BCQ revamps litho offering

Darryl Danielli
Monday, July 5, 2021

BCQ Group is poised to step up to A1 as part of its post-Covid growth strategy in a circa £1m spend, the centerpiece of which is its first non-Heidelberg litho press in its 45-year history.

Knowles: in a very good space to take the new press and run with it
Knowles: in a very good space to take the new press and run with it

The Buckingham-based group has signed for a five-colour plus coater A1-format RMGT 925 from MPL, which is set to arrive in late August.

The new press will replace a brace of Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 75s, a four-colour and a five-colour, although the 100-staff operation will retain its LE-UV XL 75, which was installed in 2017. One XL has already been sold to make room for the new machine, with the other set to follow when the RMGT is bedded in.

According to BCQ managing director Chris Knowles, if it hadn’t been for Covid he would probably have bought the new press sooner, however, in the end the investment was cemented by a “root and branch review” of the business since the start of the pandemic.

“We looked at everything, what cost us money, what didn’t, what made us money and what didn’t and where are the opportunities.”

Before signing for the new press, in late 2019 Knowles led a BCQ team that visited RMGT’s headquarters in Japan, where it also called in on post-press manufacturer Horizon.

He said the visit came about because he was curious about the RMGT machines.

“Once we saw that they were manufacturing a quality product that satisfied all our needs and wants, the pricing, the efficiencies – we realised it was only our own prejudices that was preventing us. It just ticked so many boxes. It just made sense.”

To support the move into A1, the firm is in the process of investing in a new platesetter to replace its two B2 machines, but in terms of cutting, it already ran larger format guillotines and a B1 Heidelberg Promatrix 106 CS die-cutter.

“So, there wasn’t really a lot stopping us [stepping up in format], and from a footprint perspective it’s no bigger and now we can print half the number of sections, fold, cut, bind and move half the number of sections,” said Knowles.

As a result, even though the firm is moving from a three-press operation to two, the step up to A1 will increase its capacity.

However, Knowles said the spend was about more than just a larger format, key was the quality and consistency of the output it could produce and the ease of operation.

“It had to do everything we expected and more, rather than just having a larger format.”

While the fully-loaded press will join the firm’s LE-UV XL 75, which Knowles described as “an absolutely fantastic machine”, the new press will feature conventional drying.

As well as litho, the business runs a battery of digital presses from the likes of HP Indigo, Ricoh, and Konica Minolta.

“So, we’ve always been manufacturer agnostic in some senses,” said Knowles.

And while he said the business, like many in the sector, hadn’t been immune to the challenges caused by the pandemic, as lockdown eases the business was “in a very good space to take the new press and run with it”.

Mark Stribley, joint managing director of RMGT’s UK agent MPL, added: “The approach of taking out two existing B2 presses and installing one RMGT 920 Series machine will help, we firmly believe, to create an even more profitable print operation, and be even more productive for BCQ.”

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