shifted the distribution back to the blueprinter or reprographer. The electronic plan room – software for managing print-ready documents – allows Newfax to host files so that bidders can review indexes and thumbnails of projects online and then place orders for prints. “So instead of the contractor talking to the architect and asking for a certain number of sets,” explained Scheuerman, “the architect says, ‘Just go to Newfax.’ ”
Gossman summed it up: “It allows us to be in the printing business and them to be in the architecture business.”
The electronic plan room has allowed Newfax to broaden its geographic customer base as well. Many businesses that do work in Toledo aren’t based here – the architects involved in the Maumee multiplex, for example. “They did a lot of transfer of their documents to us that we would then print and the contractors would come and pick up,” said Gossman.
Many of Newfax’s traditional reprographics customers have done business with the firm for decades. And the firm’s customer base is s very broad. “We do work with most of the major contractors around town,” said Gossman. “We did an awful lot of the blueprinting for the development at the museum here last year,” he continued. And, added Scheuerman, “We do a lot of schools.”
The person they actually deal with can be anyone from a secretary at an insurance agency to the head engineer in a large engineering operation to the designers in a graphics company. “Our large format can be used for everything from point-of-purchase displays to trade show exhibits to seminar materials,” explained Gossman.
Before they founded Newfax, Gossman’s father and his original partner managed the engineering supply department of Newell B. Newton. The department was the local distributor for a company called Charles Bruning, which made drafting equipment, blueprint machines, and media. But when Bruning was bought out in the early 60s by Addressograph Multigraph, explained Gossman, AM terminated all dealer arrangements. “So my father and a gentleman named Robert Faulkner went to their boss and said, ‘We need to find a whole new line to represent. Could we buy this department from you and start Newfax?’ ”
Newfax has been at its current location “forever,” said Gossman. “Both Greg and I have kind of grown up here.” Scheuerman’s father was Gossman’s partner prior to the younger Scheuerman’s becoming an equity partner. And his father worked with Gossman’s father all the way back to Newell B. Newton. So the company is really into a third generation of management. “My father’s original partner passed away in the late seventies and then Greg’s father and myself acquired the company from my father in the early eighties,” he said.
The Newfax name actually has nothing to do with “fax” as in facsimile machine. Gossman explained, “The name of the company comes from Newell B. Newton: the ‘New’ stood for the ‘New’ of Newell B. Newton and ‘fax’ was ‘facsimile thereof.’ That’s the story as told by my father.”
Asked what technology-driven changes he sees for his business in the next two to five years, Gossman replied, “Web, web, web, web, web. Our business is really an industry that is suited very much to the Internet.” That includes transfer of electronic files, e-commerce for the supply items they sell, and education. As Newfax gets more involved in the storage and organization of electronic files, its basic business is transcending the physical piece of paper. “Our business in the past,” said Gossman, “had to do with the reproduction of large format documents and today has as much or more to do with the distribution of electronic information.”
Copyright Telex Communications, Inc. Nov 01, 2002
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