Clays invests in hi-spec Lithoman

Jo Francis
Monday, August 9, 2021

Clays is making its biggest investment yet in a unique configuration Manroland Goss Web Systems Lithoman IV press capable of producing 50m books a year.

Clays: transformational long-term change in capacity and capability
Clays: transformational long-term change in capacity and capability

The Suffolk company is the UK’s biggest book printing site, producing more than 150m books a year, and had hinted at plans for a major upcoming print spend in May. 

The Lithoman IV book press now on order involves a unique coldset configuration. The press has a 1,260mm web width and 1,105mm cylinders, making it capable of producing two-up 48pp B-format book signatures at up to 37,000iph.

It has two units and will be equipped with the Dynachange system to allow ‘zero makeready’ and instant job changeover, resulting in very low waste.

The press, which is set to arrive at Clays’ Bungay factory in the summer of 2022, also has Inline Density Control and Inline Cut-off Control Dynamic. 

Due to its ability to handle short- and long-run work it will give the business additional flexible capacity, while also freeing up capacity on Clays’ digital presses for very low run lengths. 

CEO Paul Hulley said that, initially at least, the Lithoman would be an addition to the firm’s existing machine park at its 19-acre site. 

Clays runs conventional Timson book presses as well as the latest digital presses from Fujifilm and HP.

“We won’t take out existing litho capacity – instead we’ll see how much we need in time, but we want to leave very clear headroom for growth,” Hulley explained. 

“We are about to commission the new Alegro binder and this, together with our previous digital investments, is all about making transformational long-term change in capacity and capability. 

“This is our biggest investment to date and it’s the one that will make the biggest difference.”

He described the Lithoman as “tried and tested technology but in a configuration unique to us”. 

“We put a great deal of diligence and testing into it to make sure and we are completely confident in it.”

Hulley is set to retire in May 2022 as part of the previously-announced succession plan, but will continue on the board as a non-executive director and senior adviser. 

CEO elect, and current deputy CEO Edoardo Cuomo, commented: “We are delighted to be making this transformational investment, it provides a step change in capacity and, alongside other extensive investments already made, it positions Clays as a leading player for the foreseeable future. 

“From the start of this project we have been very impressed by what we can achieve with investment in litho technology; the fact that this Manroland Goss press can produce 50m books per annum substantially underpins our existing service commitments and puts powerful additional capacity behind our growth ambitions.”

John Ellis, UK managing director at Manroland Goss Web Systems, said the manufacturer had carried out in-depth analysis of the production requirements at Clays, followed by extensive testing. 

“It’s good news and we’re really, really pleased. The performance of the press is very high, and the waste is very low – in theory it can run 24/7, providing massive productivity for Clays,” he said. 

“We have also agreed a five-year service level agreement to support Clays and to ensure the highest level of performance is maintained.”

Clays operations director Ian Smith said that he was confident that the combination of Manroland Goss and Clays’ in-house technical expertise would result in a successful installation. 

“We are commissioning our latest binding line now, in time for a busy autumn, and then look forward to working with Manroland in the months ahead to bring this fantastic investment to life, with the press arriving in summer 2022,” he said. 

The installation will also involve additional post-press systems, with further information to follow on that aspect of the spend.

Clays produces books for a raft of big name publishers as well as independent and micro publishers. Its clients include Penguin Random House, Bonnier, Canongate, Hachette, Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press. 

Hulley said that current turnover was around £80m with circa 900 employees. "We’ve taken on around 100 in the past year to man new machines and run more shifts on existing kit,” he added.

The business was acquired by Italian group Elcograf in May 2018.


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