Fire-hit printer rises from the ashes

By Hannah Jordan, Friday 14 July 2017

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Service Press Leicester, which was burned to the ground 18 months ago, has turned disaster into an opportunity to realign its business.

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Hill: "You wouldn’t wish it on anybody."

On the afternoon 28 December 2015 a fire broke out in a neighbouring unit of the Ross Walk factory that housed family-run litho print business Service Press Leicester. The fire blazed through the night razing the print house and its neighbouring businesses to the ground.

“We had been out at the races that day and we had a call to say there was a fire,” said the firm’s Sarah Hill, daughter of Barrie Hill who founded the business more that 30 years ago.

“We got there at about 4pm and couldn’t go near the building. It was blazing all night and we stood on the bridge overlooking the factory and literally just watched it burn to the ground. You wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

“When we did eventually get to see it the next day, everything was gone. The equipment was unrecognisable, it was just mangled metal,” she said.

Among the ruined equipment was a four-colour Ryobi 524 GX press, a Heidelberg GTO, a number of mono presses and various pieces of finishing kit. Even the firm’s administration system was lost as there was no cloud back-up, explained Hill. 

But now 18 months later with most of the insurance payout finally in place the business is beginning to thrive again but under a new guise.

“Initially we thought we’d carry on as we were and but now we’ve taken a different approach and have decided to build up a digital business,” Hill explained.

After the fire Service Press, which has four staff including the Hills, immediately teamed up with a number of local printers to ensure that it was able to fulfill all outstanding orders and has since continued to work with its partners on all litho work.

“We immediately replaced the finishing equipment because finishing was something we really wanted to keep in-house, but then we started to consider other avenues and so we bought a new Konica Minolta with finishing capabilities about two months ago.

The 71ppm Konica Minolta AccurioPress C2070, supplied by Apex Digital Graphics, was installed at the firm's small temporary site in Leicestershire, according to Hill, and is already producing a lot of short-run work.

“The good thing is we can also do some of the litho work that we were doing, digitally. This is a totally new area for us so we are just building that up at the moment. We aren’t rebuilding the business as it was. We are really focusing on the short-run digital side and the finishing.

“Ultimately we want to get a new premises and will look at potentially buying another litho machine further down the line,” she added.

“If you’d have asked us 18 months ago if we would be in this position now, we’d definitely have said no, but we’ve really turned it round.” 

burnt-pressBarrie Hill added: "If you had spoken to me 12 months ago I wouldn't have been able to have this conversation because I was a complete wreck for a while. One moment you think you have everything and then suddenly you have nothing. The building was so badly damaged we weren't allowed back in and it had to be demolished. If you weren't a printer, you wouldn't have any idea what you were looking at. 

"I've been in print for years but always litho so starting in digital is a real learning curve for me and it has really opened my eyes. The quality coming off the machine is really impressive so that's has given us a really good start. We're not rushing anything because we want to get it right," he said. 

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