Universal Reprographics, Inc. Using Digital Technologies to Succeed in a Male Dominated Industry By Karen Serrano Universal Reprographics, Inc., a woman owned business since 1989 was started in 1959 as a small reprographics company by a father and son team – Ben and Richard Gerson. Richard’s son Mark took over as President in 1986. In January of 1989, a tragic accident occurred and Mark was killed. Having lost a son and President, Richard Gerson decided he wanted to sell the company. Rikki Gerson had other ideas and approached Richard with a five year plan that would take Universal Reprographics, Inc. into the future. Rikki had been with Universal since 1973. Her family owned a blueprint company. Rikki felt that with the proper education, training and plan, she could keep the business and help it grow. Up to this point in time, Universal focused mainly 011 engineers, architects, designers and contractors. Then the rececession came, taking its toll on the building industry. With building permits in California being 40% of what they had been 5 years prior, Rikki knew there had to be a change to the way they approached business. Diversification was the key. By tradition, Universal was a reprographic company. They made copies of large documents, either blueprinting them or copying them. Rikki had read about how the reprographic industry was moving in the digital direction and she knew that in order to stay in business, Universal had to go to where the growth was or risk losing the business. At this same time, XEROX had approached Universal with the idea of high speed digital copying in a small format environment. This idea fit in with her idea to diversify their core business. This became part of her plan but she knew that starting off in this business was going to require capital and flexibility. In her time of need, Rikki says, “XEROX was there with some great equipment at a time when Universal had some big decislons to make. XEROX financing made it easy for Universal to purchase the necessary equipment togetstarted.” This was to become the beginning of a very strong partnership. In 1992, Universal was the first reprographic firm, in the Los Angeles Area, to purchase a XERoX DocuTech, a high speed,135 page per minute, digital copy machine. This proved to be the catalyst to an entire new world for Universal. The XERllX DocuTech allowed Universal to provide scan to print and high speed “print on demand” capabilties to their long time traditional customers. At the same time, however, it allowed them to move into new markets, such as, entertainment, advertising and financial printing. In addition, they were able to print software manuals and to keep their “customer’s documents as current as the~rproducts.” All this growth occurred while retaining their core blueline customers. In fact, in order to keep up with print windows, Universal has since installed a second fully-networked XEROX DocuTech. Over the years, Rikki’s digital plan has expanded into other areas. In October, 1996, Universal became the first reprographic customer in the Downtown Los Angeles Area to install a fully-networked XEROX DocuColor 40. This Digital Color printer prints at 40 pages a minute and prints onto heavy weight glossy stocks. According to Rikki and Madeline Wilson, Universal’s Sales Manager, “this new addition has allowed them to provide their customer’s with new options.” In addition to printing glossy covers, fullbleed tabs and brochures, the speed and reliability of the equipment allows them to meet their customer’s turnaround requirements and run jobs up to 2,500 sets in length. This was unachieveable prior to the XEROX DocuColor 40. In fact, in the 4 months since the XEROX DocuColor 40 has been installed, Universal’s COLOR business has risen 48%!! Over the past 35 years, Universal has grown from one 900 square foot building with 3 employees to 6 locations and 105 employees. Universal’s blueprinting core business is now only 35.7% of their total revenues. If Rikki Gerson-Parry had not had the plan and her team of managers, Jim Cox, Patrick Parry and Madeline Wilson had not had the commitment to the XEROX technlogy, Universal would not be what it is today – a leader in the digital reprographics industry. As Rikki says, “In order to succeed in today’s world, it is important to build partnerships. There’s a lot of competition out there for both Universal and Xerox. XEROX has the technology and the support. That is why we chose to partner with Xerox. While the traditional busines* as we know it, is still 35.7% of our busines* the Color and Digital “shte of the art’r equipment is the future for Universal.” We believe with this vision, Universal Reprographics, Inc. is definitely on the leading edge and they will definitely be around in the new millineum.