Spend smart and enhance your portfolio

Jez Abbott
Monday, February 6, 2017

Oriel Printing Company had high hopes for its new print-enhancement service offering UV-based polymer varnishing and spot foiling. It was to be, according to the business, the first trade Scodix provider in the UK.

And it was made possible after the purchase of an Ultra Pro + Foil B2 digital press from the manufacturer based in Israel. Setting up a new service on the back of an investment as big as this one, £500,000, was an obvious but difficult move that involved identifying and then targeting new customers, says Richard Simms who runs the family business in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The challenge

Oriel Printing Company was founded almost 40 years ago by Simms’ father, John, with his son becoming an apprentice within the origination department in the good old days of film and manual platemaking. 

Simms progressed into the studio, as the mighty Apple Mac took hold of pre-press departments everywhere, and eventually worked his way up to managing director.

By 2002 the traditional commercial printer had moved into the plastic age after buying its first UV litho press to print on synthetic substrates – a tricky technology that at first tried the patience of operators and managers, as mistakes were plentiful and costly. Simms stresses, however, that it turned out to be “one of the best things we ever did”, as it secured a lucrative niche market for Oriel and enabled it to make a name for itself as a trade supplier with the ability to work with specialist materials.

“More and more printers started using us to outsource the specialist work they couldn’t do, which put us in a better position. The commercial work had started dripping away, margins were too tight and tons of companies were going bust,” he adds. 

When Simms and his team went to Drupa last year they weren’t looking for anything specifically, but rather wanted a general assessment of digital capabilities. The Scodix Ultra Pro + Foil B2 digital enhancement press “took us by surprise”, says Simms.

The press offers UV-based polymer varnishing and spot foiling, it doesn’t require expensive foil blocking dies and can provide a raised gloss foil finish in one, smooth pass.

“We weren’t looking for a foil and spot UV machine, but when we saw how clever the digital technology was we thought that would be a brilliant add-on for the business. 

“We could now give more to our clients with spot UV capabilities and offer it as a trade service for anybody else.”

Simms saw the machine on the first day of the Düsseldorf show and was wowed by a demo that involved Scodix techies photographing visitors’ faces to produce individual, personalised foiled sheets of each face. After an evening totting up the numbers – a hefty £500,000 price tag, running costs, expected lifespan and return on investment – on day two he decided Oriel had to have one.

The company, which had never before offered spot UV or foiling, took delivery of the Scodix in October and by November had set up a new service with its own website. Lifespan was key: as a digital machine it would probably be redundant in five or so years, so payback needed to be much quicker than for a conventional press, for example, which might have profitable lifespan of 20 years or more.

The method

“I looked at the figures and thought ‘we can make this work’. We saw the market immediately and did no research: it seemed such a natural fit for our existing business. I knew a lot of our customers would love what it could bring to their work. We print packaging for drinks and cosmetics markets and this involves a lot of clear packaging on plastic sheets and high-end finishes. 

“Big brands and supermarkets every year want added value and are asking for innovation. I just knew my clients would want this technology. It’s very hard to get clear plastic packaging foil blocked, but to get a raised foil block is even harder. This machine did just that and did it brilliantly. I knew this was spectacular and made something beautiful.”

Simms decided not to offer this technology as a bolt-on, but to push it as a new service with a dedicated website, www.tradescodix.co.uk. 

“We have an established litho business that can print on virtually any substrate and that’s going well. But this was a new product; we really needed to get moving as fast as possible to make it pay for itself. We knew a dedicated website would be ideal for this,” he says.

Oriel turned to web designer Redsky in Hull and invited the team in to look at the Scodix and what it could do. Simms briefed on the kit’s capabilities, its target audience and how he wanted to approach the market. He wrote draft text for the website; Redsky went away and came up with a website design within two weeks of the first meeting. 

“We launched our trade Scodix service and to celebrate being the first trade Scodix provider in the UK we thought we’d build a website dedicated to the finishes on offer. Our gallery page is linked to an Instagram account, which we can regularly update. This is a perfect platform for a machine that produces finishes of such beauty, I can put up fresh images on a weekly basis.”

A key driver for online success is directing cold inquiries to your website and for this Simms used the paid-for Google AdWords service. Would-be, could-be customers making a general search for ‘Scodix’ or ‘digital foiling’, for example, will find the ‘www.tradescodix.co.uk’ link at the top of first page. Alongside this was a dedicated push by the firm’s sales team.

“This is the best way to market your service and make sure your website appears on that all-important first page. Scodix is getting a name for itself and more people are searching for it. But this alone is not enough. Our sales team is actively brainstorming potential new markets as well as contacting existing customers. It will still take a long time to get where we want.”

The result

A key market for Simms is brand designers, which will take a “hell of a long time” to build, he reckons. Yet the work is rolling in. Oriel has finished printing for Easter and is about to embark on work for Christmas. Designers, he points out, are further ahead in some markets than others. Packaging is at least six months ahead while commercial markets are more “spur of the moment”.

“It was a risk and still is a risk, but if I can get the Scodix in front of people it sells itself,” adds Simms, whose team turned over £20,000 of new business during the first two months of running the Ultra Pro + Foil. 

“They cannot believe you simply put a sheet in one end and out of the other comes a super-high-gloss raised foil that’s different for each sheet.

“This is thanks to the bank of inkjet heads. It’s just like a normal digital press that produces personalised work – there’s no need to change dies, just artwork. Where it could take four days to a week to make a foil block, we now do it at the click of a button.”

To date, a “couple of people have found us off the internet”, and Simms expects his £500,000 Scodix will pay for itself in two years, adding around £250,000 of business a year. The foiling and spot UV service will take another six months to “really start moving”, he reckons, taking on jobs of anything from 10 sheets up to large runs for premium markets.

The machine, presently running a normal day shift, is set to step up to double-day shifts. Packaging firms and commercial users have tapped into the technology and Simms’  team has just finished foiling a cover for an A2-sized, case-bound wallpaper sample book. Oriel Printing Company has used the Scodix for gift vouchers, a prototype whisky box and work for a food-packaging manufacturer. Meanwhile the kit’s polymer is in line this February to win food-hygiene approval. 

“Buying the machine was a good way of expanding our business, but in a way that took me by surprise. In some ways it’s brought us back into the commercial world because it is great for short-run foiling and opens the market back up for leaflets and brochures. 

“We have gained a couple of new, London agency clients. This type of customer is often the first to spot the new opportunities afforded by the latest technology and design offerings. I’m hoping people will take inspiration from the outstanding effects that can be created. So far I’ve not been disappointed.” 


VITAL STATISTICS

Oriel Printing Company

Location Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire 

Inspection host Managing director Richard Simms

Size Staff: 40; Turnover: £3.7m 

Established 1978

Products Premium high-end packaging and POS for cosmetics, drinks, stationery and other big-brand markets and supermarkets as well as leaflets and brochures on substrates such as boxboard, card and paper as well as plastic and foil

Kit Scodix Ultra Pro + Foil B2 digital enhancement press, two seven-colour B1 Heidelberg Speedmasters, a Ricoh 751 SRA3 digital press, two Stahl folders, a Heidelberg cylinder and a Muller Martini saddle stitcher

Inspection focus Setting up a new service on the back of an investment


TOP TIPS

Ask yourself why Examine your motives for setting up a new service and be clear on what you expect and need to get out of the new products and services.

Target new customers and markets Work out what you are trying to achieve to help you hone your business strategy.

Focus on skills Varnishing, foiling and embossing are fine arts so buy the right equipment and then train up the staff to avoid costly mistakes.

There are no short-cuts “Our ethic is quality and do it properly – good preparation is essential,” says managing director Richard Simms.

Plan for risk “Foiling and spot UV involve expensive materials and there is a lot of liability; use tight colour control with tonnes of calibrations for all the different materials.”

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