Bell & Bain makes new strategic hire and first Kolbus investment

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, June 28, 2021

Bell & Bain has made a new senior strategic hire to support its future growth plans and taken delivery of a Kolbus DA 270 casemaker, its first machine from the manufacturer.

Major: "Bell & Bain want to learn and understand how to empathise with the publisher"
Major: "Bell & Bain want to learn and understand how to empathise with the publisher"

Paul Major, who previously worked for 15 years at Oxford University Press (OUP) – most recently as head of direct global procurement – has been appointed by the Glasgow-headquartered book printer in the newly created role of head of publisher liaison. Major has been in the book trade for more than 25 years.

Bell & Bain managing director Karen Baillie said the role was created to bridge the gap in its knowledge of how publishers operate, “with a view to making Bell & Bain easy to work with and meet the demands of a fast-moving, ever-changing publishing world”.

“We want to meet customer demands in effective and efficient ways, now and in the future, to foster long-term relationships that are successful for all parties,” she added.

“Paul will work with Bell & Bain’s customer facing departments, liaise with customers and facilitate projects to enable efficient and effective systems and processes at all customer touchpoints.”

Major started at Bell & Bain on 17 May. He also runs his own business on Oxford High Street, pen shop Pens Plus, which Baillie said Bell & Bain is now also using as its “office down South”.

Major told Printweek: “When I left OUP two years ago I took over a prestige pen shop selling high-end pens but always stayed in touch with Bell & Bain socially.

“And now that I’ve got the shop sorted and have people in running it, Bell & Bain wanted somebody to come in and help them to grow their business – talk to the customers, and find out where the market is and where they are going so that they can make the right investments in the future, but also bring some sort of strategic direction to the company.”

He added his aim is to help move Bell & Bain to the next level by increasing the number of publishers for which the company is the first choice of contract printer.

“Bell & Bain are contract printers for a few of the publishers but what they tend to pick up and do really well is all of the awkward ad hoc work that comes through from the publishers. They’re very good at reacting to that and getting it done.

“Their niche is obviously full colour print in the UK, and so we need to publicise that more and get that around the publishers more, but they’ve also got a really good digital offering which a lot of people don’t realise. So, part of my job is to work with the sales team to get that message out there.

“But what they really want from me, which is another reason why I took the job, is a publisher’s perspective – they want to learn and understand how to empathise with the publisher and what they are up against, so that they can help and provide more efficient and effective services.”

Separately, the new Kolbus DA 270 casemaker, which was installed earlier this month, will increase Bell & Bain’s capacity in the “much growing” area of hardback books.

Bell & Bain group chairman Stephen Docherty told Printweek the device, which can produce around 4,000 cases per hour, was in “a different class” to the two Horauf machines it had been using – one of which has been sold on while the other has been retained for now.

“It’s a game changer for us because we’ve got a press that can run at 15,000 [sheets] per hour but our casemakers were running at 1,400 to 1,500 [cycles] an hour at best, so it was an Achilles’ heel which we’ve addressed now. [The DA 270 is] phenomenal and I can just see that it’s a different game.”

Docherty also praised Kolbus UK managing director Greg Bird and his team for being “exceptional” during the investment process.

“I’ve known Kolbus for a long time, but this is the first time we’ve dealt with them, and I now wish we’d done more with them before – it’s definitely the start of a relationship.”

Last year Bell & Bain took delivery of the second of its two new Rapida 145 large-format presses from Koenig & Bauer and acquired press engineering specialist Lithotec Services.

The business was founded by James Bell and Andrew Bain in 1831. The group, which acquired commercial operation J Thomson in 2019, currently employs 250 staff.

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