This Southern California printing and marketing services provider has found a powerful combination of cost-effectiveness and sustainable benefits in Kodak’s award-winning alternative to traditional plate making.
Westamerica Communications has thrived through adaptation, evolution, and improvement. If there was a print or marketing service that would enable it to better serve its customers, Westamerica would have that capability. If adopting new processes and technologies is the means to this end, Westamerica will not hesitate to make the investment.
One example is Lake Forest, CA, the company’s move away from traditional panel manufacturing with the help of Kodak SONORA Process Free Plates. In use there for about a year, SONORA plates now support 70% of Westamerica’s offset lithography production. The goal is to move nearly all of the compensation work to SONORA — an outcome the company believes will pay off in more ways than one.
This is because printing with SONORA panels allows Westamerica customers to view them as environmentally responsible and cost-conscious, according to Mark Debelis, the company’s vice president of marketing and business development.
“Customers want both – they want sustainability and they want value,” he explains. “The beauty of this solution is that with process-free panels, we really see cost savings. It really allows us to deliver two things that are not always together: a sustainability win, and a price or value gain.” He points out that it’s a combination that doesn’t often come with other sustainability solutions for the press room because of the costs they add.
“This is where Kodak really sets itself apart, and it will do well in our market,” says Debelis. “We will come to a solution with this faster than we would have.”
SONORA plate technology – recognized in 2021 with a Pinnacle InterTech Innovation Award – is replacing the traditional plate industry with a solution that enables laser-imaged board to be completely print-ready as soon as it is installed on the press. This eliminates the need for wet plate treatments and the large amounts of chemistry, water, and energy that the devices consume.
With fast imaging speeds, high resolution, long-term durability, and compatibility with UV inks, SONORA plates are suitable for most offset printing environments. All of these advantages quickly became apparent to Westamerica Communications.
“Because it goes beyond conventional treatment, there’s no water, so there’s tangible water savings, and it’s huge in California, where we’ve been in a very drought state,” says Doug Grant, president and CEO. “Anything we can do to save water is a good thing – and that’s a huge benefit.”
He adds: “There are certainly savings in electricity, because it does not pass through a separate processor. It literally develops in the printing press itself as soon as it is hung.”
As for SONORA’s print quality, Grant believes the everyday results speak for themselves. “The plate performs on par with the traditional dish in all respects, at least 70% of our jobs,” he stated. “It works down to the smallest detail. It holds the image well, and it develops well when pressed. It’s like a no-brainer for us to use it in the press. There are no restrictions on that.”
Streamlined panel production with SONORA has made a welcome gain in terms of staffing efficiency. “We often manage a lot of overtime,” Grant explains. “Some of that extra time is on the weekends. In the past, we always had to have someone prepress on site while the press was running so we would be there to help remake a painting if needed. Or sometimes, we’d make sets. Literally multiple plates if we had a bad plate over the course of the weekend.”
But now, Grant continues, in the unlikely event of a painting remake, SONORA’s simplicity means that “all we need to do is give the press worker a key token, and he can repaint his painting without anyone having to prepress to be there.” A huge emergency benefit to us.”
Optimizing everything that could be improved has moved Westamerica Communications from its origins as a family-owned express print shop to its current position as one of the most versatile print and marketing service providers in Southern California. In 2014, Westamerica completed a 50/50 ownership merger with PSB Integrated Marketing, an agency that Grant describes as “the poster child for what a marketing solutions company really looks like.”
Since then, says DeBellis, former head of PSB, “we’ve really been able to cross-pollify the teams, so we can leverage the best of both organizations to meet each unique client’s needs.” The combined company offers commercial and digital lithography, custom packaging, direct mail, online marketing, strategy, branding, distribution and fulfillment. Westamerica has also expanded into wide and large format printing, which it sees as a particularly strong growth opportunity.
Kodak has been one of Westamerica’s primary technology partners for 14 years, according to Grant. In addition to SONORA, Kodak-branded products on the equipment list include the Trendsetter Thermal Plate Selector; NEXPRESS SX3300 digital press featuring a 14″ x 26″ sheet size and a fifth color station; InSite Prepress portal; and a PRINERGY production workflow to tie it all together.
“We have found that they are really at the forefront of changes in technology as it relates to what we apply here,” Grant says of the ongoing relationship with Kodak. “Their service and response time have been outstanding in our market. They are very interested in making sure we are a satisfied customer and that their product meets our requirements.”
“We have a single source mentality,” adds Debelis. We respect that, and we think they respect us. There’s just this wonderful synergy and mutual commitment.”
Westamerica counts on Kodak support and is preparing to roll out the benefits of free SONORA Process boards. “As a responsible manufacturer that wants to compete in a very aggressive market, we know we will be a more efficient and more responsible provider by using them,” DeBellis says. “And there are these cost benefits, too.”
“Using the Kodak solution is a win-win,” Debeles concludes. “I see this as something that will become part of the conversation with our customer community and our market. We will tell this story to our customers.”
The previous press release was provided by a non-affiliated company print impressions. The opinions expressed within do not directly reflect the ideas or opinions of print impressions.