Me & my: Ricoh Pro C901

By Jenny Roper, Monday 01 September 2014

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It’s fair to say that Gaby Purton has had a varied career. Once a midwife, before becoming a manager at a nursing agency and then a driving instructor, Purton now takes care of a very different kind of delivery.

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Purton: “We’ve seen a 30%-40% increase in business year on year because of the Ricohs”

And yet, in her position as co-director of Acculith Repro, Purton is just as precious about the corporate stationery, brochures, handbooks and manuals she’s delivering to customers as she was about the new babies she once helped bring into the world.

Testament to this is the company’s investment in a new Ricoh Pro C901 a few months ago, an upgrade that has enabled Purton and Acculith Repro to offer “near-litho quality”.

Purton got the print bug in 2011 when she decided to help husband David run newly formed repro and digital print business Acculith Repro. The High Barnet-based firm was born out of existing business Acculith 76 when it was decided that both the litho and digital sides of the business would fare better as separate operations. 

“We realised that if we didn’t split the litho and digital sides into two distinct entities, one or other of the sides wouldn’t get the correct focus,” explains Purton. 

So while Purton’s husband, a former partner of Acculith 76, took charge of Acculith Repro with Gaby, another partner of 76, Bob Lloyd, took over the litho business. The third partner of Acculith 76, David’s father, became a silent partner of Acculith Repro. 

The two firms, though still occupying the same premises, now report separately, with different VAT and company numbers. They still enjoy a close working relationship as trade partners, with Acculith Repro providing design, repro, digital print and platemaking services for Acculith 76, and Acculith 76 fulfilling litho work placed through Acculith Repro, such as for a contract it holds with a major charity. 

The digital offshoot first started life in 2011 with a Xerox DocuColor 240, but the firm quickly realised something more industrial was needed, and invested in a Ricoh Pro C651. 

“We installed the Xerox six years ago nearly; it’s very tiny, the size of an office photocopier,” says Purton. “In 2011, when we diverged and became two separate companies, we were still using the Xerox, but we felt the quality wasn’t very good. We weren’t moving forwards as a digital company so we started looking at a variety of Xerox and Ricoh machines.”

It was quickly decided that a new Ricoh machine, rather than a more sophisticated Xerox, was the best shout. “Compared with the Xerox machines – even the big Xeroxes we looked at – the quality of the Ricoh was streets ahead. There was no ghosting, no banding; it could cope with solid colours,” says Purton. 

The Pro C651 has done wonders for the business, she adds. “Since the installation of the Ricoh Pro C651, our digital output has boomed, and in fact over the past two years, turnover for this side of the business has grown by 400%. It now constitutes 40% of our business,” she reports.

Next step

So in-demand had the company become for digitally printed brochures, leaflets, flyers, folders, manuals, magazines, and more besides, that it decided earlier this year it was time for a speed upgrade. Impressed with its C651, the team decided that upgrading this to a Pro C901 was the best option for them.

And this has certainly proved to be the case. “With the DocuColor you would get about 25 copies a minute; the C651, 65 copies a minute; and the 901 is 90 copies a minute,” reports Purton.

Normally a quicker machine would mean a compromise in quality, says Purton. But with the Pro C901 this hasn’t proved to be the case. The quality of the C901 is in fact even better than the C651, says Purton.

“The 901 is really at near-litho quality. Customers who need a really high-quality product are happy with it,” says Purton.

She cites the example of a photographer acquired since the switch to the C901, who needed a brochure showcasing his work. 

“Already we’ve noticed more photographers using us for their corporate brochures. They’re very, very picky about quality – they want the pictures in the brochures to reflect their skill,” says Purton. 

“We had one photographer client who had had a quote and proof from another printer and was disgusted by the quality. He came to us really very worried about the quality you can get from a digital machine,” she adds. 

“He didn’t want to go litho because his run was too short for that; he only wanted 100 brochures. We sat with him and manipulated his photos on our repro side until he was happy, then produced them on the 901 and he was really impressed with the quality.

“Hopefully we’ll get more photography work now. This customer is now singing our praises to his colleagues,” she adds.

The company has also been impressed with the C901’s ability to maintain high speeds even when printing thicker substrates. “With the C651, if we put thicker board in there it would slow the process down. But the C901 will maintain speed  right up to its maximum thickness of 350gsm,” says Purton. 

“That’s good for business cards, covers for magazines and brochures, folders, anything that’s thicker. We have a lot of artists that use our services to transform their paintings into greetings cards. We can put the board through as quickly as paper,” she adds. “We also do magnetic material – we do magnetic business cards for tradespeople who want to leave their details on people’s fridges. That goes through the C901 better than the C651.”

Acculith Repro’s one suggested improvement for the machine though, is that it have the ability to handle heavier stocks weights. 

Weight issue

“The only thing we would like in the future is for it to take a heavier board – 400gsm or more would be ideal,” says Purton. “A lot of people now want business cards of that thickness and this would allow us to do that. We can do them with the duplex and triplex capability, but then you’ve got to print both sides separately and then bring them together in the guillotine.”

Gareth Parker, strategic marketing manager, Ricoh UK, says: “We really value this type of feedback. We recognise that market requirements are constantly changing, and strong partnerships with many customers, including Acculith, provide us with insight that will inform the next phase of R&D for products such as the Ricoh Pro C901.”

Acculith Repro would certainly agree that the partnership with Ricoh is a strong one. As evidenced by the company’s decision to go for another Ricoh machine, the printer has been highly impressed with this vendor’s approach. 

“The support we get from Ricoh is second to none. If we have a problem they’re there the same day; we have a very good relationship with both the engineers and the sales side,” says Purton.

She reports that the only service issues the company has ever experienced were with the Pro C651, and that these were minor problems that arose as the result of Acculith pushing the machine to its absolute limits, volume-wise. 

“The high volume that we did on the C651 was perhaps a little bit too much. The C901 has cleared that problem completely and we very rarely have an issue. Ricoh come in and do maintenance once in a while, but on the whole it’s been pretty much problem free,” reports Purton.

“Sometimes the sensors would go in the machine and the paper would jam up,” she adds of the occasional issues experienced with the C651. She adds that keeping these machines at an ambient temperature in this summer’s unusually high temperatures has been critical.

“This machinery is very sensitive and if the weather’s too hot, as it has been recently, then it can be affected. But the 901 has been very reliable,” says Purton, adding: “We have to keep the pressroom as cool as we can with climate control.”

This measure will of course be critical with any digital printing kit. And provided Acculith does this, the C901 prints beautifully, reports Purton.

Launching in the middle of a recession, Acculith Repro has grown year on year since 2011. This, says Purton, is thanks to Ricoh. “We’ve seen a 30%-40% increase in business year on year because of the Ricohs,” she says, adding: “The C901 has allowed us to increase our volume as well as increase our quality at the same time.”

Purton has no regrets, then, about leaving a career in nursing and then driving instructing for print. With her company targeting growth of 40% from 2013 to 2014, which it is apparently well on track to achieving, it’s fair to say Purton’s first three years in print have gotten off to a storming start. And this, says Purton, is down in no small part, to her friends at Ricoh. 


SPECIFICATIONS

Max speed 90ppm

Resolution 1,200dpi

Max input capacity 11,000 sheets

Max output capacity 13,250 sheets

Max sheet size 330x487.7mm

Max print area 320x480mm

Stock weight range Standard tray: 60-220gsm; SRA3 LCT RT5020 tray: 60-350gsm; Multi bypass tray: 52-216gsm

Price £126,000

Contact Ricoh 0800 904090 www.ricoh.co.uk


Company profile 

Acculith Repro was born out of Acculith 76 in 2011 when the management team decided to separate the digital and repro side of the business from the litho side, by setting up an entirely independent firm. As its name suggests, Acculith 76 was established in 1976. The firm now runs a Heidelberg five-colour Speedmaster machine, while Acculith Repro runs a Roland DG VersaCamm VS-540i printer-cutter, an Epson 9800, a Xerox DocuColor 240 and a Ricoh Pro C901. Acculith Repro is headed up by husband-and-wife team David and Gaby Purton.

Why it was bought

Acculith Repro started life with a Xerox DocuColor 240, but quickly added a Ricoh Pro C651 for better quality and faster turnarounds. It decided, a few months ago, to upgrade this to a Pro C901 to once again boost quality and speed, and to enable it to offer heavier substrate products, such as thick business cards, magazine and brochure covers, greetings cards and folders.

How it has performed

The company has been thrilled with the press thus far, as it was with the C651. The higher quality of the C651 enabled the company to reach new customers, and the C901 is opening up yet more new markets, reports co-director Gaby Purton. “We’ve seen a 30%-40% increase in business year on year because of the Ricohs,” she says.

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