DST Output UK has embarked on a multimillion-pound equipment upgrade across its Bristol, Dagenham and Nottingham sites.
The investment includes the UK’s second 4/4, 200m/min Kodak Prosper 5000XL, which is currently being commissioned at the Nottingham direct response and marketing print facility.
Meanwhile, at DST’s Dagenham facility, an additional Ricoh Infoprint 5000 is also being commissioned, following a recent investment in new stitching technology.
A second high-speed inkjet web press will be installed in the first quarter of next year at DST’s Bristol transactional site, which is currently being enlarged by 2,400m2.
Despite the site’s history as the home of two 4/1 and the UK’s first 4/4 Kodak Versamarks, chief executive Nick Dixon left the door open for other high-speed inkjet manufacturers.
"I think its important to have a range of equipment to give us that flexibility across the group on what we deliver to our clients and to give us a back-up facility," he said. "In general, our philosophy is not to be too beholden to one supplier."
Bristol is also earmarked to receive an investment in enclosing equipment, with capacity set to be increased by 29% at the site, while Peterborough has been reconfigured and given a facelift.
The major capex programme follows a year of consolidation at the transactional and marketing communications giant, which was formed through last year’s merger of Innovative Output Solutions (IOS) and Lateral Group. The restructure included the closure of its Manchester direct mail site, which resulted in the loss of 200 jobs.
DST’s decision to back Kodak’s Prosper platform follows a protracted beta at Howard Hunt, which installed its 5000XL in February 2011, and Lateral Group’s decision to pass on the technology prior to its sale to IOS.
"I don’t believe in putting technology in for technology’s sake because the learning curve can be quite expensive," said Dixon. "We didn’t push the button a couple of years ago because everybody was trying to push their boxes out to the marketplace to get first-mover advantage.
"I don’t think there was an advantage because, although you might get a discount on the box, there’s always a cost with putting in new technology."
According to Kodak GCG inkjet printing systems sales manager Graham McLachlan, the reason for the drawn-out beta at Howard Hunt was down to the availability of inkjet papers at "the right price".
"The key thing has been the availability of things like silk papers at the right price that allow the press to run at full speed and get the look and feel of offset printing," he said.
"Because, for every £100 you add onto a reel or tonne, that has a major impact on the viability of a job to go to inkjet."
Howard Hunt is expected to progress from beta tester to full customer in the near future. "We’ve been through a very complicated and technically demanding beta test but things are progressing well and we look forward to concluding the purchase of the machine," said McLachlan.
McLachlan added that there were different tolerances in the European direct mail market than in the US and that it had taken some time for the mills to get the production processes in place to be able to get the cost of the papers down.
Meanwhile, DST Output UK is poised to launch its Lateral Group offering in the North American market, based out of Boston, MA, after receiving backing from its US parent.
Dixon said: "That was one of the advantages of and one of the rationales for coming under the DST umbrella - to be able to take the Lateral Group offering and scale it in North America.
"If you've got the basis of the model correct - which we clearly have in the UK, where we were the first company to really join all the pieces together - then there's a tremendous opportunity to take that and scale it elsewhere.
"We're coming into a very interesting time for the market."Tweet
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