Solopress ramps up with multimillion-pound spend

Solopress is in the final stages of a multimillion-pound investment programme to boost capacity to keep up with demand and shape itself for future growth.

The Southend-based online print business’s £2m spend, evenly split between new kit and acquiring and refurbishing an additional unit, comes just over a year after the business was bought by acquisitive German online trade and B2B print firm Onlineprinters.

“It’s been an interesting 12 months since the acquisition. Looking around the market there seems to have been some nervousness around investing – it’s a nervous time for the industry and also its customers in some senses,” said Aron Priest, Solopress managing director and co-founder.

“So, there are a lot of people sitting on their hands [in the industry], but for us to make these investments and the other things we’re ploughing though, we’ve just said ‘let’s get on with it’ and we’re starting to see the traction now, with new business coming through.”

To keep up with current and projected growth, the business is poised to install a five-back-five Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 75 with Inpress colour control. The B2 press, supplied by White Horse Machinery, will be Solopress’s third 10-colour XL, and eighth Speedmaster.

To keep up with the increased print output, the firm has also ordered a new Mark III Horizon StitchLiner, HT-30C three-side trimmer and two VAC-1000 collators.

The highly automated 6,000bph line, which can also produce A4 landscape booklets, is slated for delivery in the next couple of months. It will join a raft of existing Horizon kit at the business, including two StitchLiner 5500s, a SPF-200L bookletmaker, a CRF-362 creaser-folder and a BQ-470 perfect binder.

The £24m turnover firm is also in the process of ramping up its digital capacity.

It’s in the final stages of commissioning a pair of Xerox iGen 4s that were relocated from sister company LaserTryk in Denmark, which Onlineprinters acquired last October, bringing its iGen haul to seven machines.

“It’s good, I still get excited about new kit and I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at new machines,” said Priest.

With the exception of the stitching line, which replaced an older Duplo machine, all of the kit is additional.

To help make room for the new machines, in recent weeks the firm relocated around 120 office staff to a new third unit, next door to its two main production facilities.

The site expansion was also driven by the fact that the business has increased headcount from 230 to around 290 over the past 12 months.

“We’ve added a lot of new skills to the business over the past year, a lot of them in roles that we’ve never had before, primarily to dynamically drive continued growth,” said Priest.

The new building, Unit 3, was acquired six months before Priest and Solopress fellow co-founder Andy Smith sold the business to Onlineprinters.


120 staff moved into the new facility in recent weeks

Over the second half of 2017 it gutted and refurbished the 1,700sqm, two-story unit. The back office, customer service, data, sales and marketing staff have already moved to the first floor, and the ground floor, which will house the development team, is in the final stages of its renovation.

“I’m so proud of what Kevin [Seaden, chief operations officer] and the guys have achieved with the new facility,” said Priest.

In total the business’s three units cover around 7,000sqm.

While Priest said that there were no concrete plans for further investment, he hinted that the business may make further investments in 2018, with one potential area being LED UV litho.

“There’s definitely room for us to scope out new bits of kit later in the year, we haven’t ruled anything out,” he said.