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Pel Hughes Adds the Canon ProStream Web Fed Inkjet Press to Efficiently Deliver Highly Targeted Direct Mail, Books, and Magazines with Stunning Graphic Quality
Meet new thINK Members from Pel Hughes
October 11, 2022 — “Don’t screw it up,” Brian Hughes, Pel Hughes president, replied with a laugh when asked about the wise words of wisdom his father Vic left him regarding their family’s print business. Brian is the third generation to lead Pel Hughes, based in New Orleans, Louisiana, and he intends to grow the business just as his parents did.
“The family business began in 1954 with my grandparents Pel and Alice (pronounced ‘Elise’) Hughes,” Brian explained. “When my parents took over the business in 1969, they grew it from a small commercial print and mail shop with only three employees to one of the largest Gulf South full-service direct mail marketing providers with more than 65 employees today.
This growth came despite many challenges, including the floods from Hurricane Katrina. Brian continued, “My dad didn’t tell me how to run the business; he showed me. I worked alongside him for over 20 years and saw him use obstacles as springboards to grow the company. We’re taking his knowledge passed on to us, and growing the business by evolving it to meet changing market conditions.”
“Many people will tell you print is dead, but we know print is not dead —it is evolving. Print is a very powerful component of the multi-channel marketing mix, and if you aren’t using it for highly targeted direct mail campaigns, you are missing the mark,” Brian said.
“Our customers don’t come to us because they want print or direct mail campaigns. They come to us because they want their communications to be timely, relevant, personalized, and effective to meet their customer acquisition and retention goals—and we know how to help them do that.”
Clients rely on Pel Hughes’ extensive data expertise to help them achieve ROI (return on investment) with highly targeted cross-media marketing campaigns. To do this, Pel Hughes relies on a mix of print technology and software as well as data and marketing analysts.
However, they found their print technology was holding them back, creating waste and inefficiencies with pre-printed shells, downtime, and labor-intensive processes. As part of their evolution strategy, Brian and his uncle Tim Levy, Pel Hughes vice president, made the decision to purchase a Canon ProStream 1800.
“As we evolved our business over the years, we moved forward but our press technology did not,” Tim said. “We knew we had to find a better, more efficient way to do what our customers have come to expect from us. Simply put, the ProStream checked all the boxes.”
“First, there’s the sheer efficiency factor,” Tim shared. “The ProStream can run 400,000 stunning high-quality postcards in the time it takes two of our toner devices to run just 10,000 postcards. There’s no question the night and day difference when it comes to speed and quality, not to mention the uptime, which has been only 70 percent on our digital toner devices vs. the 90+ percent on ProStream. When you layer on top of that the variable data capabilities that can handle our complex data matrices, the ProStream is a game changer for our business. After our install in May 2022, we immediately began moving offset jobs that demanded pre-printed shells, high quality graphics, and run lengths too short to run profitably on offset over to the ProStream; and, of course, digital toner jobs as well. We didn’t really have a learning curve. Our work was already there; we just needed a quality, high-speed press like the ProStream that could catch up with us and help us move into the future.”
“Because of our experience and expertise with data-driven direct mail, adding the ProStream was just plug and play for us,” Brian added. “[We could] keep doing what we were already doing, but do it better, more efficiently, and with better results.”
Media versatility is also important to Pel Hughes for meeting their customers’ requirements. The ProStream allows for a wide range of media, including standard offset coated (gloss, matte, silk, dull), uncoated, and inkjet optimized papers from 40gsm to 300gsm.
“So, in other words, we can print from the lightest weight magazine and book pages to magazine covers, enabling us to use the ProStream for direct mail, books, catalogs, and magazines. The ability to print on 10-12 pt. postcard stock was big for us, as our clients’ demand has been trending to heavier stocks for years. We invested in a nearline MBO roll-fed finishing line with dynamic perf/score, slitting, trimming, sheeting, folding, and gluing for the most efficient finishing workflow in our industry,” Tim shared.
“Because the MBO line is modular, we can reconfigure finishing components into a different sequence, producing a different product as needed. Postcards in run 1, letters in run 2, self-mailers in run 3. This allows us to finish the web into a product that is best for the customer and the campaign, rather than force them to fit a standard box. Customized campaigns get better conversion rates, which is the ultimate goal.”
With run lengths too short to run profitably on offset, overall volumes beyond the throughput levels of their toner devices, and the requirement for highly variable print jobs, the ProStream helped Pel Hughes bridge the gap between offset and toner devices, enabling them to be more efficient in delivering stunning quality, highly-targeted campaigns in record time, cost-effectively and without the waste.
Pel Hughes operates out of a 65,000 sq. ft. facility and has 65 employees, many of whom are family members stepping into their family legacy.
Jackie Hughes, owner of Pel Hughes, commented, “I am thrilled to see my son [Brian] and brother [Tim] leading the company. I know Vic would be proud. I am still actively involved in the business and spend my days in back-to-back meetings, but with the leadership I see [in them], I know I can look forward to picking up more tennis games and spending more time with my grandchildren.”
When asked what recommendations they have for others entering the inkjet market, Brian replied, “Choose a like-minded manufacturer. When we started investigating what inkjet could do for us, we knew we needed print technology that could not only meet us where we are, but also one that could scale with us as we grow. That was a critical decision point for us, and that’s why Canon Solutions America quickly became the clear choice.”
“Pel Hughes is a great example of the success a company achieves when they are focused on the success of their customers. I’m pleased they recognize we are like-minded in our commitment to customers. We welcome the Pel Hughes family to ours and look forward to seeing their continued growth,” said Francis McMahon, executive vice president, Production Print Solutions, Canon Solutions America, Inc.
Canon Solutions America has led the evolution of print for nearly a decade, with industry-leading web-fed, sheetfed, and total high-volume inkjet market share in the U.S. reported in 2021.
thINK is an independent community of Canon Solutions America inkjet customers, who receive complimentary membership. thINK is led by a board of Canon inkjet customers and offers tools, training and educational resources designed to accelerate success with inkjet. Canon Solutions America inkjet customers can request membership by visiting thINKForum.com.
“We welcome Pel Hughes to thINK and look forward to hearing more about their success with Canon inkjet at the annual thINK Ahead conference,” said Todd Roth, thINK Board president and vice president Manufacturing & Distribution, Core Publishing Solutions, a Thomson Reuters Business.
About thINK Forum
thINK is an independent community of Canon Solutions America inkjet customers, solution partners, and print industry experts, and Canon Solutions America is a proud executive sponsor. Led by some of the most successful inkjet service providers in the country, it provides a forum for members to network, gain knowledge, discuss common challenges, and share best practices. For more information, visit thinkforum.com.
Canon is a registered trademark of Canon Inc. in the United States and elsewhere. ProStream is a registered trademark and trademark of Canon Production Printing Netherlands B.V. All other referenced product names and marks are trademarks of their respective owners. Views and opinions expressed in this testimonial are based on the actual experiences of each voluntary participant.