Cherish the moment

How Strawbridge Studios is helping stop time—and making memories with Canon inkjet technology

Several years ago when Strawbridge Studio’s packaging solution started to go out of date, GM Brendan Collopy and his team were in a quandary. The plan was to build a better solution that incorporated big roll printing.

The new piece of equipment would be a vital part of the fourth generation, 100-year-old family owned, school portrait and yearbook company’s strategy. The vertically integrated company, with a production facility in Durham, North Carolina, sports a team of in-house photographers spread across 28 states. Employing more than 600 people across the country, Strawbridge handles the photography services for millions of K-12 public and private school children.

From yearbook photos, yearbook exports and ID cards, Strawbridge offers affordable photo choices to the parents and service items to the schools for free. As the Strawbridge leadership team met to discuss their options, Collopy says the hunt for its next production portfolio piece was on. “We needed speed. Our legacy equipment was maxed out and we could not meet our volume demands. Payroll was bloating just to keep three shifts running, and we were not meeting demand.”

With the plan and its target features intact, the Strawbridge team set out into the marketplace. The strategy involved friendly conversation with competitors surveying what they were using. Rolling through the spate of brand options, they sat down with some of their vendor partners, including Canon Solutions America.

After considering the pros and cons of each piece of equipment across the board, Collopy says the Canon web-fed inkjet press kept topping the list. Overall, the ProStream offered the fastest, most reliable solution from an existing reliable partner who could make the overhaul happen. “We ended up installing the ProStream in conjunction with new packaging, cutting and binding solutions. We overhauled our entire workflow and, right now, are outpacing our previous output numbers.”

Designed to hit the tightest of deadlines with optimum quality, the ProStream features a print speed of to 436 ft/min, which equals 1,904 letter-perfected impressions per minute—or 11,300 B2 sheets per hour.

Another enticing feature for the Strawbridge team was the ProStream’s flexibility across a wide range of media, including standard offset coated (gloss, matte, silk, dull), uncoated and inkjet optimized papers from 40gsm to 300gsm. Its ability to stop production to switch between different format lengths to help ensure a seamless changeover was a strong plus in the pro column.

Collopy says that the secret to its success with Canon Solutions America and the ProStream is no secret at all: It is about finding the right equipment with a vendor you trust. He fondly recalls a conversation between the Strawbridge and Canon teams during the installation. “We pushed and cajoled the Canon techs into letting us run real work on the machine before they were fully finished with the linearization and setup. We needed to get more work out. So, when we finally fired it up, we ran it for 36 hours.”

During that period, there was minimal downtime on the press—something Canon continues to provide, which helps support Strawbridge’s bottom line. “We managed to produce three weeks’ worth of picture work and three weeks’ worth of yearbook work,” Collopy says. “That’s three weeks of six to seven days a week, 24-hour running completed in less than two days. Yeah, we don’t worry about printing anymore.”

In a landscape where speed and flexibility matter, Collopy says the ProStream continues to deliver. “We live in the age of instant gratification. Even though most people underestimate the complexity of our craft, we have to deliver the picture fast. Sometimes I get the impression the customers want the picture before it is even taken, so this technology has opened up the floodgates. It continues to answer our need for speed and provides plenty of room for healthy growth.”

Founded by James E. Strawbridge in 1923, Strawbridge Studios came from humble beginnings. A school photographer, J.E. spent two years learning the trade before starting his studio in the basement of the family home. The initial goal was to create prints for school recordkeeping. Being among the first photography companies, it quickly gained traction.

Thirty years into the game, Harold Strawbridge, fresh off a stint in the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant, entered the picture. Over the years, he was instrumental in the implementation of package printing, and transitioned the company from black and white photography into color. He eventually pioneered bringing yearbooks under the Strawbridge umbrella, expanding the products available to current and potential customers. Methodically, Strawbridge Studios expanded into new territories.

Four generations later and driven by a foundation of tradition, integrity and strong family values, Strawbridge Studios is led by J.E.’s son, Harold, CEO; grandson, Ken, President; and great grandson, Michael, VP.

Together, they keep stopping time and helping make memories.