Heronswood switches format to shake things up


Heronswood Press has stepped up from B2 to SRA1 with a “significant” lockdown investment in a four-colour RMGT 924 LED press in a two-for-one swap after its owner decided “doing the same thing we’ve done for the past 20 years doesn’t make sense”.

Room: going up in format is quite a big endeavour
Room: going up in format is quite a big endeavour

The Tunbridge Wells commercial printer, will take delivery of the refurbished press from RMGT’s UK agent MPL next month. It will replace a pair of five-colour Sakurais.

Managing director Nigel Room said: “We had been thinking about it for quite a while, and had initially planned to do it at the end of this year, then this ‘event’ took place, the machine became available and we thought this is as good a time as any while we’re quiet.”

“I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing, or I’m completely mad, or somewhere in between. I’m doing this on the proviso that come October/November things are back to a normalish state.”

To support the press investment, which was financed though a conventional, non CBILS bank loan, and the step up in format, the firm has installed a refurbished Screen Platerite 6600S platesetter, a larger pile turner and upgraded proofer.

“Unfortunately going up in format is quite a big endeavour, it wasn’t just a case of popping in a new press and away you go. But it is a good time to buy things, because there are some cracking deals,” said Room.

“My logic is that the B2 market is getting attacked from both sides, it’s getting attached from B2 digital machines and B1 presses with fast makereadies. B2 printers get squeezed horribly in the middle.

“Also, now, doing the same thing we’ve done for the past 20 years doesn’t make sense. It’s like a slow march towards death. We want to do something different and we’ll be the only printer in the area with LED drying.”

He added that he was initially concerned about the additional costs of LED inks: “But I went back over everything I have spent in the past six months on four-colour inks, sealer and spray powder and I realised that for every £1 I spent on ink I spend £2 on spray and seal, so the higher ink cost was irrelevant.”

The ten-staff firm has continued to operate throughout lockdown, albeit on a skeleton staff of two, with the remainder placed on furlough.

“As work picks up we’ll start to bring people back in,” said Room.

Pre-lockdown, as well as general commercial print, the firm also produced work for firms in the entertainment, hospitality and travel sectors, so Room said the business had been hard hit like most of the industry.

However, he said he had to be positive about the future because “if the world is still like this in three months' time, then there will no one left [in print].”

Once the new press is installed, it will join a one-back-one Sakurai 66EZP; Ricoh Pro C9100 and Xerox 700 digital presses, HP wide-format printers and a raft of finishing kit.

The business was founded by Room’s father in the early 1970s as a letterpress printer operating out of his gran’s garden shed.

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