Clays makes multimillion-pound ‘strategic’ HP investment

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, March 30, 2015

St Ives Clays has announced that it will purchase multiple HP Inkjet web presses in a multimillion-pound deal that marks the next major stage in its digital production print strategy for the UK book market.

The book printer will initially take delivery of two new HP presses over the coming months. An HP T260 Mono Inkjet Web Press is due to be installed in April while an HP T400 Mono Inkjet Web Press is due for installation in July. Both machines are additional to the company's current plant list.

The HP T260, which is capable of printing 244m/min in monochrome, can produce 123m A4 pages per month.

Clays, which was established 200 years ago, produces 150 million books a year at its Suffolk production site. It previously had the capability to produce 15 million to 20 million books a year digitally and will be able to significantly increase its capacity with these new investments.

The business has actively embraced digital printing technology since 2009, to support its traditional litho print offering with the ability to manufacture books in the quantity needed and at the point of need.

Clays said the move is a response to increased demand for a value-added full-service to publishers, encompassing digital services, book manufacturing, inventory management, pre-retail and distribution.

Managing director Paul Hulley said: “Effectively, Clays has become a logistics business, enabling publishers to get small batches of books into shops, or single copies to consumers, at high speed and minimising the need to hold large amounts of stock in warehouses.

“Our aim is to make the overall supply chain more cost effective and efficient, enabling publishers to reduce risk and improve availability.”

Clays has made several major investments in digital print production in recent years, installing a Timsons T-Press and Kodak Prosper line. Last year it spent a further £2.5m on specialist finishing kit from Timsons and Kolbus.

“This is the next phase on our digital journey; we are happy with the approach we and our supplier partners have taken to get to where we are now, but that didn’t automatically mean we would not consider partnering with an alternative supplier for further investment,” said Hulley.

“The HP T-series presses are market leading in our segment and we decided they provided the best combination of quality and performance, including the opportunity to include colour in our inkjet capability.

“It is also relevant that since the demise of Timsons the wide web Timsons/Kodak digital press we already have is no longer a further investment option for scaling our inkjet capacity so our solution going forward was anyway going to look different, whomever we worked with.”

The business will be also be boosting its litho and post-press capacity over the next three months with the installation of a new Komori Lithrone GL 540 sheetfed colour press, a Kolbus BF530 casing in line and DA270 casemaker and a Muller Martini Acoro perfect binder.

“In the main these investments replace end of life equipment whilst also providing better performances to enhance our production capacity. The Acoro binder is additional one up binding capacity to complement our digital press investment,” said Hulley.

Looking further forward, as the digitally printed book volume continues to grow into 2016, Clays will have the capability to extend its offering into full-colour books with the HP T400 Color Inkjet Web Press.

“We are taking one mono HP T400 this year with scope for another next year with colour, extending our offer to existing and new customers, most obviously in the non trade market,” said Hulley.

“Full-colour inkjet books for the trade market is a different proposition again and the opportunity there for UK based print providers will depend on ongoing development of the technology to provide the quality/performance combination required. We will, of course, watch that development carefully.”

HP Inkjet High-Speed Production Solutions Division vice-president and general manager Aurelio Maruggi added: “Considerable changes are taking place in the publishing industry, and publishers are looking to digital printing to simplify their supply chains, gain greater efficiency and increase production flexibility.

“With the HP T260 and T400 Mono Inkjet Web Presses, Clays is poised to help its customers reduce inventory overhead and support more titles, producing books when they are needed in the exact quantity desired.”

In January, £64.7m-turnover Clays became the sole UK supplier of monochrome books to publishing giant Penguin Random House.

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