Modern Litho expands in Kansas City market with new Speedmaster XL 106 from Heidelberg

Apr 14, 2022

Jim Tomblinson, vice president of Operations for Modern Litho, pictured here.

KENNESAW, GeorgiaModern Litho, a full-service magazine, catalog and commercial printer servicing 46 states from five locations throughout Missouri, recently expanded its Kansas City presence. After purchasing James Printing in 2018, Modern Litho’s newest acquisition of Watkins Lithographic Inc., which includes a larger 76,000 square-foot space and doubling its local employee count, signifies the company’s commitment to the Kansas City market and confirms its belief that “continued investment in technology, production facilities and its employees is essential to ensure a sustainable and adaptable business.” To facilitate its growth, Modern Litho is currently installing a new Speedmaster XL 106-8P+L from Heidelberg – its fourth Speedmaster perfecting press since 2011.


Looking to increase Kansas City sales from $10 million to $16 million in the next few years, Modern Litho knew that in order to grow, the company needed to seriously evaluate the legacy technology that it inherited from its previous acquisitions. “It was very difficult to wrap my head around how we grow as a company with outdated technology,” Jim Tomblinson, Modern Litho’s vice president of operations, said. “We knew every sheet running through the current presses was costing a lot more than a sheet running through a more automated technology.”

Based on its superior experience with the Speedmaster perfectors at its headquarters in Jefferson City, Modern Litho decided to replace three of the four older presses in Kansas City with a new Speedmaster XL 106-8P+L, which is set to finish installation this month.

The Speedmaster XL 106, with speeds of 18,000 sheets per hour and advanced automation thanks to Heidelberg’s autonomous Push-to-Stop technology and AutoPlate Pro, the automatic plate changing device will be a significant upgrade over the company’s current presses, which need 45 minutes to complete make-ready and run at an average of only 4,000-5,000 sheets per hour. While the modern technology will aid in the company’s ability to grow, Modern Litho is also excited about improving the overall product quality and level of service for its Kansas City customers.

“We’re eager to go out into the market with this and see what our customers can gain from it,” Ben Hiss, president of Modern Litho, Kansas City, said. “The new XL will help us achieve the quality standards that Modern Litho is known for. It’s going to raise the bar in Kansas City.”

Once installed, the company plans to move its full workload to the new perfector and expects to immediately have excess capacity, even after removing three presses – allowing room for its sales growth target.

“From our previous knowledge and the capabilities of this new technology, we know it takes great deal of effort to keep one of these presses not just busy but backed up and ready so all we need to do is just keep hanging plates,” Vice President of Corporate Strategy Jeff Davidson said.

Modern Litho will restructure its press crews to run the new machine 24 hours/day, 6 days/week.

“These presses like to run! We maximize our efficiencies with fast make-readies every day,” Davidson said.


Kansas City customers can expect faster turnaround times due to further efficiency gains from the press’s patented Intellistart 3 system, which automatically determines the make-ready processes required for jobs to be produced, and the new Heidelberg UX, which provides the best possible support for operators at the Prinect Press Center XL 3 control station and at the press itself. “The XL 106 is the best press on the planet,” said Tomblinson, “and it keeps improving with every generation.” While the company will benefit from the technologies of the newest generation of Speedmasters, it will also boost productivity with Prinect Inpress Control, the industry-leading inline spectrophotometer that measures and controls color and register on the fly at any speed. Inpress Control enables swift changeovers between jobs, and according to Davidson, “We’re a big believer in Inpress Control and the efficiency it brings to the press run. We won’t buy a press without it!”

Additional time will be saved with the press’s new LED technology, which speeds up cure times for the press sheets. While Modern Litho sees this as one advantage of LED curing, it also sees the technology as an opportunity for growth into the packaging market and ability to print on a wider variety of materials. “Currently, as a company, we’re not running a lot of packaging,” Tomblinson said. “Ideally, we’d like to keep everything in-house so we can maintain control, quality, and revenue. The LED technology gives us the potential to offer a broader product range down the road.”

Looking to Heidelberg as a “strategic partner, not just a vendor,” Modern Litho turns to other Heidelberg solutions throughout its locations, including Saphira Consumables and utilizing Heidelberg Performance Advisors to address any press issues, fill in knowledge gaps, and ensure the company gets the results that it needs to be successful. Additionally, to maximize the productivity between its different locations, Modern Litho runs Prinect Production Manager, which serves as a central hub for job routing and allows the company to send jobs to various locations based on current workload.

With its partnership spanning over three decades now, Tomblinson says, “It’s easy to continue to choose Heidelberg because they keep getting better and better.”


Headquartered in Jefferson City, Missouri, Modern Litho has been serving the print needs of client organizations for more than 80 years. Regarded as a premier printer of specialized publications and catalogs for niche markets, Modern Litho’s capabilities include high-performance offset print, finishing and distribution of marketing and member communications, advanced variable data print, direct mail, and mailing services. Modern Litho is a G7 Master Qualified Printer and holds renewable resource FSC and SFI Chain-of-Custody Certifications. Markets of interest include non-profit and member-based organizations.