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Tanagraphics: much more than print

Feb 1, 2002 12:00 AM

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Tanagraphics (New York City) is more than a commercial printer. While vice president of marketing Peter Forster stresses that traditional print remains the primary driver of Tanagraphics' business, the company has diversified to include the subsidiaries Tana Digital, Tana Bindery, Tana Mailing and Tana Interactive.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Tanagraphics committed itself to embracing what Forster calls the digitization of the graphic communications industry. The printer rebuilt its digital prepress division twice in the 1990s, first in 1991 and again in 1998. “Each time, there was a keen focus on equipping Tana with state-of-the-art digital tools,” Forster recalls. “We believed that digital technologies would change the way our clients and Tana would produce and manage their work.”

In 1995, for example, a major print customer wanted its annual report produced on CD-ROM and in HTML for its website. “We said yes, and Tana Interactive was born,” says Forster.

Though the subsidiary was initially founded to conduct R&D, Tana Interactive received new business from another major print account, The Chase Manhattan Bank, which required management and quality-assurance testing of its static website content. Eventually, Chase asked Tana Interactive to guide its business requirements, as well as the template designing and programming for Chase's Web publishing. This led Tana Interactive to create its own suite of applications, the TI:PS interactive-publishing system.

Today, Forster says Tanagraphics cross-sells these solutions to its customer base, either as a package or as individual services.

Give us an example of a recent cross-media project.

A print client awarded us a large project that involved prepress, print, finishing and fulfillment. Instead of managing the drop shipments by the usual “fire-drill” method of random phone calls, faxes and e-mails, Tana Interactive used TI:PS to create an extranet site for the client. This enabled all requests, shipping information and inventory adjustments to be managed online. When a request was made, an e-mail was triggered to our Tana Mailing operation, which then fulfilled the order — no phone calls, no faxes, no headaches. The database behind this system also provided the client with an audit trail of all activity.

Who do you see as your chief competitor? Other printers? Prepress houses? Internet specialists? Other?

All of the above. Our ability to draw from our traditional expertise in commercial print as well as from our digital-prepress and information-technology strengths allows us to bring to market complete solutions for our clients. We have the added flexibility in defining, on a case-by-case basis, where the revenue stream comes from.

Industry pundits have claimed that few “traditional” print salespeople can make the transition to selling digital services, either because they prefer the status quo or can't adapt to a new sales style. What has been Tanagraphics' experience?

We are a classic case of the dilemma the industry pundits predicted. A big challenge that print salespeople face is how to differentiate themselves and their company from their competitors. TI:PS gives our sales force a compelling differentiator. As a result, our employees are finding new opportunities for sales development with their existing clients and prospects.

How are you staying state of the art?

We've created and deployed an extensive array of technology, from a state-of-the-art digital prepress facility to a corporate data center. We also have a dedicated team of database experts and programmers that continually develops enhancements to existing Tana products, such as TI:PS, and to internal operations, such as Tana's management information systems.

What service would you like most to add?

Some type of digital/on-demand printing.

How is your company coping with a slowing economy?

Cost cutting, intense focus on sales and marketing, and strategic alliances.

What printer/graphic arts service provider do you most admire and why?

We have great admiration for Bowne & Co., Inc. (New York City). For more than 225 years, it has continued to evolve its service offerings and technologies to provide its clients with the best available solutions.

Do you have a little-known company fact to share with our readers?

The founders of Tanagraphics intended the name to be Panagraphics. The lawyers mistakenly incorporated Tanagraphics, and the founders stuck with it.

Where is the best place to eat in Manhattan?

Daniella Ristorante on 8th Ave. and 26th St.

Tanagraphics, Inc.
New York City

Peter Forster, vice president of marketing


$45 million



Commercial print, digital prepress, bindery, mailing and fulfillment, interactive services

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