Point of Beginning

Web Exclusive! A Little Color Adds A Lot

June 1, 2004
Upgrading to an all-in-one large format color plotter/scanner system helped one Chicago firm to exceed customer needs.

Bob Tremblay showcases Gremley & Biedermann's TCS400, a tool that has helped his firm gain and retain clients.
For more than 70 years, Chicago-based Gremley & Biedermann Inc. has earned a reputation for providing commercial and residential clients with highly accurate and precise land surveys. Our services, based on a tradition of reliability and professionalism, combined with the most advanced surveying techniques and equipment available, have made us a sought after land survey company in the Midwest. Some of our Chicago area projects include Soldier Field, the Museum of Science and Industry, and Six Flaggs Great America, to name a few.

As of Jan. 1, 2004, Gremley & Biedermann became a division of Professional Land and Construction Surveyors Corporation (PLCS). This merger united Gremley & Biedermann Inc. and James, Schaeffer & Schimming Inc., another well-known and respected Chicago-area land survey firm.

As part of this new entity, we must constantly stay on the cutting-edge of advanced technology to keep pace with new developments and evolving survey standards. This is essential to generating the high quality output demanded by our clients, many of whom are architectural and engineering firms. To ensure utmost accuracy, land surveying services are performed using the latest electronic distance measuring instrumentation and computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting systems. Our adoption of color print, copy and scan technology used for large format CAD documents and GIS applications (e.g. aerial photos, architectural surveys and city maps) has also been key to remaining competitive.

Once our projects requiring color print volume started increasing, it became apparent that we had a real need for walk-up color copying capability and the ability to scan in color. For one, we needed to scan color documents (aerial photos, USGS maps and other color originals) that required E-mailing to customers or business partners. Second, we often received requests to reproduce surveys marked up manually in red and blue pens from a construction site or other field project. During meetings, our clients expected to see copies of these same renderings--with all color highlights included. Frequently, time constraints prevented us from sending out such documents to get color prints made, so we often had to go back to the drawing board (literally) with highlight marking pens to replicate the colored areas.

During the equipment search process, I consulted two dealers of leading inkjet printers with add-on scanner capabilities, but I quickly grew frustrated by the lack of product information available. We were already using a color plotter, but our equipment was ailing. Parts were scarce, making it difficult to get satisfactory service. We knew that we needed a new solution with more advanced technology.

When it came to document management and communication between project team members, there were three main factors driving our need for speed, color and quality: tighter project deadlines, customer demand for color and competitive market pressures. As I continued to search for a solution to these demands, I learned about a new system that sounded like it just might fit the bill--the Oce TCS400 (Oce North America, Chicago, Ill.). A fully integrated large format color print, copy and scan system, it had the potential to meet all of our needs. After the release of the Oce TCS400 in October 2003, Gremley & Biedermann was one of the first U.S. firms to embrace the system--and its capabilities have certainly corresponded to our needs.

With the Oce Advanced Queue Manager, CAD users can manage print traffic directly from their desktops. This function simplifies workflow because employees have more direct control over the prioritization and printing of their jobs.

Demanding Deadlines

I had personally witnessed a growing trend in compressed timelines from Gremley & Biedermann'sclients. It's not uncommon for clients with 10 or 20 or more survey documents to expect turnaround in a weekend. We'd often have to adjust our workflow to accommodate last-minute requests and still handle our two biggest printing crunches during mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

Now, with the Oce TCS400 we're able to respond to client requests within hours versus days. In fact, in one instance I had to produce and messenger four 11"x17" color copies of an architectural composite to a municipality within two hours for a public meeting. Meeting this deadline without the Oce TCS400 would not have been possible, and business might have been lost.

Our newfound speed is possible because of the color file processing power of the Oce TCS400. While mechanical print speed is important to us, the Oce Power Logic controller facilitates fast file processing. It spools print jobs off the network, processes those jobs and stores them until the printer is available. The network remains free for other jobs, and the waiting time between prints is greatly reduced--even for large color CAD document files in excess of 100 Mb.

The bottom line is that we cannot wait for prints when our business depends on getting high quality plots from large files. Before we had the Oce TCS400, it used to take more than 12 minutes to process a 182 Mb file. Now we can do it in just one-third of that time.

Another speed advantage for us is the ability for CAD users to manage print traffic directly from their desktops using the Oce Advanced Queue Manager. This function simplifies workflow because employees have more direct control over the prioritization and printing of their jobs. They can also view ink volume, media choices and controller workload right from their personal computers.

A collage of the documents Gremley & Biedermann's employees have produced using the new Oce system.

Color Output Expected To Double

Gremley & Biedermann produces black-and-white (monochrome) as well as color prints with the Oce TCS400. Currently, color comprises around 10 percent of our total printing output--a number I expect will approach 25 percent within a year due to growing customer demand for color. We're making a concerted effort to incorporate more color into our large format drawings. Our customers are requesting sharp, crisp color plotting to convey a lot of detail, especially in high precision maps, line work exhibits and aerial photographs. And now, we can serve this need without having to outsource it.

While we print most of our internal documents in black and white, large format exhibits, posters and marketing presentations are better represented in color. Prior to the Oce TCS400, our sluggish existing technology limited color ability. The integrated print, copy and scan system of the Oce TCS400 not only produces twice the number of monochrome prints per hour than the inkjet printer it replaced, it allows us to scan and copy large format documents in both color and monochrome.

No More Rigged Systems

Keeping our printing capability up and running as smoothly as possible with minimal downtime has never been more critical to our business success than it is today. Because our clients have grown to expect nothing less than the best quality, our land surveyors and CAD staff depend on equipment that is reliable and hassle-free.

We used to experience servicing issues with disparate pieces of scanning and printing equipment. Pieces were loosely cobbled together and when one failed, operations could be paralyzed until the problem was identified and repaired. Finding the right parts after warranties expired and getting prompt response for repair was often a challenge.

G&B staff members have also benefited from the Oce system's ease of use; CAD operators know how to efficiently print, copy and scan to honor tight deadlines and keep business competitive. I find the Oce TCS400 is highly intuitive. We didn't get any blank stares when we installed the system, which was a good sign from the start!

Finally--Simple Copying

Compared to all of these advantages in speed, processing and servicing, walk-up copying does not sound very thrilling. But it has been the biggest improvement we have noticed in our office since the installation of the Oce TCS400. We used to have to manually draw in lines and cross-hatching with highlight markers on a black and white plot to duplicate a color original of a map or survey. Now, we just need to insert the original document, push a button and generate a color copy in a single step.

The ability to reproduce large format color technical documents without having to undertake the traditional step of first arduously scanning an original to a .tif/.pdf image prior to printing allows us to fill larger customer orders more quickly. The copying feature also gives us the flexibility to produce color copies of marked-up documents received directly from the construction field or during team meetings when clients and contractors need to collectively review revisions.

I've found that color is one of the best ways to clearly express our intent correctly to people, whether during a project meeting or a new business presentation. Communicating with color is really critical to comprehending the finest of detail. Now, we can easily run high quality color copies on the spot and everyone can work from the same level of information, reducing the potential for misinterpretation and error.

An employee of Gremley & Biedermann utilizes the scanning function of the Oce TCS400.

The Tools To Grow

In the heyday of today's urban sprawl, we're now very well poised to meet the challenges of a growing market with our full range of land surveying services. Our clients--land developers, engineering firms, architects, title companies and legal professionals--have come to rely on us more for our high quality land surveys. And now we can provide material with color elements--a welcome addition to any service.

The Oce TCS400 is a competitive tool--one that effectively complements our sophisticated measuring systems and CAD technologies. Capturing the data, however, is just the first step. Producing and presenting it--whether to new clients or in a court of law--is where the real value of the Oce TCS400 comes in. Gremley & Biedermann can now fulfill new and different kinds of client requests (e.g., aerial photography and poster-sized exhibits) because the Oce TCS400 provides these capabilities. This has resulted in more business, since we have won projects because of our expanded services. Overall, our customers are very happy with the document image quality and continue to award us more work. And that makes us happy-and confident-in what the future can hold.