Clays bolsters short-run capabilities with Timson and Kolbus kit

Gordon Carson
Friday, May 30, 2014

St Ives Clays has taken its digital investment to £2.5m over the past six months with the purchase of new Timson finishing equipment for its wide-web Timson T-Press and a Kolbus short-run hardback book line.

The Bungay-based firm decided to upgrade to a new-generation, variable-format Timson folder for the press following the success of a Timson T-Fold fitted to the Kodak Prosper press it bought from failed group MPG last October.

Clays strategic director Kate McFarlan said the firm would be able to produce 20m books digitally this year, a four-fold increase from two years ago and representing up to 15% of total output.

“It’s now as effective to produce run lengths of 5,000 or less digitally as it is conventionally,” she said.

This need for even more flexibility has also led the company to sign for a “nearly new” fully automated, 30bpm Kolbus book line comprising a Kolbus Compact 3600 casing-in line and DA 260 Casemaker.

The line will be installed later this summer.

“This will give us the ability to provide hardback books from 100 to 1,000 cost-effectively,” said McFarlan.

“So on the one hand it provides us with more casing-in capacity generally, but more relevantly it provides us with casing-in capacity that is relevant to the lower-volume end of the market.”

The £71m-turnover company’s two Kodak Digimasters can print runs of 20 or fewer on demand, while its two Kodak Prospers are suited to run lengths of 20 to 1,000, and the T-Press for those above 1,000 copies.

A strategic review at Clays continues and McFarlan said the firm was working with customers to improve inventory and supply chain management.

McFarlan also said physical and digital book formats were “sitting alongside each other quite comfortably”, with research from St Ives’ Incite consumer intelligence division in January showing that 47% of adults read both paper and e-books, rising to two thirds of those aged 18-34, while 4% of adults only read e-books.

People who use both formats read 27.3 books per year on average, compared with 18.5 books for those only using e-readers and 17.4 for those only reading hard copies.

Separate research from Deloitte published in May claimed a “digital tipping point” had been reached in the book market, with a majority of respondents (51%) buying more digital than paper books.

St Ives’ latest results, published in March, showed a 5.7% fall in sales at Clays for the six months to 31 January. But margins held up and group chief executive Patrick Martell said e-books were “creating more reading, not less”.

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