Bell & Bain takes second K&B delivery and reveals acquisition

Richard Stuart-Turner
Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Bell & Bain has taken delivery of the second of its two new Rapida 145 large-format presses from Koenig & Bauer and has revealed it acquired press engineering specialist Lithotec Services earlier this year.

Installation of the second Rapida 145 started last week
Installation of the second Rapida 145 started last week

The Glasgow-headquartered book printer first unveiled the latest stage of its ongoing £20m-plus investment programme last year.

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March led to the business deciding to delay the installation of the two highly specified presses, both perfectors, which had been due to go in this spring.

The first – a 2/2 machine – was eventually installed in August and is now up and running and “going great” according to Bell & Bain group chairman Stephen Docherty.

The second press – a 4/4 model – was delivered on Friday (6 November) and Docherty said he hoped it would be up and running by early January at the latest.

He estimated the pair of new presses cost more than £7m.

The huge 1,060x1,450mm-format machines can print at speeds of up to 15,000sph and feature simultaneous plate changing, which enables them to change plates in 51 seconds, a 49% reduction from Bell & Bain’s existing Rapida 145 press.

That press has been retained to run alongside the two new machines while a Rapida 142 has been sold on to White Horse Machinery and went out last Thursday.

“We bought these presses for the people here, to make their lives easier and to try and do more in a day as opposed to having to work overtime,” Docherty told Printweek.

“If we can get the correct balance then we're looking at hopefully getting the wages better so that overtime doesn't become a necessity – that's always been my goal.

“Hopefully this can get us what we need, we're getting such interest from publishers throughout the industry. We're very, very busy and we're in contact and talks with most major publishing houses about how we go forward, how we do more and how we get better, so I'm very optimistic about the future.”

Docherty said the company's acquisition of Lithotec Services, which was registered to an address in Airdrie but whose staff worked remotely, was completed in April.

Its two employees, Tony Rennie and Steven Forrest, now work within Bell & Bain alongside the two other engineers that already worked for the company, one of which is an apprentice.

“It's essential because trying to get engineers quickly these days, or good ones for that matter, gets harder. Having them at the back is just so helpful and makes a big difference. So we're really self sufficient in here now, with four engineers and four IT staff,” said Docherty.

He added the Lithotec name has been retained, in case other printers require its services.

“They're now part of this big family but anybody in Scotland that they used to service and who needs any help only needs to give me a call and I'll make sure the boys can try and get out and help them, because I don't want to leave anybody without any help.”

Bell & Bain was founded by James Bell and Andrew Bain in 1831. The group, which currently employs 249 staff, acquired commercial operation J Thomson last year.

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