Space exploration provides a home for growing firm

By Abi Etchells, Monday 20 March 2017

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Extreme sports enthusiast Stuart Maclaren is a self-declared adrenaline junkie. The managing director of Your Print Partner (YPP), a large-format digital print specialist, is an avid snowboarder and confessed he even owns his own Flyboard, a sort of water-based jetpack.

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However, the 26-year-old said he has little time to enjoy these hobbies now his company has just moved into its new Lincoln-based site, an investment worth £2m. 

Maclaren set up YPP when he was just 21. The company, which has a history of expanding year on year, grew so much that its Lincoln premises, Millennium House, was holding it back from further development.  

Admitting, “I do all sorts of crazy things,” Maclaren certainly surprised people with the monumental move from around 750m2 to 3,530m2 in under a week.

“Your Print Partner has gone a bit crazy. I started five years ago from my kitchen table at home. My aim was always to try and deal with fast-response textile because so many people print PVC roller banners but not many were doing textile and there was quite a big demand. I’m probably one of the biggest fabric printers in the UK now.”

The challenge

Your Print Partner ran out of space a year ago. The company put up a mobile container in the yard and “maxed-out on mezzanines” but as the volume of stock increased, the space available for new equipment decreased. 

For a man who thrives on risk-taking, Maclaren was surprisingly reluctant to move.

“I didn’t want to sell Millennium House. It was a great building in a great location, but it just wasn’t big enough. I tried buying the land around it but none of it was for sale. If I could have, I would have stayed.” 

As much as the move was bittersweet, it became increasingly clear that it was highly necessary. 

YPP started as a print broker, sourcing products to sell on to clients. The company’s feather flags, which remain their biggest-selling product, brought in more and more business until Maclaren realised that the company’s supplier couldn’t keep up with the level of demand the company was generating.

“I was selling on the reputation of delivering products on time and on plan. The supply was a part of the chain I wasn’t in control of. So I went and bought my first Mimaki TX400 printer.” 

The move into print production, with the company’s impressive turnaround, meant YPP attracted the business of bigger clients. Cancer Research made a three-year deal with YPP to supply all the banners and signage for the high-profile event, Race for Life. The deal to supply the ‘look and feel’ for the entire series ran out last year but YPP secured the deal with them again this year.

As the company won more business, production levels soared and the need for more equipment soon became unavoidable. 

At first, YPP considered buying a piece of land and building the site from scratch. However, its cashflow was not sufficient to meet the sizeable deposits that would be needed to secure the land.

So, 18 months ago, Maclaren began the search for YPP’s new home. 

He was keen to stay in Lincoln to keep his staff’s commute down, but struggled to find a site that was not leasehold only.

“I wanted to own my building. I think it’s more secure and why should I invest my money on leasing a building to then modernise it, re-network it and re-power it.”

The method

After nine months of searching, YPP found their new site on Pyke Road. Maclaren purchased the 2,600m2 facility and set to work planning the move.

Closing the company after Christmas to open a week later on 9 January 2017 at its new home. 

From the perspective of its clients, YPP’s move to the new site was “seamless”. The truth is slightly different.

“The logistics of the move were horrible. I thought it would take maybe a weekend with 20 people. We did it in under a week but it took 40 people and it was quite a lot of work.”

YPP called in the help of Mimaki to move the specialist machines but relied on staff to move the office equipment which Maclaren described as “stressful”, with some IT kit going astray.

The team had to negotiate the presence of forklift trucks on the premises, which Maclaren said he hadn’t even considered before the move.

YPP also had to contend with updating the power and networking. Maclaren said the network was not powerful enough to download big files, such as artwork. YPP even installed a separate power source for its print room.

“It means that if anything goes wrong in the main building then the print room still works.” 

It’s no surprise that with Maclaren’s ambitious nature, having bought a new site, developments to expand further have already begun. 

Maclaren added a 420m2 extension as well as building a mezzanine above the print room, bringing the total size of the site to 3,530m2

“We are also going to put a whole new fascia on the front of the building in the summer to bring the building up-to-date.”

Maclaren plans to add a further 2,044m2 fascia extension to the site in the form of a new warehouse, bringing the total investment to around £2.5m.

The new site now includes new sales and accounting offices, a new design studio and photography suite, meeting rooms, two product showrooms, staff recreational facilities and over three times as much production and warehouse space as its previous location.

The site investment was combined with the purchase of two new Mimaki printers, an LED-UV UJV55-320 and a JFX200 flatbed, as well as a Heatsealer 320 rotary press and a dye-sublimation paper transfer line. 

Never one to miss a deadline, YPP re-opened for business at its new headquarters on 9 January while the new equipment was scheduled for delivery in early February. 

The result

Two months into life on the new site, Maclaren is only just realising how far his company has come.

“It’s nice to see a year’s worth of planning start slotting together. Yesterday it was really busy and I looked down on to production from the mezzanine and it was crazy. It looked like the production of any of the big players who had been around for 10 to 20 years. We’re five years old, we’ve been in the building less than two months and I was looking down on a full production line and watching hundreds of orders leave the factory.” 

YPP plans to launch all-year-round custom gifts later this year following the recent launch of new product lines, such as personalised drinks bottles and marshmallow kits. The company also wants to develop the current site further to house new and existing projects. 

While its previous site restricted growth, YPP’s new site serves only to aid the company’s progress. 

“The new factory has given us the opportunity to expand into lots of new product lines, the option to add more machines and to hit my goal to be at £9m in revenue in five years’ time. 

“We’re looking at a couple of acquisitions to keep growing the brand and we’re developing quite a big trade division.”

While Maclaren is positive about the new site, there were a few hiccups he didn’t foresee with the move. In addition to bigger bills, it appears the new site has caused Maclaren to lose staff, although not in the usual sense. 

“My staff now have thousands upon thousands of metres to hide in. I know they’re not hiding but you can lose someone in the building so easily. I’ve given every member of staff a cordless phone because I could spend ten minutes walking around trying to find someone.” 

Thankfully, Maclaren has solved this unforeseen issue because, if his adrenaline-fuelled ways are anything to go by, YPP is in for an action-packed year.

“We’ve got a big aim for this year so it should be busy. I set very big goals but we just have to make sure we keep delivering what we promise our client’s we’ll deliver.” 


VITAL STATISTICS

Your Print Partner

Location Lincoln

Inspection host Managing director Stuart Maclaren

Size Turnover: £2m; Staff: 26 (soon to be 40) 

Products Flags, flag accessories and bases, banners, gazebos, exhibition displays, furniture, paper printing, stretch fabric stands, TV stands, tablet stands, signage, Santa Sacks, personalised gifts 

Kit Mimaki JFX 200 flatbed, UJV55 320 printer, three JV5 320 DS fabric printers, TS34-1800A inkjet printer, TX400-1800 printer, CJV30 160 printer, JV33 160 printer, Transmatic rotary press, Transmatic UV heat oven and five CJV cutters  

Inspection focus Moving a business to a new site


TOP TIPS

Make sure that you plan for growth. It’s a good idea to buy a site at least one and a half times the size you want and/or need as you fill the space quickly.

When moving the business, make sure that you get the right people to move the machines. Since they are essential to your business, you will want to get them back up and running as soon as you can.

When choosing the location of a site, bear in mind commuting distances for your staff – you don’t want to alienate them. Remember a happy workforce is a productive workforce.

Always speak to every team in the company. They will all have ideas about how they think they could improve production and make life easier with a revamped setup.

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