Clays ramps up POD capacity with Ricoh European first


St Ives Clays has become the first company in Europe to invest in Ricoh’s Drupa-launched Digital Book Printing Solution.

The setup comprises two monochrome Ricoh 8120e digital production presses and Ricoh’s TotalFlow BatchBuilder workflow. It also includes an MB Multipli 35/2/2-PBA Offline folding solution.

Clays managing director Paul Hulley couldn’t reveal how much he paid for the solution but said that he had “got a good deal”, having spent much of this year extensively researching the market.  

The two presses replace two six-year old Kodak Digimasters. They were installed in early November and implementation of the workflow solution, which will eventually replace an internal company workflow, is taking place this week. 

Hulley said the kit has been sold as a complete solution in the US but this is its first European implementation.

The investment was made in order to assist with Clays’ POD work, ultra-short runs of between one and 20 books, which accounts for just under 5% of its turnover.

As the UK’s biggest single-site book producer, according to Hulley, Clays mainly produces long-run monochrome book work, producing around 150 million books a year for the likes of Penguin Random House and HarperCollins.

Last year, Clays became the sole supplier of monochrome books to Penguin Random House, having invested around £2.5m on digital equipment in 2014.

Hulley said: “We very much went out to the market, it was a very thorough process, and feather in the cap to Ricoh they came out on top. We wanted a cut-sheet solution not web, as this is definitely still for very small quantities of books. There were a range of impressive solutions out there so we spent time making sure we understood what they were. 

“With the software in place we will be able to print a four-up solution. Again there wasn’t much to choose between deals but Ricoh offered us the best overall deal, we liked the print quality and we like the fact that it’s very scalable, so as and when we win more and more POD volume we can put more and more machines in.”

The Ricoh 8120e prints at a maximum speed of 135ppm, at a maximum resolution of 1,200x4,800dpi. It takes maximum sheet size of 320x480mm at weights ranging between 52gsm and 256gsm.

One of the presses is attached to a Plockmatic PBM500 bookletmaker, bringing Clays' wire stitching work in-house.

The workflow automates the production of book batches based on customisable business rules, such as run-length, media type and finishing requirements. 

It can integrate legacy MIS systems, using JDF and JMF, enabling real-time view of production. 

“This is going to significantly increase POD capacity,” added Hulley.

“It’s definitely an investment for the long term and having the workflow solution is very much part of that. If you are going to be producing large quantities of ultra short-run work at very fast turnaround times you need to be in control." 

700-staff Clays operates from a single site in Bungay, Suffolk and also runs a large roster of other kit, including two HP PageWide T-series presses, a T260 and a T400, both installed last year, and two Kodak Prosper presses. 

In its 2016 results, parent firm St Ives recorded a 3% increase in sales at Clays to £68.6m, although operating profits fell from £8.1m to £5.8m.

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