Printers who inspire, products that perform

Every so often in this hectic business you come across a story that genuinely touches you. Late last month, I attended an open house at Cober Evolving Solutions. As I left I said to myself, “Wow, there is indeed hope for this industry after all.” This was not a tour; it was more like an odyssey!

On April 24th, fourth-generation, family-owned Cober Evolving Solutions held an Open House and Tour at its headquarters in Kitchener, Ontario co-hosted by equipment partner HP. Founded in 1916, Cober has grown to become one of the most respected and versatile suppliers of print and web-based marketing in Canada, now employing over 170 people at four separate locations. The main production facility we toured occupied about 86,000 square feet.

The tour’s centrepiece was its new HP Indigo 10000 – the very first installation in Canada. The system means that Cober can now process short-run to mid-range work (including variable) at breakthrough speeds. This gives them a huge advantage when it comes to speed-to-market, with full-colour folders, for example, printed and ready to deliver in only twelve minutes. And while the 10000 is now a key part of its portfolio, for me its success goes well beyond just having a great OEM partner and purchasing the best equipment.

Vice President Todd Cober explained it this way: “The very first thing we do when we meet with potential clients is learn as much as we can about their core business. What are their goals and how can we help them achieve these goals? We must be more than just a commercial printer – we must add value to print, and thus add value to the partnership.” He went on to say that this includes services like targeted variable-print mailing, wide format options, special finishing options that differentiate, being meticulous about maintaining a client’s brand, on-site security, short-run digital solutions, impactful creative – even warehousing that includes a secure area for sensitive projects.

One specific moment that exemplified the success of this philosophy, was when I noticed a die-cut display hanging on the wall that said “Kitchener Rangers, Established 1963.” I recalled going to a Rangers-Marlies game when I was just fifteen years old and mentioned this to President Peter Cober. His response did not surprise me: “Yes, we still do all their printing.” This 50-year-plus relationship, then, is just a microcosm of how Cober operates.

Web-to-print leadCoberers
In addition to all this, one of the company’s best growth areas has been its seamless online ordering system. “One of our largest six-figure investments has been in our high-end, web-to-print portals that now account for about 80% of our short-run digital business,” said Peter Cober. “This is one of the most advanced and efficient online ordering systems on the market and has improved our speed to market and cost-effectiveness tremendously. Our clients love it.” Today, Cober has two other locations, one in Barrie, Ontario and another in the prestigious Kitchener Tannery high-tech complex in addition to its Kitchener headquarters. Not bad for a printer founded almost 100 years ago in a small grocery store!

Danny Ionescu, VP of Sales & Marketing for HP Graphic Arts, put an exclamation mark on the event as it concluded. He emphasized that amidst all the negativity in this industry, Cober was a prime example of how a company, using the latest technology, can partner with its clients not just as a printer, but as total marketing solutions provider. I think it also helps when you have an OEM who is also a partner and a trusted solutions provider. Danny

Oh, I forgot to mention its 170 employees – another big reason for Cober’s ongoing success. As I was leaving, I stopped to say hello to a smiling employee guiding a skid of paper. “How long have you been here?” I asked. “Errr, about 40 years,” he said almost casually. I later found out that this was not unusual. I guess time goes fast when you’re having fun!

Rest assured the HP Indigo 10000 will not be the final chapter in the Cober family saga. The company – like its name and like this industry – is still evolving. Stay tuned.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.