Me & my... KBA Rapida 105
Thursday, 25 October 2012
In 1975, Leyprint made a move into packaging to change its fortunes forever. A new KBA press sees the company continue growth in that area
It was a chance request from an existing customer back in 1975 that was to radically change packaging printer Leyprint’s fortunes forever. Up until that point, the Lancashire-based company had been a commercial printer, producing mostly brochures and magazines. Then an existing customer asked if Leyprint could help them out of a bind and print some boxes after another supplier let them down. That customer was the cold and flu pharmaceuticals specialist Beechams and that enquiry set Leyprint off along a totally new track.
"Of course, when asked, our sales rep said, ‘Yes, we can do that,’" reports Leyprint owner Edward Mould. "At the time, we had no idea what we were doing, but actually that got us into cartons. By the 1980s we were 50-50 commercial and packaging, and by the early 1990s almost exclusively in packaging."
Although he points out that the packaging market has had its fair share of quiet periods, Mould concedes that moving into this now booming sector has turned out to be a shrewd move.
And so, with the company today occupying a 12,000sqm site and boasting a £7m turnover, branching into packaging has turned out to be the most lucrative change of direction for a company with a long history evolution.
The firm was in fact established in 1901 by Edward’s great-grandfather, Thomas Edward Mould, as an offshoot of the Post Office business that his wife ran. It then expanded to a number of sites in Leyland and Preston, Lancashire, before settling in 1956 at its current location at Leyland Lane. The company then operated as a commercial printer with a book publishing subsidiary, Ditchfield British Books, and a letterpress type-casting subsidiary Mouldtype Foundry.
One thing that has remained unchanged, of course, is Leyprint’s status as a family firm, with Edward (and his brother, works director Anthony) the fourth generation to run the business. Another thing that has stayed consistent over the years is an ambitious approach to expansion.
Not content with simply sitting back and enjoying the success that has come with moving into the boom area of packaging, the brothers have been sure to invest in growth.
The latest example of this is a new KBA Rapida 105 press, installed in December last year.
The machine carries on the tradition of this business being an offset-only house, but that is about all the new kit has in common with the ageing Komoris that it replaced, reports Mould.
"We moved from two Komoris, which date from the mid 1990s, so the leap in technology from 1995 to 2012 was actually quite phenomenal," he says, reporting that the intention of bringing Leyprint’s pressroom into the 21st century was to significantly boost capacity.
The question, then, is why the KBA machine? "We looked at all of the litho manufacturers, but the KBA stood head and shoulders above the rest," says Mould, explaining that the main criteria for Leyprint was the ability print on a wide variety of substrate thicknesses.
"We chose the KBA because it satisfied our criteria" he says. "We run very varied work with regards to the thickness of the material, and the KBA had by far the greatest breadth of callipers that it could handle. We can quite comfortably print on the thin flutes that other presses struggle with."
"The other presses all spec between 900 and 1,000 microns and the thin flutes are right up there at around the 1,000 micron mark," adds Mould. "Whereas the KBA specs up to 1,200 microns, so it comfortably handles the fluted market."
The varied nature of the substrates that Leyprint handles means that the company has just one regret in regards to the 105. Mould wishes he’d had the foresight, at the time of installation, to opt for an upgrade enabling the press to print on thicker substrates and so be able to process corrugated packaging work.
"KBA offers an upgrade that allows you to print on 1.6mm grades, which enables you to print directly onto E flute, which we think is a really good market for us," says Mould, explaining that the upgrade involves adding covers on the cylinder gaps so the thicker sheets don’t fall back into them, and adding sheet guides to allow thicker sheets to travel through the press without getting marked.
"I wish we’d put the corrugated packaging capability on when we installed the KBA, rather than waiting to retro-fit it," says Mould. "It won’t make a difference to the actual finished article, it’s just going to cost us a bit more money. But we’ll add that by the end of the year because this is really a market we need to tap into."
But this is Leyprint’s only real dissatisfaction with the new press. "The KBA has been very good. It’s doing exactly what it says on the tin," says Mould.
The 105’s sound performance is particularly impressive considering how hard the company works it, he adds. "It’s running 24/5, so it’s running three shifts. We run it flat out almost all the time – 16,500 sheets an hour. We give it a bit of pain and it seems to soak it up."
And the support given by KBA has been similarly impressive, says Mould, who concedes that there were a couple of service issues when the press was first installed. But, he says, he couldn’t fault KBA’s response.
"We had a couple of niggles, which were installation problems more than anything," reports Mould. "Because it was the first of its type in the UK, there were a couple of small software issues that had to be sorted. But they were dealt with remotely and very quickly, usually overnight."
"It is standard procedure for the remote diagnostics facility to be included in the warranty period and the speedy correction of the teething troubles illustrates its value," confirms KBA UK managing director Christian Knapp.
"Today, very few press investments are ‘like-for-like’ because technology moves on so quickly," he adds. "In this case, Leyprint was sure from the outset that it wanted its new press to encompass the opportunity to supply new markets while improving performance in its core sector, so our analysis of the various requirements in the early stages was crucial to building the optimum specification profile."
KBA was also particularly helpful when it came to advising Leyprint on how to prepare the pressroom for the installation, adds Mould.
"The installation went very well. It was extremely well-handled by KBA," he says. "We had to put a concrete base in, but KBA gave us all the specifications. We just had to make sure the concrete was the right depth and put in the reinforcements. KBA was extremely organised and just very good."
Then KBA was apparently very understanding of the fact that the Leyprint team needed thorough training to get to grips with a technology that was very different to what they had been used to.
"The lads hadn’t worked on this sort of press before so we needed a very intensive training programme," says Mould. "KBA gave us three weeks of training, which was all done onsite because it was easier to run it here than over in Germany due to the Christmas holiday, and this programme was very good. The guys just had to get to grips with things like the on-press scanner, and the information side of the press."
And now that they have had to get to grips with this initially unfamiliar technology, the team are very happy with their new press, reports Mould: "It’s a very easy machine to use. The lads are extremely pleased with it."
As is Mould. The 105, he reports, has led to turnover being boosted from £3.5m to £7m in just 18 months, with a lot of this growth coming from existing customers, but 10%-15% of the extra work coming from new clients.
So, while the move to packaging in the 1970s set Leyprint on the right track for impressive future growth, there’s no doubt that it was the company’s investment in a new KBA 105 that really sealed the deal. In Mould’s words: "We certainly wouldn’t have been able to get there without it."
Max sheet size Standard: 720x1,050mm; Special: 740x1,050mm
Min sheet size Standard: 360x520mm Special: 350x500mm
Print formats Standard: 710x1,040mm Special: 730x1,040mm
Standard substrate 0.06-0.7mm
Standard substrate with lightweight equipment 0.04mm
Standard substrate with board-handling 1.2mm
Standard substrate with corrugated equipment 1.6mm
Max production speed 16,000sph (16,500sph with speed-enhancement package)
Price From £1.5m
Contact KBA UK 01923 819922 www.kba.com
Lancashire-based Leyprint was established in 1901 by Thomas Edward Mould, who ran the company from the back room of the Post Office that his wife owned. The company has remained in the family ever since and is now run by Mould’s great-grandchildren, managing director Edward Mould and his brother and works director Anthony. Having initiated the switch from commercial printing to packaging in 1975, Leyprint is today a dedicated packaging printer, producing folding cartons on
offset litho machines for a range of FMCG customers.
Why it was bought...
The company needed to boost capacity significantly and so bought the KBA 105 to replace two ageing Komori machines.
How it has performed...
Managing director Edward Mould is very pleased with the new press. "It’s doing exactly what it says on the tin," he says. The extra capacity the new press has brought to the company has led to a doubling of turnover, from £3.5m to £7m, over the past 18 months.
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