This Southern California provider of print and marketing services has found a powerful combination of cost efficiency and sustainable benefits in Kodak's award-winning alternative to conventional platemaking.
Westamerica Communications has prospered by adapting, evolving, and improving. If there's a print or marketing service that will enable it to serve its customers better, Westamerica will acquire the capability. If embracing new processes and technologies is the means to that end, Westamerica won't hesitate to make the investment.
A case in point is the Lake Forest, CA, company's step up from conventional platemaking with the help of KODAK SONORA Process Free Plates. In use there for only about a year, SONORA Plates now support 70% of Westamerica's offset lithographic production. The goal is to transition almost all offset work to SONORA – an outcome that the company believes will pay dividends in more ways than one.
This is because printing with SONORA Plates allows Westamerica to be perceived by its customers as both environmentally responsible and cost-conscious, according to Mark DeBellis, Corporate Vice President, Marketing and Business Development.
“Customers want both – they want sustainability, and they want value," he explains. "The beauty about this solution is that with process-free plates, we actually do see cost savings. It really allows us to deliver two things which aren't always together: a sustainability win, and a pricing or value win." It's a combination, he notes, that often doesn't come with other sustainability solutions for the pressroom because of the costs they add.
"This is where Kodak really differentiates itself, and that's going to play well in our marketplace," DeBellis says. "We'll get to a solution faster with this than we would otherwise."
SONORA plate technology – recognized in 2021 with a Pinnacle InterTech Award for innovation – replaces conventional platemaking with a solution that enables the laser-imaged plate to become fully print-ready once it is mounted on press. This eliminates the need for wet plate processors and the large quantities of chemistry, water, and energy that the devices consume.
With their fast imaging speeds, high resolutions, long-run durability, and compatibility with UV inks, SONORA Plates are suitable for most offset print environments. All of these advantages quickly became apparent to Westamerica Communications.
"Because it bypasses traditional processing, there is no water involved, so there is a tangible water savings, which is huge in California, where we have been in a severe drought situation," says Doug Grant, President and CEO. "Anything we can do to save water is good – that's a major benefit."
"Certainly there is electricity savings," he adds, "because it doesn't go through a separate processor. It literally develops on the press itself once it's hung."
As for SONORA’s print quality, Grant thinks the everyday results speak for themselves. “The plate performs equally well to a traditional plate in every respect, for at least 70% of our jobs,” he declares. “It performs down to the minute details. It holds the image well, it develops well on press. It’s like a no-brainer for us to use on the press. There are no limitations on it.”
Streamlined plate production with SONORA has even delivered a welcome gain in terms of staffing efficiency. “We frequently run a lot of overtime,” Grant explains. “Some of that overtime is on weekends. In the past, we would always have to have a prepress person on site during the press run in order to be there to help remake a plate if needed. Or sometimes, we would literally make multiple sets of plates on the off chance that we had a plate go bad over the course of the weekend run.”
But now, Grant continues, in the unlikely event of a plate remake, the simplicity of SONORA means that “all we need to do is to give the press operator a key code, and he can reimage his own plate with no prepress person needing to be there. That’s a huge contingency benefit for us.”
Optimizing whatever can be optimized has taken Westamerica Communications from its origins as a family-owned quick print shop to its present status as one of Southern California’s most multi-capable providers of print and marketing services. 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 truly looked like.”
Since then, says DeBellis, the former president of PSB, “we’ve really been able to cross-pollinate the teams, so that we’re leveraging the best of both organizations for each unique client need.” The combined company offers commercial lithographic and digital printing, custom packaging, direct mail and online marketing, strategy and branding, and distribution and fulfillment. Westamerica also has expanded into wide- and grand-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 a TRENSDSETTER Thermal Platesetter; a NEXPRESS SX3300 Digital Press featuring 14" x 26" sheet size and fifth color station; the INSITE Prepress Portal; and the PRINERGY Production Workflow to tie it all together.
“We’ve found that they’re really at the forefront of changes in technology as it relates to what we implement here,” says Grant of the ongoing relationship with Kodak. “Their service and response time has been great in our market. They’re very interested in making sure that we’re a satisfied client and that their product meets our requirements.”
“We enjoy the single-source mindset,” DeBellis adds. “We respect that, and we believe that they respect us. There’s just that wonderful synergy and mutual commitment.”
Westamerica is counting on Kodak’s support as it prepares to evangelize the benefits of SONORA Process Free Plates. “As a responsible manufacturer that wants to compete within a very aggressive marketplace, we know that we’re going to be a more efficient and more responsible provider by using them,” DeBellis says. “And, there are those cost benefits as well.”
“It’s just a win-win to use the Kodak solution,” DeBellis concludes. “I do see this as something that’s going to become part of the conversation with our client community and our marketplace. We’re going to tell this story to our customers.”