Me & my: KAS Paper Systems Mailmaster Eclipse

Simplyhealth is a healthcare insurance company with roots going back 140 years to hospital funds set up in Victorian days. Today it offers health cash plans to help customers claim cash back for everyday healthcare appointments, such as to the dentist, optician, physiotherapist or chiropractor.

It also offers pet insurance. Via Simplyhealth Independent Living, it provides mobility products and daily living aids to help people to live independently. 

On average, the company pays 16,000 cash and dental plan claims every day. While a lot of payments go straight into customers’ bank accounts and the company is actively encouraging online claiming, that volume of business still generates a lot of printed paperwork and mailings.

The company’s Andover site is the centralised hub for its printing requirements. The Print and Packing Department produces marketing material as well as forms and various personalised documents for individuals and corporate customers. 

A large proportion of the marketing material is printed in-house on single-colour Canon digital printers. Litho printing and long runs are outsourced to a local company. Personalisation details are digitally overprinted on the pre-printed colour or monochrome documents. 

The department also has a variety of other equipment, including finishing machines such as a Morgana folder and a Polar guillotine. 

On 15 July last year Simplyhealth installed the UK’s first Mailmaster Eclipse envelope inserter from KAS Paper Systems. It replaced a nine-year-old Muller insertion system. This had two primary document feeders with folder and six side insert feeders. It had cameras on the primary feeder and one of the insert feeders which were used for matching documents, but it did not have Datalog tracking or any other intelligent features. 

The Mailmaster Eclipse is a modular envelope inserter, designed and manufactured in Britain. It’s designed for very fast job changeovers, even between DL and C4 envelopes. A wide choice of configurations and optional features allow it to be customised to individual users’ needs. 

Security and tracking have now become extremely important for Simplyhealth, for handling individual’s personal/medical information. The company said the Muller was slow to set up and change from job to job and was becoming increasingly less reliable. The Eclipse takes about half the time to set up and has the advantage of being open track, which makes it easy to identify jams and clear them.

With the installation of the Mailmaster Eclipse, Simplyhealth used the opportunity to change over from its own in-house document generation software to PlanetPress from Objectif Lune. This now allows the next generation of 2D barcodes to be read and tracked by the Eclipse. 

The Eclipse can read OCR, OMR, barcode and 2D in either orientation on the page. Jobs can be pre-programmed, minimising set-up time. The reading technology facilitates batching the prime document, selection of inserts, merging and matching of two or more streams of personalised documentation, diverting of filled envelopes before sealing and envelope marking. 

Alie Paxton, manager of the Print and Packing Department, says: “Data integrity is paramount because we are processing personalised letters, statements, claim forms and cheques, etc, together with marketing material, which is why we bought the Datalog tracking and mailing integrity checking system. If there are any queries we will identify the problem immediately.” 

Throughput boost

So why did the company choose the Eclipse? Paxton says: “We needed a machine which would not only increase our productivity and reliability today, but also give us the flexibility and data integrity to handle all types of mailing in the future.” She says the company first heard about the features of the Eclipse at the Print Efficiently show and included it in a tender alongside three other envelope inserters.

“We gave each machine on our tender list a thorough evaluation, sending sample work in advance and then, at the demonstration, we brought more challenging jobs, such as inserts printed on shiny, coated stock,” Paxton explains. 

“We judged them against some fundamental criteria that were essential to our requirements. High speed was not particularly the issue, but we needed variable speed control so that we could manage the flow of work to best effect, depending upon whether we were simply folding and inserting letters and statements or including reply envelopes and inserts of different thickness, printed on a range of stock.” 

Having standardised on C5 envelopes in the past, the company is now beginning to adopt DL envelopes. Paxton says that in future this may change again so the company needed the flexibility of inserting from DL to C4 size.

Paxton and her team had two or three demonstrations at KAS Paper Systems’ factory in Dunstable and were taken to a customer that did similar mailings on the related Mailmaster 465HS. 

“This was a significant investment so we needed to be sure that we were making the right decision,” Paxton says. “We wanted an independent reference to reassure ourselves about the Mailmaster and the company’s on-going service and support. KAS also showed us round their factory, which was very impressive. Knowing that we can get parts and service locally and quickly was an added bonus.”

Other options

The Eclipse was evaluated against Neopost and Grützmacher insertion systems, but Paxton and team say it was the KAS demo which impressed them most. 

Simplicity of set-up and access, quick changeover between jobs and data integrity were where the Mailmaster Eclipse scored over its competitors, Paxton says. “Some were too complicated, couldn’t handle our coated inserts or were closed-track, making it difficult to clear any jams. Using our criteria, the Eclipse was the clear winner.” Another factor is that the Eclipse is reasonably compact and space is an issue.

Simplyhealth specified four insert stations and two overhead feeders, which lets it feed single sheets from one of the feeders and insert them into envelopes. A choice of touchscreens control the machine, showing operator screen selection, speed control, resettable counter, help pages, output speed and error location display.

KAS Paper Systems removed the old Muller and installed the Eclipse over a weekend, Paxton says. “KAS waited until we had finished using the Muller on a Friday morning and then came in and took it out and installed the Eclipse over the weekend, so it was ready to run on Monday morning when we came into work. A KAS engineer was there to give us comprehensive training and to make sure that we didn’t have a break in our production.”

KAS trained and supported the operators during the following week ensuring that there was no loss of productivity. “We were very pleased with the installation and training,” Paxton says. “We can’t fault KAS’s excellent training and support. They are always available should we need them.”

Paxton says that the KAS machine has delivered on its promises so far. “It’s been remarkably good compared with the previous machine, which was very sensitive, for example, in terms of the window position and any variation in its position. The Eclipse is far more forgiving so we have fewer jams. 

“It does exactly what KAS told us it would because it’s a bespoke machine. We spent some time with KAS explaining what we needed and listening to their advice before they built it to our requirements. 

“The operators enjoy working with the Eclipse. It is set up via touchscreen, which makes it straightforward to operate and the open track cover design is a big bonus for clearing any jams.”

In terms of pros and cons, Paxton is very positive: “Pluses – flexibility to handle a wide range of jobs with quick changeover, Datalog tracking, ease of operation and set-up, reliability and technical back-up. I can’t think of any minuses because it was designed to our spec.” 


Insert stations Insert stations can handle a variety of materials including single sheets, card, reply envelopes, pre-loaded items, stapled sets, CDs and books. It is possible to pre-select the number of items fed from an insert station, and have the feed switch automatically from one station to another when it runs low.

Throughput up to 8,000 envelopes per hour

Envelope formats DL to oversized C4

Max material feed thickness 7mm

Price from £90,000 depending on spec

Contact KAS Paper Systems 01582 662211


Simplyhealth’s Print and Packing Department is the central hub for printing marketing material and personalised customer communications for the parent company, which specialises in health- and pet-related insurance plans, plus mobility products. 

Its in-house facility includes Canon mono document printers, with finishing equipment including a Morgana folder and a Polar guillotine. 

Why it was bought...

Simplyhealth had previously been running a Muller insertion line, but the nine-year-old system was slow to set up and change over and was becoming increasingly unreleliable.

How it has performed...

“The Print and Packing Department, being an in-plant, is reactive rather than pro-active, so we cannot say it has boosted turnover,” Paxton says. “However it has freed up time with the quicker changeover and faster running to enable staff to do other things. It has taken a while but we planned a phased approach with the Datalog software integrating into our own database. It is now in full operation including the automation of the collation and insertion of welcome packs which were previously hand matched and inserted. The Eclipse is meeting its expectations of an increase in productivity of 15%.”