Me & my... Ryobi 525GE
By Jon Severs Friday, 29 June 2012
Blessed with young blood intent on constant progression, this family business has expanded its services and workforce. Its new Ryobi was key.
If all had gone to the original plan, Ben Johnson would not have been marketing and sales director at Printworks North. He would not have helped transform his father's company from a £400,000-turnover business into a £1.2m-turnover business and he would not be talking to PrintWeek about the press that had a hand in making the transformation possible. Fortunately, he is extremely happy that things did not follow the original plan.
"My degree was in marketing and e-business and so initially my plan was to move to London and work for an agency," he explains. "However, I got a taste of the print industry when my dad said I could help out at the business; I found it really fascinated me. I didn’t expect to be drawn to it in the way that I was. I love watching the products take shape, overseeing projects from start to finish and all the processes that go into it."
At 26 years old, Johnson is a much-needed injection of young blood into the print industry and, under his father managing director Paul Johnson’s guidance, he has shown how new ideas and a fresh look can transform a business. In the four years or so since he joined, the Wetherby-based company has added the latest MIS and workflow software, a new W2P facility and a new website. The firm has also developed a new mezzanine floor at its premises to gain extra space for new kit, including a Mimaki wide-format machine and a Duplo System 5000 to better serve the four-colour and pharmaceutical booklet work that makes up the bulk of the workload. It also added a whole new approach to customer service, better focused on customer needs. All of this new work, however, created a new problem.
"When the new W2P site went live, we also had an influx of four-colour work through the other changes we have made, so the Ryobi 524 press we were using was swamped with work," says Johnson. "It meant we were struggling to turn work around quick enough to satisfy the demand. What made this situation worse was that we could not do sealing inline, which slowed us down even more. We were washing down the fourth unit and running the jobs through again to seal them. So we decided we needed to look at buying in a five-colour press where we could have the fifth unit for sealing."
Despite the emphasis on the "new", Printworks turned to old friends Apex Digital Graphics for a solution (Apex has been a supplier to the company for many years). The Ryobi 525GE that the company offered as a solution seemed a perfect fit. Also considered, though, was the Heidelberg Anicolor.
"The Anicolor did have more features but the increased price did not really balance with those extra features and so the Ryobi was the better package for us," says Johnson. "We also had a Ryobi 524 already, which had been perfect. It was really versatile, quick to makeready and easy to maintain. An upgrade to the 525 seemed like a no-brainer, really."
He adds that there were also a few new features on the 525GE that would make the press minders’ lives easier as they sped up makeready and turnaround, while another plus was that Printworks could keep its existing platesetter. Johnson says that with the Anicolor, he would have had to install a platemaker twice the size of the current one – and space was already at a premium for the business. Hence, the decision was made and the machine was installed at the end of December.
The 525GE can handle sheets from 100x105mm to 520x375mm and has a maximum print area of 505x350mm. Print speed is between 3,000sph and 11,000sph and paper thickness is 0.04–0.5mm.
"We suggested that using a fifth unit to enable the work to be printed and sealed in one pass would significantly reduce the bottleneck Printworks was experiencing," says Apex Digital Graphics sales and marketing director Neil Handforth.
"During the commissioning period, we were able to leave the four-colour in operation to ensure a seamless transition to the new press without any loss of production capacity."
Installation of the press took around two weeks, which included a three-day training period for the Printworks operators. Though they were obviously used to the basic structure and functions of the machine, Johnson says there were still a few things to learn, including new functions and controls.
"Our previous press did not have the off-press controls, so we had some training on that, and there were also other operational things to get used to. It was very much on-the-job training, with jobs going through and our operators being talked through the best ways of handling them," he explains.
The press proved its worth on day one, says Johnson. A customer rang up at 9.30am to see if a repeat job of 1,000 leaflets could be done by lunchtime. Previously, this would have been impossible. With the new press, the job was ready for dispatch at 11.30am.
"That was a good way to start," says Johnson. "Those very short turnarounds of a couple of hours are now possible for us. It’s great as we don’t like the word ‘no’. Before we would have had to say ‘no’ for the quick jobs, as we would have been cleaning down the fourth unit to seal the work, adding lots of time. It was such an inefficient way of working."
For the most part, that first day’s performance has been continued flawlessly without issue, though there were some early teething problems concerning the feed.
"We are not overly sure about what the problem was, but the engineers always came out straight away and the problem was solved. So though it possibly took a little longer to bed the press in than we anticipated, Apex was always there to ensure we got the problems solved," says Johnson.
Handforth says the issue was small changes between the 524 and the 525 feeds. "Ryobi have a continuous policy of upgrading and improving the product line, and some minor differences between the previous four-colour and the new 525GE were advised to the operators," he explains.
Johnson says these minor quibbles have not dampened the positive impact that the press has had on the company. As well as the aforementioned turnaround advantages, he says quality has also improved.
"I would say the quality was extremely good," he says. "The 524 was very good, but on the 525 the ability to seal inline has meant the quality has got even better, as it reduces the risk of something going wrong in drying and handling the paper. Previously, a job was going through the press four times if it was two-sided, but now it only has to go through twice. So the chance of issues are vastly reduced."
With the quality and turnaround advantages, Printworks has been able to take on more work and expand the work from existing clients. It is aiding extensive growth within the business and has played a part in the successful first half of this year.
"In a relatively short time, we have gone from being a two-colour jobbing printer to an all-encompassing printing and graphics house that can cope with every company wanting every service, including wide-
format," says Johnson. "We have taken on more staff and expanded our print and design services. The business has really turned around and the press has been part of that."
As a result, Johnson is understandably willing to recommend the press to other printers. He says a few people have already been through the door, sent via Apex, but that he is "more than happy for more to come by".
He adds: "The press has meant we are now a real contender in the four-colour market because we can do cost-effective, high-quality, fast-turnaround work."
A simple message, but one that the majority of printers will want to hear.
Max paper size 520x375mm
Min paper size 100x105mm
Max printing area 505x350mm
Paper thickness 0.04-0.5mm
Printing speed 3,000–11,000sph
Plate size 510x400mm
Price £305,000 Contact Apex Digital Graphics 01442 235 236 www.apexdigital.co.uk
Printworks North was set up in 1996 by managing director Paul Johnson. It started as a two-colour outfit in Wetherby before expanding into four-colour work. It now has a whole range of kit, including a Mimaki wide-format machine, and offers design services as well. Recent expansion has seen turnover double to £1.2m.
Why it was bought…
Increased four-colour work via a new W2P website and new contracts meant the company’s Ryobi 524 was getting swamped, resulting in a bottleneck. It was decided that a fifth unit was needed so sealing could be done inline, saving time and enabling faster turnarounds.
How it has performed…
Marketing and sales director Ben Johnson says that quality and speed of turnaround has been exceptional from the start. He explains that jobs can now be done to very tight timeframes and that the reduced handling required by sealing inline has meant the risk of any quality issues has been vastly reduced.
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