Me & my: Inca Onset S40
By Tim Sheahan Thursday, 21 April 2011
Some would argue that Kolorcraft is a dark horse in UK print. Based in Ossett, West Yorkshire, the point-of-sale printer operates just outside Wakefield, a hotbed of display, signage and POP printers, including firms such as Bezier and Creative Display Group.
However, with a turnover of more than £25m and a client list that comprises some of the retail sector’s biggest names, Kolorcraft has been steadily building its customer base and armoury of print equipment for the past 25 years – and so can certainly mix comfortably with its high-profile neighbours.
Continuing a tradition of investment, in 2010 the company took the decision to invest in "leading-edge" wide-format technology, which would enable it to boost production capacity and cut time to market without compromising quality.
"In the past, sometimes we had to tell clients that we could offer digital wide-format print but if they wanted speed, that would often compromise the quality of the final product," says Martin Hampshaw, sales and marketing director at Kolorcraft. "But the PoS market is highly competitive and to be successful we had to work smarter, using the latest technology to improve quality, make efficiencies and reduce costs."
Working smarter led the 250-staff company to Inca Digital and the purchase of the world’s first Onset S40.
Best of the best
According to Phil Findley, managing director at Kolorcraft, the company exhaustively researched the market but in the end the Onset S40 won through.
"Inca is a well-established manufacturer with a good reputation for delivering next-generation technology and Fujifilm provides excellent ink and sales support," he explains.
Arguably, Kolorcraft’s need for a new machine could not have come at a better time, coinciding with Inca’s commercialisation of the new Onset S40 model. The mid-range version of its Onset wide-format UV printer can print at speeds up to 470m2 an hour and fits in the existing Onset portfolio between the 310sqm/hour S20 and the 750sqm/hour S70.
"The Inca Onset S20, while a good machine, would simply not have been enough for us," says Jan Sykes, operations director at Kolorcraft. "We really would have to have invested in two of those, but the production speed of the S40 configuration has managed to meet our requirements," she adds.
Kolorcraft took delivery of the beta model of the Onset S40 in November and has been running it non-stop since. The machine, which features 168 user-replaceable printheads, can output at a resolution of 600dpi in a four- or six-colour configuration. Kolorcraft opted for the six-colour model and is running it 24 hours a day, producing 94 full-bed sheets every hour.
The colour gamut is one aspect of the Onset S40 that has particularly impressed Kolorcraft. "The colour gamut has been better than we expected. We’ve recently been able to build up a ‘brand bible’ for one client," says Hampshaw. "When compiling that, the colour consistency and the speed of output has been particularly impressive. The ability to print direct-to-media has also allowed us to print on a broader range of substrates such as Dufaylite and on a larger range of stock thicknesses."
According to the team at the Ossett company, installation and on-site training went to plan and the Onset machine is running in the same hall as Kolorcraft’s existing KBA large-format and Heidelberg B1 offset presses, as well as its multicolour screen-printing lines within the 16,722sqm premises.
It hasn’t taken long for the printer to reap the rewards of the investment. One recent job involved it producing a range of large-format graphics for a client and it managed to cut its turnaround times fourfold as a result of the Onset’s digital capabilities. According to Hampshaw, this would have previously involved 120 large-format plate changes and the lengthy makereadies that came with that.
Hampshaw says: "Using the KBA, we would give the customer a lead time of four weeks, but it was a job they needed much earlier. Using the new machine, it allowed us to complete the job in one week. The Onset S40’s direct-to-print ability allowed us to bring forward the delivery date and give those cost savings back to our client."
Cutting its time to market and improving its offering to clients were two of the overarching factors behind Kolorcraft’s investment. According to Hampshaw, the 600dpi output quality and impressive speed of the S40 have been important, as the machine "fills the production gap" between screen printing and large-format litho at the business.
"The benefit of using variable data has also allowed us to deliver localised and store-specific campaigns, it helps us offer great benefits to our clients and reflects the ever-changing retail arena," he adds.
The company’s new machine boasts a choice of uni-directional or bi-directional printing modes in addition to range of print modes and speeds that can best fulfill a particular job. Sykes expects the machine to play a large part in what Kolorcraft produces in the future, offering an "ideal" platform for the production of both single- and double-sided point-of-sale displays, graphics, outdoor signage and back- and front-lit displays.
According to Linda Bell, chief executive of Inca Digital, the advent of the S40 follows three years of worldwide success with the manufacturer’s existing Onset machines.
"The Onset S40 is the logical next step in our printer portfolio. It fits nicely into the market and is highly competitive. Many companies are starting to invest in multiple Onsets, and we are giving them the flexibility to mix and match the models to suit their customers’ needs and production requirements and provide room for growth," she says.
And while Kolorcraft recognises that it has bought into a proven platform with the Onset, the company feels that it has benefited from running the new model in its beta trial.
"We are always striving forward and looking to add the best, up-to-date technology to what we have here," says Sykes. "I imagine that it won’t be long before other companies start to invest in the same model, but it was important that we got there before they did. Otherwise you run the risk of falling behind."
Managing director Findley agrees. "The quality, productivity and flexibility of the machine were all the key decision factors behind this investment. Not only has the Onset significantly increased our production capacity, but it has also has enabled us to offer competitive new products and compete in new sectors. Quite simply, our strategy is to do to more of what we do well to grow the business."
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