Me & my: Xerox Baltoro
Friday, December 18, 2020
Nottingham-based direct mail (DM) specialist Eight Days a Week Print Solutions has a long-standing relationship with Xerox.
So much so that the printer considers Xerox a ‘partner’ and not a supplier, so when Eight Days a Week started looking for a press that would enable it to bring work in-house and replace an existing Xerox iGen4 Diamond Edition it inevitably turned its focus to the products offered by its partner of choice.
Initially the company looked at Xerox’s reel-fed machine the Trivor. A deal had essentially been put in place for the machine by company chairman David Beardsley. However, in September last year Beardsley brought in Lance Hill as managing director of Eight Days a Week and he told Hill to do what he felt was best for the business.
“So I looked at it, but I didn’t think it was the right machine for us because the Trivor is a reel-fed machine and all of our business is sheetfed,” says Hill.
Then in October last year Hill was invited to the launch of Xerox’s new Baltoro inkjet press, which superseded the Brenva. “To cut a long story short, the penny dropped,” he says. “In very simplistic terms the Baltoro is a cutsheet version of the Trivor. I’m being crude, but in essence it’s a high-speed, high-quality inkjet cutsheet machine whereas the Trivor is reel-fed and the big thing for me is we’re a business that handles sheets not reels. It’s not just about having a machine that runs off a reel that’s really fast.
“You then have to have all of the pre- and post-machine infrastructure around that. There are a lot of knock-on costs [associated with reel-fed], so keeping to a sheetfed process was key to us.”
After watching the machine in action at the launch event Hill knew the Baltoro ticked all the boxes. “We started crunching the numbers and it all stacked up,” he says. “The rationale for investing in the machine was we had been outsourcing a high-volume job on a monthly basis to a reel-fed inkjet provider for a number of years and it was all about trying to bring that work in-house ultimately, and also to service other work. We knew that speed and output wise the Baltoro could do what we needed.”
The Baltoro, which uses High Fusion inks through W-series inkjet heads to achieve print resolutions of up to 1,200dpi, runs at top speeds of up to 197ppm A4 simplex and 300ppm A4 duplex.
Eight Days a Week ran trials on the press using the stock and artwork it typically produces and Hill says he struggled to find fault with the speed or quality of the Baltoro. In the end he says the decision was a “no-brainer” although he admits that he did weigh up alternatives including Canon’s VarioPrint.
It was quickly dismissed for a couple of reasons. “One issue is it’s too big,” says Hill. “Within our existing digital studio room, where we’ve got three Xerox machines, we’ve got limited space. The great thing about the Baltoro is it’s exactly the same footprint as the iGen4 that came out so we knew it would fit. It [the Canon] was also a lot more expensive, but cost wasn’t the main driver for me. It was about getting the right machine. However, it would have cost us a lot more to incorporate the Canon because we would have to alter the room and do all sorts of stuff to the building.”
Another big factor in the Baltoro’s favour is it has the same paper path and almost the same chassis as the iGen so it had an air of familiarity for the company’s machine operators.
“The Baltoro even looks the same roughly from the outside,” says Hill. “The only difference is you’ve got inkjet heads rather than toner. I think Xerox clearly took this into account when they were designing the machine and they knew they could sell it to existing iGen customers with a view that actually the operators’ understanding of the kit is there already to an extent other than the fact you’re switching from toner to inkjet.”
As a result of these factors the installation – which took place just before the national lockdown in March – went smoothly and Eight Days a Week’s machine operators were able to easily get up to speed on the Baltoro without requiring lots of extra training.
However, Hill concedes that there were a number of teething issues with the new machine in the first three months following the installation.
“It was mainly down to paper,” he says. “I think we were the third or fourth Baltoro installation in the UK and I think we were the only ones running a lot of 80gsm stock, which is the bulk of what we do. When we were running anything heavier – so 100 or 120gsm – we had absolutely no problem with it, the machine would fly. But when we put lighter stock on we were having lots of issues.”
The situation wasn’t aided by the fact that due to lockdown and travel restrictions Xerox wasn’t about to send its top engineers to the site from the US and Europe, so a lot of the trouble shooting was being done remotely over video calls. Hill says that in all fairness to Xerox the company did throw a lot of resources at the problem to try and resolve it, which eventually they did.
“When I look back on it now, it was a pretty challenging three months,” he says. “However, the machine is now doing everything we wanted it to and actually when we analyse the numbers it was the best decision we ever made.”
Hill remains very happy with the decision to opt for the Baltoro, now that those initial issues have been ironed out, although he struggles to identify the thing he likes most about the Baltoro as its introduction has been so transformational for Eight Days a Week. One thing he is particularly fond of is the ‘K-only’ mode which lets the machine cap its CMY heads to reduce usage for mono work.
“So we can run mono work through it at a cheaper rate,” he explains. “You can also buy in-pre printed litho stock and put that through it as well just for the personalisation. Depending on the profile of the work there’s lots of different things and options that you can do on it.”
Hill has also been blown away by the Baltoro’s output. “Being brutally honest, most of the work we do doesn’t need to be stunning quality, because a lot of it is just the logo and text, so the quality of the machine is absolutely fine for what we’re doing. So the best thing about the machine for me is output and also the ease of maintenance. When the machine is running well it just churns through the volume and gives us more firepower, which is where we need to go in terms of our aspirations as a business.”
He says that by bringing in work that had historically been outsourced the Baltoro has allowed Eight Days a Week to increase its margins, increase capacity and also compete for work that it wouldn’t have been able to compete for before.
As a result of these factors he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is currently weighing up investing in the machine. Hill adds that a “very large DM business in the UK” has already come to look at the Baltoro in action at the company’s 1,070sqm Nottingham site with a view to investing in one and he knows that Xerox has made some modifications to the machine as a result of its experience with Eight Days a Week to iron out some of the aforementioned teething issues.
“I think that if someone has got the right profile of work and if they’ve got space restraints and had an iGen before then the Baltoro can bring real benefits,” says Hill. “It was a no-brainer when we made the decision to buy the machine and it still is a no-brainer because it has transformed our business.”
Printheads Xerox High Fusion W-Series
Max speed A4: 276/302 ipm duplex
Inkset High fusion
Substrates Plain, inkjet treated, inkjet coated, offset uncoated, offset coated
Max sheet size 364x520mm
Stock weight range 60-270gsm
Duty cycle 6 million
Price From £540,000
Contact Xerox www.xerox.co.uk 0330 123 3245
Eight Days a Week Print Solutions, which is based in Nottingham, employs 18 members of staff and has annual turnover of circa £5m. Its client base spans SMEs through to large corporates and it produces a lot of work for healthcare and education customers. According to managing director Lance Hill most of the work the firm produces is direct mail and typical run lengths are sub-50,000 although it does produce one job each month that has a run length of 250,000 to 300,000.
Why it was bought...
The company wanted to increase its firepower, replace an existing iGen4 and at the same time bring a large job that it had historically outsourced back in-house. Having initially weighed up purchasing a Trivor it eventually plumped for Xerox’s new Baltoro sheetfed inkjet press.
How it has performed...
After a few initial teething problems the machine is now firmly bedded in and Hill says its performance has exceeded all expectations. “Our volumes have gone up, we’ve won new work and we’re attacking new markets as well, which we perhaps wouldn’t have done before, so it’s quite an exciting opportunity,” he adds.