Stephens & George sticks with Heidelberg to replace two folders

Tania Mason
Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Stephens & George has ordered a second Stahlfolder TH 82-P after a first one, installed in November, proved to be “very, very impressive”.


Managing director Andrew Jones and colleagues inspected the TH/KH 82-P series when they were unveiled by Heidelberg at Drupa 2016. The total outlay for the two machines was in the ballpark of £700,000, he said.

Heidelberg claims the TH 82-P, featuring the PFX shingle feeder, can process up to 16,000 16pp A4 sections an hour at a machine speed of 150m/min. The 'shingling' of sheets enables the machine to fold a higher quantity without ramping up the speed, resulting in better-quality folds as well as greater output, according to Heidelberg.

The first Stahlfolder installed at Stephens & George’s Merthyr Tydfil factory in November is handling 16pp sections, while the second will be configured for 32pp sections. During January the £27.5m-turnover magazine and commercial printer handled 14 million 16pp sections and 4 million 32pp sections.

The plant’s bindery already had 10 folders, eight Heidelbergs and two MBOs, and Jones said two older TH 82-H models – installed back in 2005 – would be retired once the two new Stahlfolders are up and running.

The company operates five Speedmaster XL 106 presses – a 10-, eight- and five-colour, each fitted with spectral measurement, CutStar reel to sheeters and enhanced plate-changing. These require finishing kit that can keep pace, according to Jones.

“In one 11.5-hour day shift the TH 82-P produced 150,000 sections and that was matched again by the night shift, meaning 300,000 in a 24-hour period,” he said. “This was for a long-run job but even with changeovers the productivity of this folder is very, very impressive.”

Stephens & George operates around the clock and now employs 231 staff. Around 40% of its work is magazines, another 40% comes from commercial contracts and the remaining fifth is one-off jobs.

Last year the group invested £4.2m in two new Muller Martini stitching lines and two Bolero perfect binders, in what was touted as the biggest finishing spend by any printer in the UK for over a decade. 

In 2016 the group also acquired The Magazine Printing Company (TMPC) and all its production has now been moved from its Enfield base into the Merthyr Tydfil plant.

Jones said that even though the company would continue to operate the same number of folders once the old machines are decommissioned, the increased speed of the new Heidelbergs would provide additional folding capacity. This was needed to cope with the extra work created by the integration of TMPC as well as some organic growth.

The business had hit its latest target of £30m turnover and was now aiming for £40m within the next five years, Jones said.

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