Ace sets up new spiral binding wing

Jo Francis
Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Ace Binding Company has set up a new offshoot offering metal spiral binding after buying the specialist equipment required from a fellow trade finisher that has exited the industry.

The ProBind line is installed and up and running
The ProBind line is installed and up and running

Ace Spiral Binders started production this month. It is based at the firm’s Birmingham site, but operates as a separate business unit due to the seasonal nature of the work involved. 

Ace director Rob Hart acquired the Kugler-Womako ProBind spiral binding line from Devon-based Larkbeare Services after Larkbeare’s owners decided to take early retirement, with the business going through an orderly shutdown last year. 

Hart said he had been approached by a large customer looking for a new supplier as a result, which prompted him to investigate the potential for the new service. 

“We had a look at it and put our heads together, and decided to put it into a separate business to offset the seasonality,” he explained. 

“A couple of other customers have also approached us. By managing it this way we can start it up when it’s needed.”

Ace staff have been trained up by a former Larkbeare employee.

The fully-automated high-speed line is designed to handle medium- and long-run work. 

“We plan to try and build up the amount of work for it, and can flex production accordingly,” he added, and said he hoped to bring in £400,000-£500,000 of spiral binding work. 

Ace financed the £235,000 investment through a combination of its own funds topped up with a CBILS loan arranged through Compass Business Finance. 

“It’s the cheapest money we’ll ever be able to borrow, so why not take advantage of it? We’ve all been damaged by the pandemic situation and this is something to help us get through it.”

Hart said that after work fell off in the first lockdown last year, a large contract win in August had allowed the company to bring all staff back from furlough. 

“Packaging and signage are buoyant, and we’ve definitely seen an upturn recently for the leisure sector,” he said. 

Ace employs 23 staff and has sales of about £1.5m. It offers a wide range of other finishing services include PUR binding, perfect binding, Wiro binding, saddle stitching with inline endorse folding, punching, ram bundling and strapping. 

Larkbeare Services co-owner Neil Oakley said the Covid-19 situation had caused a rethink about retirement planning at the family firm, which he owns with his wife Karen. 

“The company had traded for 40-odd years without any issues and was debt-free. The pandemic accelerated our plans to retire and our thought processes,” he explained.

“The staff understood and they’ve all been brilliant. The trade has been very good to us over the years. It’s been an orderly shutdown and all bills have been paid.”

Larkbeare’s site is being revamped and turned into small industrial units for SMEs, and Oakley said he was still in the process of disposing of the firm’s remaining finishing kit.

“A lot of it has gone already, with negotiations ongoing about various other machines including our Kolbus KM600 perfect binder, which is a really nice machine.”

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