MetroMail rebrands and boosts capabilities

Jo Francis
Wednesday, February 1, 2023

MetroMail has rebranded as CustomerKNECT to better reflect its wider offering, with the business also embarking upon a major £12m spend that includes upgrading its ‘white paper in’ production setup and a move into sheetfed inkjet.

Morrison and Smith at the ribbon cutting ceremony
Morrison and Smith at the ribbon cutting ceremony

The new name and look officially went live today (1 February), which is also the start of the firm’s new financial year.

Local mayor Sue Morrison cut the ribbon on CustomerKNECT’s rebranded Seaham factory alongside CEO Tim Smith to mark the occasion. 

Smith joined the business just ten months ago and said he was proud of what he and the team had achieved since, including sign-off from parent group Saga for the substantial investment programme, which also includes additional services. 

He said the rebrand marked a fresh chapter for the business, with the new name reflecting the firm’s ambition to be the partner of choice for all customer connections and touchpoints. 

“I’m excited and I hope the rest of my colleagues share that vision enthusiastically. We’ve focused on what we’re good at, and we plan to grow and recoup our investment, and add new revenue streams,” he said. 

The first tranche of the investment is already in place, with around 60% of the spend committed to "heavy metal". 

CustomerKNECT has updated its Canon inkjet printing setup by taking out three ColorStream presses and replacing them with two of the latest generation Canon ColorStream 8160 continuous feed models, and adding a VarioPrint iX 2100 B3 sheetfed inkjet press. 

Installation took place during November and December.

The new ColorStreams are 25% faster than the old devices, while the iX 2100 gives the business flexible short-run capabilities. All have native 1,200dpi resolution.

Following a staff competition, the ColorStreams have been named Hercules and Archimedes, while the iX 2100 is Thea. 

The presses have also been branded up with custom graphics, as have internal areas of the building such as staircases and breakout rooms. CustomerKNECT worked with branding partner Besley & Copp on the makeover. 

The reel-fed devices are already up and running at its 13,000sqm facility. Hercules is configured to run into both a Hunkeler dynamic perforator and online Hunkeler finishing system with merging sheeting and full-bleed cuts. The device can also run roll-to-roll if required. 

“We also have a 32-inch stacker so we can stack really long sheets. It’s a really flexible line,” explained head of digital and systems Paul Anderson.  

Archimedes runs roll-to-roll, feeding an array of offline finishing systems and paper wrapping lines. 

Thea (pictured below) is set to be fully up and running next week.

“The iX 2100 is fast and economical, and very compatible. It’s a step change from the small toner printers we had before. We are targeting work such as fully personalised postcards, one-piece mailers, and personalised booklets,” Anderson explained.

In addition, a £300,000 Bluecrest Colour Print + Messenger line with 4.25in full colour inkjet heads is set to be installed imminently. It will be integrated with the firm’s existing Bluecrest Epic inserter, and linked with CustomerKNECT’s bespoke iTrans workflow automation system which includes Quadient’s Inspire tech. 

“This is a completely new capability and means we can, for example, add full-colour printing to the front of a DL envelope. It gives us a fully white paper setup including envelopes. Jobs can be totally personalised and co-mingled. It’s game-changing,” Anderson said. 

Some of the work from the recently announced partnership with Lbox Communications will go onto the new Bluecrest line. 

CustomerKNECT is also adding new secure managed services including inbound mail and PC destruction. Being owned by Saga means the company operates under the rigours of PLC reporting and FCA governance, and it holds ISO 45001, 14001, 9001 and 27001 certification.

The 120-employee business has also taken on print procurement for the overall group. It operates flexibly 24/6 running one, two or three shifts depending on workload.

Added-value digital services include personalised videos on demand, mobile-friendly membership cards to replace plastic, and gamification options that replace traditional scratchcards. 

“We are stimulating a digital journey that’s springboarded from a physical item such as a letter or postcard,” Smith added. 

“We’re saying to customers, share your objectives and let us help you with the outcome.”

Parent Saga accounts for around a third of sales, with other clients including home shopping, automotive insurance, financial services and trade customers. 

Smith said that turnover at the business for the financial year just ended would be around £25m if postage was included, with the company targeting double-digit growth and margins as part of its growth plans.

The £12m spend will be spread over seven years.

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