Moving premises is the most stressful thing that most business owners will ever have to endure.
First there’s the associated expense. Then there’s the sheer logistics of moving heavy equipment from one site to another – and the issue of relocating staff and ensuring their new commute isn’t too onerous. Finally, there’s the prospect of downtime and disruption having a negative impact on the business’s bottom line. The process is laborious, time-consuming and expensive. Cutting corners isn’t an option because if you get it wrong it’s likely to be even more costly.
However, in some circumstances business have no choice, but to move. Take the example of Manchester-based Belle Design & Print.
“We were forced to move due to having two floods in 15 months, so interruptions to production, insurance premiums, lack of confidence in our place of work to withstand future weather conditions, were the catalyst for us to look for a new premise,” explains Helen Bakare, a director at the company.
So how do you plan and smoothly execute a business relocation? PrintWeek talked to printers who have already gone down this route to find out the secrets of their success.
Color Co (Cheltenham)
The Cheltenham-based company moved into a new 370m² factory opposite its existing building earlier this year having outgrown its existing premises.
According to company managing director Ashley Wainwright the move took around a year to plan, but because Color Co hired a company to move all of the equipment the logistical challenges were minimised. As was downtime, thanks to the fact that Color Co moved in on a Friday.
Wainwright says the biggest challenge the business faced was “getting all the water and electric companies, etc, set up ready for move day”. Before the move took place Color Co went across to the new premises to double check the phone line and electrics were all in place. As a result of this meticulous preparation Wainwright says that the move went smoothly. As for what sage words of advice he would offer other companies who are about to move premises, Wainwright offers the following: “Plan well in advance and write a list of everything needed. Keep going back and go over everything as you always think of things you have missed.”
Three years ago Chatham-based printer PressOn decided to move to a new larger premises having previously taken leases on a series of different units on the same industrial estate. Having signed for numerous buildings in the past Andy Wilson, managing director at PressOn, was better placed to make the switch to larger space than he was when he took a lease on the company’s first property.
“When we took our original unit back in 2001 we went to the landlord, he came up with a unit, we agreed a rent and they sent us a lease for us to review, which we gave to our solicitors and this is where a lot of people go wrong,” says Wilson. “You give the lease to a solicitor and the solicitor will tell you whether they think the lease is legal or not. But that’s all they do. They won’t tell you if it’s a good deal or a bad deal.”
As a result, he says company owners should not negotiate a lease on a new building or sign a lease extension without getting advice from a local surveyor.
“I didn’t do it and I signed up for a full repairing lease – inherent defects and all sorts of stuff,” says Wilson. “I got out of it, but only when the lease expired and by that time we learned the value of a good surveyor.
“I use the analogy you wouldn’t get a waiter to print your graphics on your printing machine so why as a printer would you even think about negotiating a lease?”
The other piece of advice he offers companies looking to move is don’t rush into making a decision.
“Take your time and make the landlord wait – there is always another building out there so don’t be pushed into it,” he says.
Amersham-based Hartgraph was forced to start looking for new premises after outgrowing its existing factory. According to marketing manager Natalie Stubbs it took three months to find the right unit and three months before the company was ready to move in.
“There was a period of time where we had both units,” says Stubbs. “The unit we were moving into was an empty shell so required everything to be bought in from power to mezzanine floors. This meant that we were able to plan everything in a military style and plan exactly where everything would be placed so that the space was as ready as it could be by the time we were ready to move.”
The machines were shut down on Friday 18 December and were up and running again on 23 December. Hartgraph also invested in a new Heidelberg XL 75 so that it started operating from the new premises with increased capacity.
Stubbs says the move couldn’t have gone better and the secret to success is all in the planning.
“It is also Important to surround yourself with people who know what they are doing. Bring the experts in and don’t cut corners,” she adds.
Having enjoyed rapid growth over the past few years, Winsford, Cheshire-based, Shirt Monkey decided to relocate to a new building that was around four times the size of the old one and was located approximately three miles away.
Shirt Monkey founder Nicholas Simons says it took the company three to four months to find a suitable factory to move into. “Once we had the location, we then took the decision to book a specialist removals company to come and inspect our equipment and then handle the equipment move from start to finish,” says Simons.
“With the machines costing in the region of $800,000 we felt the only sensible option was to ensure that the equipment was not only fully insured at all times, but handled by experts in machine removals.”
To ensure that downtime was reduced to a minimum Simons says it was vitally important that all of the electrics in the new premises were in place so that the machines could be moved and back in operation in a single day.
“We planned out the layout of the new premises in detail and installed the required three-phase electrics several weeks in advance,” he explains. “Once everything was ready, as we had two print machines, we were able to move one machine at a time so that production did not stop at any point during our move.”
He says the move went incredibly well and that his workforce, who were all keen to move into the “new, larger, clean space”, were integral to the success.
Simons’ advice to other printing companies is bring in experts to move expensive machinery because these companies also have the relevant insurance should anything untoward happen to your kit. He also thinks companies should ensure everything is well prepped both in the new factory and in the old premises just in case something unforeseen occurs.
“It is great to have a lease end on the day you take the keys for new premises, but realistically there is a lot to do in between moving, so we took our keys with a month crossover which gave us enough time to plan, prepare and move without any panic,” says Simons.
Around three years ago the owners of numerous printing facilities in Europe and Asia decided to launch a Leeds-based, short-run, quick-turnaround printing company called Northern Flags. According to Savneesh Bhogal, senior marketing executive at Northern Flags, the plan was so successful that the business rapidly grew from one to four wide-format printers, but this meant the factory and office space was becoming increasingly squeezed.
So the company decided to move into new premises with planning beginning in earnest around eight months ago – the move is due to be completed at the end of this month.
“Our most important consideration is to ensure we could complete print projects without creating a backlog of jobs,” says Bhogal. “Our plan has allowed us to continue with existing production using our current printers, whilst our new printing equipment is installed and commissioned.
“We have planned this around the quietest months of the year, which means we can complete full training programmes for our production staff, so the new facility becomes more efficient.”
The company’s smaller equipment is currently being moved across to the new factory and Bhogal says the business is on track to have everything operational by Christmas.
CASE STUDY: Precision Printing
Gary Peeling, chief executive at Precision Printing and WhereTheTradeBuys.co.uk, talks about how the company approached its move to brand new premises in east London, earlier this year.
“Moving a printing business of our size with our daily commitments is the business equivalent of wiring the house with the lights on while on acid.
“So why consider such an expensive and disruptive project? Your building is a production asset and to a degree a sales and marketing tool, and for us the lack of space was starting to be the beginning of every discussion regarding any opportunity, and that’s not healthy. The longer you stay in an unsuitable building the more compromises you make, and your efficiency reduces. We moved from 3,300m2 to 5,100m2 in a brand new unit, but there was nothing in it.
“We had to move 75 machines, 150 staff, offices, washroom, lighting power, lighting cabling... The list is endless and planning began 18 months prior to the move. It [moving premises] will be the most complex and expensive project you will ever undertake and for us it required two people working on it pretty much full time during that period and as you can imagine they had day jobs.
“We were aiming for a lean environment to deliver disruptive print on demand solutions and leverage our London location, the investment was significant so we are planning for a large upside. How did it go? Well I personally have the factory equivalent of post-natal depression. Visitors think it’s wonderful and speak of how energised we all must be, while I still can’t look at it or love it in the same way, but I am sure that will come. The planning paid off and fundamentally the move went well, I would like to thank our customers for their patience (not sure what we did to deserve it) and our staff for their hard work especially chief operations officer Andy Skarpellis and Keith Middleton our facility manager.”
CASE STUDY: Baddeley Brothers
Rent and business rate rises forced Baddeley Brothers to consider moving out of its Hackney site earlier this year. Thankfully the 150-year-old company found a 930m2 premises in Woodford, north-east London, which had previously housed football programme printer Maybank Press in the 1960s and 70s. We asked company director Charles Pertwee how the company planned the move.
How long did it take to plan the move and how did you map out the logistics?
Six months. Even before we knew where we would be going we held workshops with all the employees. This meant that everyone could have input and help us improve on the existing premises and that any potential pitfalls of moving the machines could be identified by the people who know them best.
One of the ideas that came from these sessions was to use a collapsible waste paper stillage to transport multiple loose items like envelope knives and inks. We also conducted a fixed-asset and machine footprint audit to ensure records were right up to date.
At this point it was important to make a decision which machines or kit we didn’t want to take with us. Being specialist – with up to 50 machines or parts weighing from a few kilos to 5 tonnes – planning took about three months from identifying the specialist engineers to haulage/lifting teams and electricians. The difficultly was that we had no move date due to ongoing lease negotiations. However, by keeping people informed and by giving likely dates, they could keep us in mind when arranging other jobs. As soon as I had a date that the factory would be ready to receive the machines then I was able to give firm timings to everyone.
Planning was done using Projects Teamwork, an online project management software free with the first project. It has an excellent mobile app and being cloud-based everyone who needs to access it can do. I used SmartDraw software to map out the factory floor; I’ve used it for years and it has really paid off.
What were the key business considerations and how did you ensure downtime was kept to a minimum?
Having someone responsible for ‘sending off’ machines from the old site and someone receiving them at the new place with myself overseeing and moving between the two seemed to work well. The person responsible at the old site was the production director, which meant that he knew which jobs could be produced in time before a machine was lifted.
How smoothly did the move go?
The factory move was scheduled to take place over two and a half weeks; this ran over by two days. The office by comparison took just one day. With the exception of one machine, whose circuit board broke, we had each machine running within 24 hours of being set down.
What advice would you give other companies looking to execute a smooth business relocation?
My golden rule: everything has a place – before each van or lorry load of kit set off from the old site it must have a spot allocated in the new place and once it arrives it gets set down or put away. Others would be: use suppliers who know you and your machines, put teams of people who do or have worked well together – you can’t afford the time or expense of people learning on the project. Be adaptable, this is where the plan comes in. By doing the preparation it is easier to work out how any changes will affect other things. Lastly, move when the weather is fine – undoubtedly September’s Indian summer made it a lot easier.