Cathie Anderson

Sacramento’s Dome expands as other printing houses shrink

James Cooper pulls a newly created banner print off a grand-format, UV ink jet printer at Dome Printing in Sacramento.
James Cooper pulls a newly created banner print off a grand-format, UV ink jet printer at Dome Printing in Sacramento. aseng@sacbee.com

The Poole brothers, Bob and Tim, have eliminated the word “printing” from their company name – not because print is dead but because Sacramento-based Dome does much more than simply sending type to press.

“We were a very traditional print company back in 2002 when we offered to buy the business from our father,” Dome CEO Tim Poole said. “We took an order, and we printed it. We cut it, folded it and shipped it out the door. Today, we handle mailing. We’re doing the design. We’re handling distribution, storage and warehousing.”

Dome also creates e-commerce sites for its clients whose salespeople can order materials to be printed. Casinos and other businesses ask Dome to design and distribute email blasts to their best customers. Hospital companies count on Dome to ensure that patient information is kept confidential during printing and mailing.

All the change has paid off. The company will gross roughly $33 million in revenue this year, up from about $22 million back in 2001, said Poole, 55, the elder of the two partners. Dome has defied overall U.S. industry trends that have seen printers’ business contract by 40 percent over the last 10 years. Poole said the company has done it by continuously improving its manufacturing processes, embracing innovation and helping customers to overcome challenges.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, for instance, was seeking a printer that could guarantee it would correctly distribute financial documents the bank is legally required to give consumers. This business had previously gone to a multibillion-dollar corporation in the Midwest, noted the 46-year-old Bob Poole, Dome’s chief marketing officer, but Dome was able to win it.

“We give Wells Fargo 100 percent reliability, on-time service and accuracy of product,” Tim Poole said. “It sounds easy, but we’re the only company that’s been able to do that in their history. Because it’s compliance material, they face increased fines for having the wrong documents out there.”

Dome solved a different obstacle for Australian giant Treasury Wine Estates, the company behind such well-known brands as Beringer, Stags’ Leap and Greg Norman. The winemaker wanted a printer who could develop an e-commerce site where its sales groups and distributors could order marketing materials, the Pooles said.

“We built the entire front-end of that system for them to manage that process,” Tim Poole said. “We said, ‘We’ll let you use this system if you guarantee us ‘x’ amount of printing a year.’ We need to feed the monster, but we’re also a technology company that can bring things to market to help facilitate or automate processes.”

Since some of Treasury’s sales reps or distributors need small wine refrigerators, the Pooles also agreed to warehouse and ship them out when ordered. The company recently set aside additional space to warehouse customer products.

Dome’s operation ranges over 150,000 square feet in four buildings, but its headquarters has been at 340 Commerce Circle since 1986. It employs about 200 people. Both Tim and Bob Poole worked in the family business as teenagers, they said, and couldn’t resist buying the business when their father, Ray Poole, retired in 2001. Ray Poole acquired the business in 1969, Tim Poole said, but its roots date back to the early 1900s.

Dome’s sleek digital, web and sheet-fed printers bear little resemblance to the old letterpress machines that Ray Poole once ran. The company recently invested roughly $2.5 million in grand-format printers that can produce signs, banners or even wall graphics up to 10.5 feet wide and 250 feet long. This capability has brought in new business from BevMo, CostPlus and other retailers.

But it also challenged a culture where employees were accustomed to carefully proofing a product and then printing it. Retailers live in an environment where banners and signs might change over and over again before they are printed.

“It’s different than making a book with 144 pages, where you need 10,000 printed and shipped,” Bob Poole said. But retailers will say, “‘I need a total of about 1,000 signs. There’s 50 different lots and within the lots, there’s a bunch of different changes.’ And by the time it’s all done, it’s all going to change. You’re moving at lightning speed, and you have to get everything in the box and to the right store.”

This cultural shift would have been a lot more difficult before 2009 when Dome hired Dave Baker, now the company’s chief operating officer, the Pooles said. He was experienced with lean production, where the manufacturer looks at everything from the perspective of the customer receiving the service. Baker also introduced kaizen events, based on the Japanese word for “good change,” where workers come together to define changes to improve work processes.

“We didn’t have a culture that knew how to say, ‘Yes, I can. Yes, I can. I can adapt. I can change. I can run on the fly,’” Tim Poole said. “We’re still getting there. Our world is changing.”

Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.

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