Gemini invests big in secondhand Speedmaster

Gemini Print Group has invested around £1.7m in a highly automated 10-colour Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105, its 15th litho press.

Referring to the used machine as its "58-tonne baby", Gemini installed the Speedmaster at its Shoreham, West Sussex headquarters last month and it was up and running by mid-October, replacing a 13-year-old Speedmaster SM 102. It was supplied by Kent-based Exel Printing Machinery. 

After an 18-month period searching the market, managing director Steve Cropper said that after a small bedding-in period, the machine had already beaten most production records set by the replaced SM 102, which he said had become “untenable” for what was being asked of it towards the end of its life cycle.

Cropper said: “We were originally looking at new machines but were looking at the price and speaking to Heidelberg’s secondhand dealers and decided to look for a relatively low-mileage young press. We got an e-shot through from Exel and it carried on from there. 

“I looked at other manufacturers but if I’d been asked what I would end up with at the start it would always be Heidelberg, especially to complement the existing presses with the likes of Impress Control."

Exel managing director Bill Jones told PrintWeek the five-year-old Speedmaster was sourced from a liquidated company in Italy this year and had completed around 90 million impresssions.

"This is one of quite a few late-model long perfecting Heidelbergs," said Jones.

"We've got a niche selling late-model high-end presses and in general they are reasonably late technology machines. The difference in technology from a five-year-old press to a new one is marginal, so we knew Steve Cropper was looking for a press and this ticked all the boxes."

Running at speeds of up to 15,000sph, the machine takes sheets sized 750x1,000mm maximum at thicknesses of between 0.03mm and 0.6mm. It has a number of features unique to Heidelberg’s Push to Stop philosophy, which was heavily promoted at Drupa, including Impress Control, Autoplate XL for colour control and Prinect pre-press software. Last year, Gemini upgraded its cross-site workflow, including the installation of Kodak Sonora processless plates. 

“It complements the existing presses, also has the same plate size as the 106, and it’s very highly specified and really has everything on there,” added Cropper. 

“It’s not just in the print room that this is important but also in pre-press. We’re trying to touch the work less throughout the company. We don’t want to get rid of overheads but are moving overheads around in different positions, mainly because we are trying to reach out in other areas.” 

The group has also recently taken on nine new Ford Transit vans for distribution.

“We’re investing heavily on this side as it’s important for customer retention,” added Cropper.

“The idea is to offer the experience we have on dispatch almost like the Amazon experience, all to help the customer service element. The experience of the client has to get better, we’ve got to drag it on as what is perceived in print is probably not the best customer service around." 

Gemini Print Group consists of six printing operations in five locations: Gemini Digital and Gemini Print in Shoreham, Gemini Brighton, Gemini West, Gemini London and Gemini North. At Gemini Print, it runs a number of other Speedmaster presses, including two SM 52s, an XL 75 and an XL 106, along with Kodak Nexpresses in Gemini Digital, which is based in an adjacent site on the same premises. 

The group has sales of £18m and around 160 staff, with a new marketing director, Suzanne Heaven, joining in the last couple of months. 


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