Time, effort and dedication leads to excellence

It was almost off the scale. DCB Group recently scored 96% in the BPIF’s Seal of Excellence following extensive checks that culminated in not one but three seals of excellence – in health and safety, the environment and human resources – for this year alone.

But it didn’t start as well as it ended, and there’s still much to do. The Manchester-based print and communications company was initially tested in late 2016 after signing up for BPIF platinum membership. It could muster scores of around 30%, so managing director Victoria Hart had to rethink the amount of “time, effort and dedication” needed to push up the percentages to win the three seals of excellence and subsequently the Seal of Business Excellence.

The challenge 

As head of several areas for the group including human resources, it was Hart who decided the company should go for the BPIF Seal of Business Excellence, aware few – if any – companies in the North West had one. It would therefore give the group a strong point of difference in attracting new clients and, just as important, new employees, of which there has been a steady flow in recent years.

DCB, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018, came into being when owner David Charles Beale bought print management company Print Search. More acquisitions followed – first marketing firm Caspa and then print production firm Aspen – to enable the group to offer all-round communication services. Hart joined DCB at the group’s formation as an account manager.

Two years ago, she became managing director, with Beale chief executive, and their company now turns over £6.5m. Kit includes a Canon Océ Colorado, Heidelberg Speedmasters and a variety of digital and large-format presses from Konica Minolta, HP and Graphtech, as well as a host of pre- and post-press equipment.

“Our H&S policy scored 33% because at the time we weren’t compliant with BPIF’s H&S standards,” she says. “Although as a small business we followed HSE guidelines for businesses of our size, the BPIF audit looks at things in more detail regardless of size of business. Following that first visit, and that score, we resolved to put measures in place to improve standards.”

Elsewhere, it was tricky to set standards. Before the BPIF audit, for example, DCB Group had never been tested for HR and it would take 18 months to raise that score from 33%. Again, the company had never before been tested on its environmental merits, but Hart was “quietly confident” her team would score highly as it already had ISO 14001 thanks to efforts to minimise waste and energy use. 

“If we could notch up our first seal of excellence, I was confident we could achieve other seals of excellence. But we had to gain all three seals within 12 months, and that was going to prove difficult. I guessed one of our biggest challenges would be time, and I was right. With GDPR measures needing to be put in place, it was always going to be a challenge attaining seals of excellence for HR, environment and H&S, and ultimately be awarded the Business Seal of Excellence.”

The method

Over the next year, DCB Group put in place systems and technology to monitor and improve almost every aspect of its business. In HR, for example, Hart had to revisit, and if necessary overhaul, everything from recruitment, selection and induction practices to employment terms and conditions, staff rights and equal opportunities, working-time regulations and discipline. 

In short, everything came under scrutiny, down to flexible working, paternity leave and family-friendly policies. Human resources along with health and safety are legal minefields and Hart worked with experts from the BPIF and specialist consultancy Peninsula Group “if and when needed”. But one of the biggest game changers was moving from paper- to cloud-based systems.

“We moved to a system called BreatheHR, costing £60 a month, due to GDPR implications of holding paper records and also due to disaster recovery – we needed the ability to access records securely remotely. It took time going through paper files, scanning, uploading and subsequently shredding, and we did it at weekends when no staff were in the building due to sensitivity of data.”

The result was a super efficient system with digital records on pay and benefits, training, policies, handbooks, personal development reviews and sickness records. The system made all employees’, especially line mangers’, lives much simpler. It also meant the BPIF audit was easy to carry out as all evidence was on computer, with no need for paper copies. No wonder DCB Group eventually achieved 96%.

Obtaining the environment seal, which DCB Group scored 98%, was helped by the ISO 14001 put in place a few years ago. Goals included reducing emissions and unnecessary mileage from company vehicles, limiting CO2 emissions by close monitoring of electricity and gas, reducing water usage and minimising amounts of waste going to landfill.

DCB Group also started to buy more environment-friendly print chemicals and to ensure the safe disposal of hazardous materials to minimise pollution risks, reduce the company’s impact on limited natural resources, and limit emissions of CO2 by close monitoring and managing of paper use and targeting a reduction in paper usage.

The result 

Initially tested in early 2017 after signing up for BPIF platinum membership, the Manchester-based print and communications firm won the seal of excellence for health and safety, the environment and HR, meaning the business is now the first and only in the North West to obtain an overall Seal of Business Excellence, out of 348 members across the North East and North West, says Hart.

She refuses, however, to let her guard drop: “Each year, the BPIF will come out and do a full audit once again in all three areas. As a business, we will also reassess ourselves through internal as well as external audits. For environmental matters, we have an internal audit plan. For H&S, we do daily, weekly and monthly checks to maintain or improve our 92% BPIF H&S seal of excellence score.

“It is too soon to quantify how this has helped our business in terms of turnover. But it has given us an edge in tender submissions and new business presentations: there are no other companies within the North West that can say they have the Business Seal of Excellence. It also ensures we have a safe way of working by following clearly defined policies and procedures.”

Hart also affirms the overall seal “facilitates full achievement of company goals through following the policies we have out in place”. It has helped DCB Group increase its profile and boost reputation. The environmental standard, for example, helped win over some large blue-chip companies, as well as lower its carbon footprint and squeeze out efficiencies. Staff meanwhile are also happy. A recent company survey on staff satisfaction returned 97% “extremely positive” responses.

“But I was right on one of the biggest challenges: time,” says Hart. “With GDPR regulations and measures needing to be put in place alongside continuing to work to our ISO standards, it has been an enormous challenge to attain seals of excellence for HR, environment and H&S, and ultimately be awarded the Business Seal of Excellence.”

Auditors have advised Hart that the BPIF requirements on H&S are very much like those for ISO 18001, so her DCB Group team is currently discussing whether the standard will benefit the business. But as well as smoother, safer and more efficient business practices, Hart is eyeing up improvements in productivity, capacity and competitiveness. 

“We are always looking for new kit to complement or boost our production capacity. The portfolio of work we currently produce in-house continues to grow; most recently we added wallpaper, wrapping paper and PUR books to our in-house offering. But the degree of success of any new kit we buy or service we offer will be linked in some way to the Business Seal of Excellence.

“Achieving that seal is more than an accreditation. It means we are an efficient and safe workplace, and our personnel work in an environment that is both satisfying and functional.” 

Vital statistics

DCB Group

Location Trafford Park, Manchester 

Inspection host Victoria Hart

Size Turnover: £6.5m; Staff: 48 

Established 2008

Products Large-format graphics, banners, outdoor displays, POS materials, wallpaper, wrapping paper and PUR books 

Kit Canon Océ Colorado 1640, Heidelberg Speedmaster 52s, digital and large-format presses from Konica Minolta, HP and Graphtech, pre- and post-press equipment including Morgana DigiBook 300XL PUR binder and Duplo DC-616 Pro cutter-creaser

Inspection focus Achieving the BPIF’s Seal of Business Excellence


Prepare a plan for what you want to achieve and how you aim to achieve it by drawing up schedules for tasks, audits and reviews

Timetable the work and don’t underestimate how long it can take to assess and then change, if necessary, work practices, IT systems, auditing methods etc

Speak to your customers and suppliers, as they may be able to suggest how you can improve service as well as give you informal feedback 

Keep improving after you’ve achieved accreditation through regular internal audits and management reviews, and by setting new objectives for the year ahead

Use your new accreditation to celebrate your achievement and promote your print company on your website, literature and promotional materials


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