Gala Graphics' £1m-plus move to reshore work from China

Sarah Cosgrove
Friday, December 18, 2015

A fabric printer is investing over £1m on expansion and dye sub technology to reshore work from China to Yorkshire.

Gala Graphics, which prints textiles for sister company Gala Tents which produces marquees, flags, banners and wallpaper, believes UK manufacturing can compete with Chinese.

With the help of a new wide-format Dgen Teleios G5 it said it will also be able to offer much better lead times and quality.

The company has secured just over £1m investment from a "brilliant" and "fully supportive" HSBC. Applications to two regional growth funds are also in progress.

The Rotherham-based company has purchased a new 2,044sqm commercial unit which will house the Teleios G5, bought for £120,000.

The company is due to move its seven staff there in mid January and engage three new print operators and two or three seamstresses.

Joint managing director Glen Robinson said that last year company sales had been around £750,000, with half of that work produced in China. Now it plans to bring all manufacturing in-house.

“I think there’s too much work going to China. England and Britain hardly make anything any more. But the gap between China and the UK is beginning to close because the cost of production in China has gone up," he said. "They have to pay their staff more than they did before and the cost of shipping and containers continues to rise.

"I think a lot of companies are going to start to do what we’re doing. When you produce your own goods you have control over the products and it improves the quality you get.”

Robinson said that improvements in dye sublimation printing technology also made it more viable to reshore.

“Dye sub has advanced so much in the last few years. It all used to be paper transfer, now you can print direct to fabric and it’s perfect quality.”

The Teleios G5, launched at Fespa in Munich, Germany in 2014, can print up to 3.3m-wide to a resolution of up to 600dpi at a speed up to 185sqm/hr, according to Dgen.

It uses Ricoh Gen5 industrial inkjet printheads with 1.280 nozzles per colour, a droplet size of 7 picoliters and true greyscale, the manufacturer said. It has a high speed heat fixation unit included.

Robinson said he liked the Teleios G5 because “it does everything. It stuck out a mile over similar printers.” It was recommended by owners and machine operators, he added, and its ease of operation means operators will not need to spend as long in training before starting work.

He said inks were expensive but he believes in buying good inks, which ensure better quality products and do not limit the lifespan of the machine. Despite this it is still possible to compete with imports, he said.

Gala Graphics existing two Roland solvent printers, HP DesignJet, three heat presses and laminator will also be moved over.

The company, established two years ago to produce the graphics for Gala Tents and jointly owned by Robinson, Jason Mace and Mark Thompson, has won several contracts with clients including Virgin Media and European market giant, Group Geraud. 

It is also planning to establish a web-to-print consumer business producing wallpaper next year.

Robinson also won Business Person of the Year at the South Yorkshire Business Awards last month.

Joint managing director Jason Mace said: “Our consistent investment into new technology and ongoing innovation has allowed us to compete with Chinese markets. This puts us in an incredibly strong position and is allowing us to reshore key elements of the business.”

Once its Rotherham site is up and running, Gala Graphics believes it will be the only manufacturer in its sector to offer a full printing service to its customers directly supplied by a UK based printing company.

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