Pepper in £1.6m kit spend

Richard Stuart-Turner
Friday, August 30, 2019

Pepper Communications has invested £1.6m in litho and digital technology to enhance its press efficiency and automation.

The Plymouth-headquartered company took delivery of a secondhand five-colour Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 with coater around a month ago.

The press, which is specified with Autoplate Pro and Inpress Control, is just over a year old and was supplied by Redditch-based used equipment dealer Albion Machinery.

Certified as carbon neutral, the XL 106 will increase Pepper’s efficiency by 30%. It has replaced a 10-year-old Speedmaster XL 105 and a four-year-old Speedmaster XL 75, both of which were part-exchanged in the deal with Albion.

Pepper operations director Jake Whitford said the business has been undergoing “an almost non-stop business improvement cycle over the past three years” in order to achieve the best results for its customers.

“The XL 75 we installed four years ago has been hugely successful for us and we are already finding the XL 106 to be incredibly impressive, it feels light years ahead in terms of performance and operation,” he said.

“There’s definitely a quality boost in terms of the sharpness and the clarity of the print but there’s also an efficiency gain: we’ve gone from running an average of just over 12,000sph to a constantly on the clock speed of nowhere less than 17,000sph or 18,000sph for most stocks.”

He added: “The investment maintains consistency from where we were in terms of consolidating the two machines that we had.

“Most of our work is four-colour but the fifth unit gives us the option to either seal or produce spot colours inline. And especially on the short-run work, if you want to turn it around fast without drying times, the coater really helps in those scenarios.”

Whitford said the XL 106 can produce as much as the two XLs the company was previously using could, with capacity for growth due to the high level of automation installed on the press and the increased available running hours that the business has created.

“Some of the team including myself were at first apprehensive about the concept of replacing two presses with one, but when we analysed the historical impression counts and average makereadies the numbers capable on the new XL 106 just made so much sense.”

He added the investment has resulted in a promotion for one of the firm’s press team, who started as an apprentice 13 years ago and will now become press room manager after rising through the ranks of the business.

In the last few weeks the company has also installed a secondhand Heidelberg Cylinder, also supplied by Albion, and two new Xerox Versant 3100 digital presses supplied by Exeter-based distributor Concorde.

Specified with the EXP Fiery RIP, FreeFlow Core pre-press automation software and XMPie personalisation software, Pepper has taken on these machines to meet an increase in demand for short-run print jobs and increasing volumes of variable colour for creative direct mail marketing campaigns.

“We also looked at the iGen and machines like that but we would have had the complexity of actually being able to fit it into our laser room without taking the ceilings out,” said Whitford.

“So we did the numbers and realised that actually we could get more sheets on the floor from using two machines, and we can also keep running if one goes down.”

In December Pepper installed an array of solar PV panels onto the roof of its 3,500sqm premises in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint and save on energy costs.

The business has 41 full-time staff and around 20 casual workers, the majority of which work at its main Plymouth production facility. Set to turn over around £6.5m this year, it also operates satellite offices in London and Bristol.


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