Clays completes £12m spend to embrace shorter runs

Rhys Handley
Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Clays has completed a £12m investment drive that comprises a raft of Muller Martini finishing kit alongside a new Fujifilm Jet Press 750S.

Hulley: "We have been able to drive a lot of supply chain efficiency for our customers by turning around short runs quickly"
Hulley: "We have been able to drive a lot of supply chain efficiency for our customers by turning around short runs quickly"

The latest machines are in the process of being installed at the book printer’s facility in Bungay, Suffolk, and will be in operation by the end of the month.

Alongside the Jet Press, which has initially been installed on a trial basis, Clays has taken a Muller Martini Alegro binder, a BF 530 casing-in line, and two Orbit trimmers and two CB 18 book stackers which will augment an existing Corona binding line onsite.

In a changing books market with run lengths rapidly declining, chief executive Paul Hulley elected to oversee this extensive expansion of the company’s technology portfolio with three waves of investment in November, February and July.

He said: “We have been investing steadily for a long time, but here we saw an opportunity to get on the front foot in order to give customers the best service during peak periods, such as the one we managed last year, while growing our business.

“There has been a continual fall in run lengths over the last 10 years and now we can support that work on our digital inkjet systems. We have been able to drive a lot of supply chain efficiency for our customers by turning around short runs quickly.

“What is happening now is that we are seeing a distinction between short runs and ultra-short runs. Print-on-demand used to exclusively be book-of-one but now it can be a run up to 300, so our investments massively improve our speed and give us greater capability to automatically replenish clients’ stock amid the market’s retail dynamic.”

Hulley said the July installations would likely be the last for the year, though he had his eye on further investments in binding and sheetfed litho for 2020.

The Jet Press is being trialled to support the increasing amount of complex digital colour book covers and jackets work that Clays is picking up from the market. A four-colour machine, it prints up to 3,600sph B2 at a maximum resolution of 1,200dpi powered by Samba printheads.

Despite the quantity of machines brought in, none of Clays’ existing kit has been replaced by the new additions. In February, a Ricoh Pro C7200 sheetfed digital colour press was installed to balance out the company’s litho offering, as well as a Vareo binder and an Infinitrim trimmer from Muller Martini.

November saw the addition of an HP T490D inkjet web press to go alongside its growing HP battery, as well as a Manroland folder for two-up book blocks, an Autobond digital spot-UV line and a Muller Martini trimmer for covers with flaps.

The UK’s biggest book printer, Clays was founded 200 years ago. Last May the business was bought by Italian firm Elcograf for £23.8m. With a restructured board now in place, Clays currently employs around 700 people and turns over £76.5m. It prints around 150 million books a year and also offers a distribution service.

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