4UK's diversification drives UK first

Darryl Danielli
Friday, April 30, 2021

4UK Group has secured a UK first for its core Print4UK business as it looks to capitalise on the success of its pandemic-driven diversification into branded products and digital marketing.

Brady: It wasn’t the cheapest, but you can’t always go on price
Brady: It wasn’t the cheapest, but you can’t always go on price

The Enfield, London-based business has installed a PFi Blade B2+ die-less digital cutter and creasing table, which was launched by Duplo earlier this month, to bring cutting and creasing for a wide range of products inhouse.

The 12-staff business runs a fully loaded HP Indigo 7900, which it upgraded to silver ink last year, and as a result it was initially looking at the original, smaller format PFi Blade.

However, group managing director Chris Brady said that as it’s mulling a potential move into B2 digital in the future, it instead opted for the brand new, larger sibling of the PFi Blade B3+.

Installed a couple of weeks ago, it has already run a raft of jobs including short-run pockets, tuck-in boxes, and Foamex projects.

According to Brady, as well as bringing some of its commercial work inhouse, it will also support new projects stemming from the two businesses he launched last year after its core print work dried up because of the pandemic, Branded4UK and digital marketing agency Navy Blue London.

“When the print work fell off a cliff last year [because of the first lockdown], we launched Branded4UK to produce branded merchandise and became members of the BPMA, did lots of research and picked quite a bit of work up, which helped us through,” he said.

And then last November, the business launched its own digital marketing agency, Navy Blue London, which is headed by seasoned marketer Lee Hedger, who has previously worked with a raft of major retail brands.

Brady said that the business had been working with several clients on digital campaign elements previously, but its Print4UK branding had proved an obstacle to growth.

“We had always dabbled in design, websites, social media if our clients needed support, but we found it hard to ‘sell’ the services as Print4UK,” he said.

“But moving forward, the idea is talking more about integrated marketing where print and digital sit side-by-side, and by doing that we and our clients benefit from the synergies of both.”

With the creation of the two new brands to sit alongside Print4UK, Brady said the group had won some new “very nice clients”, including major retailers and blue-chip brands in the technology and luxury goods segments.

As a result, last year 90% of the business’s turnover came from new clients.

While many of the wins were driven via the Branded4UK arm initially, Brady said there had been significant cross selling opportunities for print in areas such as product launches, where the business was being asked to produce short run packaging amongst other elements, which led it to look at bringing cutting and creasing inhouse.

Prior to the pandemic, the business rarely produced packaging, instead it specialised in short run, event-driven commercial work for largely London-based blue-chip firms in areas like finance, law, and accountancy.

“Essentially what we did was reset, rethink and used the pandemic to position ourselves ready for when things start to happen again, so that we come of this bigger, better and stronger.

“And now there’s a little bit of noise coming back from our old clients now, so if that comes back to even 75%, we’ll be in a great position [with all the new wins].”

Brady said while he opted for the new larger B2 machine partly because he was keen to futureproof the business for a likely move into B2 digital down the line, other key factors were its ability to handle a wider range of materials, up to 6mm thick, and its 50% speed boost.

It has an auto feeder for sheets from A4 to 800x600mm. Its top cutting speed of 1,200mm per second equates to around 12-45 seconds per SRA3 sheet, depending on complexity.

Featuring a CCD camera registration and vacuum feeder, the device’s tool head can run tungsten rotating, kiss cut or oscillating knives or creasing wheel.

“It wasn’t the cheapest die-cutting solution out there, but you can’t always go on price. We’re not the cheapest printer, and we never want to be,” said Brady.

“But I’ve always had a good experience with Duplo, and the machine's software was another thing that swung it over its rivals.”

The PFi Connect software processes vector files from the likes of Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw.

"The key differentiator between our machine and the competition is the PFi Connect software. It’s more intuitive and completely automates the cutting process as it’s barcode driven – with a materials database since the table can cut much thicker and stronger materials with a new oscillating knife," said Duplo national sales manager Rob Thurston.

Founded in 2008, as well as its Indigo 4UK runs an HP Latex wide-format printer and a raft of finishing kit at its 370sqm unit.

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