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Tuesday, June 13, 2000

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Alika Leslie of Hagadone Printing helps set up one of the
new Komori Lithrone offset presses last week at
the company's Kalihi offices.

Kalihi firm
presses on with
new technology

Hagadone invests about
$7 million to upgrade

By Peter Wagner


THE "old" Heidelberg Speedmasters have just 13 years under them. But standing next to the new Japan-made printing presses just installed at Hagadone Printing Co., they seem a little tired.

Workers at the Kalihi commercial printing company earlier this month dismantled the last of nine ink-stained Speedmasters -- sheet-fed offset presses -- being replaced by three sleek Komori Lithrone offsets, valued at about $7 million.

"This is space-age technology and we are the first in Hawaii to get this equipment," beamed Erwin Hudelist, president of Hagadone.

The Kalihi company, largest commercial printer in the state, was established as a subsidiary of Idaho-based Hagadone Corp. in 1995. Hagadone has since acquired Tongg Publishing, Harbor Graphics and Fine Printing.

Parent Hagadone Corp. operates hotels, resorts and about 20 daily newspapers in Montana, Idaho and Washington.

Operating out of an 85,000-square-foot plant in Kalihi, Hagadone prints a range of tourist publications, brochures and magazines on glossy paper. Among the publications are Honolulu Magazine, Hawaii Business, Island Business and Hawaii Bar Journal.

Revenues are up 20 percent in the past two years, but Hudelist sees huge potential for growth. He expects his speedy new equipment to cut costs, bring down prices and help capture some of the $220 million in printing contracts he estimates is lost to mainland competitors each year.

"We could double the number of magazines we print," he said.

The new equipment will print up to 15,000 sheets of paper per hour vs. about 8,000 with the Heidelbergs. And automation, which eliminates manual plate installation and color adjustment, will cut the time it takes to set up a printing job from an hour and a half to 10 minutes.

The new efficiency will cut staffing in the printing shop from 22 employees to 8. But Hudelist is holding on to all 157 of the company's employees, shifting printing technicians to other positions in the company in anticipation of growth.

Looking like elongated copying machines, the Komoris pick up large sheets of glossy paper at one end, run them through a series of drums and drop them in a neat stack at the other.

Production manager Morris Fujimoto and some newly trained operators were putting one of the new machines, a "Lithrone 40" able to reproduce six colors, through early trials last week.

"It's super," he said, standing at a computer console. "The technology on these machines is about 500 percent ahead of the others."

Fujimoto gestured at one of the remaining Heidelbergs.

"On that press, we could do maybe five jobs a day," he said. "On this one we can do 15 jobs."

Two of Hagadone's old presses were donated to the Honolulu Community College graphics department.

The rest were sold to companies around the world.

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