Greens the Signmakers is a long-established digital printer and signmaker based in Kingston upon Hull. It was founded in 1963 by Reg Green, originally a traditional signwriter who hand-painted commercial liveries such as coaches.
It’s still a family-run company. Reg Green’s son Chris joined in 1973 and became managing director in 1976. His son Lawrence joined the company in 2008 and this year was appointed managing director, with Chris remaining as chairman.
Over the decades the company moved with the times and today uses a battery of large-format digital UV-cure and solvent inkjets for rigid and roll media, plus a large digital routing table and a laser cutter. As well as making the signs, Greens offers design services, site surveys, installation and maintenance. It moved into purpose-built 2,400m² premises in 1984.
“We specialise in the re-branding of national companies and offer a nationwide service,” says Lawrence Green. “We have completed roll-out programmes for many well-known names such as Currys PC World, Wickes, Halfords, Go Outdoors, Harveys, Bensons and Carpetright.”
The printers are a mix of roll-fed and flatbed to handle flexible and rigid media. These include an EFI Vutek GS 5500 LXi Pro 5m roll-to-roll UV printer, complete with white print facility, a Vutek 3220 QS 3.2m UV hybrid, a Mimaki JV33 1.37m and a JV34 2.6m solvent ink printer.
Finishing kit includes a Pacer CNC 4x2m router with optical cut path and a 2.5x1.25m laser cutter.
All those rolls and sheets of heavy material need to be shifted between delivery trucks and the factory, so like many printing companies Greens uses a forklift for the grunt work. This time last year a 30-year-old diesel forklift was replaced by a modern electric model, a Mitsubishi EDiA EX 2.5-tonne four-wheel model. This was supplied by Malcolm West Forklifts, a specialist supplier based in Hull.
Forklifts and their drivers are unsung heroes of many a print warehouse, but rarely figure in PrintWeek. So, what does Greens do with it? “We use the fork truck for handling all bulk materials coming into the factory,” says Green. “We are signmakers as well as digital printers, so the range is vast: rigid sheet materials, acrylic, Foamex, ACM composites, aluminium, plywood, aluminium extrusions, timber, steel sections, roll stock vinyl, banner, flexface and electrical components such as LEDs and power packs.
“The truck is used to lift palletised materials from the delivery vehicle into the factory. Manual handing machinery then takes over to deliver the roll or sheet stock into the print room and onto each machine – printing machines are too expensive and far too delicate to let forklifts near them!”
Naturally enough as a signmaker, Greens has decorated its appropriately green coloured forklift with vinyl side panels showing off its own company logo.
Why choose the Mitsubishi?
“We have dealt with Malcolm West for many years and trusted their recommendation,” says Green. “We were interested in an electric forklift, and they recommended the Mitsubishi. We already run two Mitsubishi PHEV electric hybrid cars, so we were comfortable with the concept of electric vehicles as well as Mitsubishi products. We did look at other products and suppliers but settled on the Mitsubishi as the best option available.”
Malcom West’s sales executive Phil Hawksley says: “Even a one-truck application can benefit from a radical change. “There are real advantages for businesses making the switch to electric – especially on a site where a clean environment isn’t just desirable – it’s essential. For starters, you eliminate fume issues, but also, the lack of airborne emissions ensures stock and equipment are clean, too.
“The challenge for some companies is that going electric can come with a compromise, in terms of power. We needed to ensure that Greens’ next truck would have the same level of power and performance as the diesel because a large part of this truck’s work involves shifting heavy pallets of acrylic and aluminium. In addition, we needed to make certain this truck could work both indoors and out.”
Mitsubishi EDiA EX is a series of three electric trucks, each with a range of options for the mast and fork type. Greens has the smallest 2,500kg FB25CN model. Electric forklifts are nothing new, but the EX series, introduced three or four years ago, stands out because it has IPX4 waterproof rating for its key components. This allows outdoor operations so for example the forklift can move materials between delivery trucks and the factory in all weathers.
This machine has side shift so the load on the forks can be moved slightly for fine positioning. The four wheel steering lets the truck turn 360˚ on the spot, so it was more manoeuvrable than the diesel machine it was replacing.
Safety features include an electrically driven counterweight and an Integrated Presence System (IPS2) that isolates the drive and hydraulics two seconds after the operator leaves the seat. Intelligent curve control adjusts the speed according to the sharpness of bends, for site safety and to reduce tyre wear. The oil immersed ‘wet brakes’ are maintenance-free and create no dust. A hill hold feature stops the truck rolling on ramps.
“The spec was based on our original diesel machine which had served us well for many years,” says Green. “The new Mitsubishi has the benefit of side shift, which is a big plus for us. It is also much more manoeuvrable, making handling in tight areas much easier and safer for the operators.”
The battery operation is a big plus too, he adds. “Rechargeable has many benefits for us. We need to maintain a clean environment within the factory for the obvious staff health and safety reasons, but also from a contamination point of view in the print room, in the powder coat and in the vinyl application areas.”
Richard Jackson, purchasing manager for Greens, adds: “We used to spend around £30 per week on diesel. Now that has gone, we only have to charge the new electric once every two weeks, so our running costs have fallen dramatically.”
How has it been in practise?
Taking delivery went smoothly, says Green. “The handover on delivery was straight forward, with a briefing for the operators, much as you would receive when taking delivery of a new car. We bought the truck rather than financed it.”
Operations are straightforward for anyone used to driving a conventional forklift. “The controls are easy to use, we haven’t had any problems, as mentioned it is much better in tight areas. It lifts the same 2.5 tonnes and to the same height as our old machine, though for us height isn’t usually an issue as we don’t use high bay storage. The truck is well made and finished and is a pleasure to use, all our operators love it.”
Charging is the main point of difference. “The truck came with its own charging station which plugged straight into our existing three-phase sockets,” says Green. “Charging is only needed occasionally as we are not using the truck all day every day and is usually carried out overnight.”
So far it’s been reliable and has just had its first regular service. “We have not experienced any problems with the machine or with the service received from Malcolm West and their staff,” says Green. “In conclusion, we would certainly opt for the same machine again and recommend it to others for use in a similar environment.”
Power source Battery
Operator position Seated
Load capacity 2,500kg
Lift height 3,300mm
Tyres Solid pneumatic
Turning circle radius 1,920mm
Length 2,389 (to fork face)
Height to top of raised mast 4,355mm
Truck weight 4,621kg (with battery, lowest mast option)
Price £23,000 for Greens’ specification
Contact Malcolm West Mitsubishi 01482 327681 www.malcolmwest-mitsubishi.co.uk
Greens the Signmakers was founded in Kingston upon Hull in 1963 by Reg Green. It remains a family-run concern, with Reg’s son Chris as chairman and his grandson Lawrence moving up to managing director earlier this year. There are currently 44 employees.
Products include external signage, totem signs and directional signage, plus internal graphics, promotional material, POS, vinyl window and floor graphics.
The printers are a mix of roll-fed and flatbed to handle flexible and rigid media.
The Mitsubishi EX is Green’s only forklift and is used for lifting palletised loads from delivery vehicles into the factory. The company also runs two Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV petrol-electric hybrid cars.
Why it was bought...
Greens wanted to replace an older diesel forklift with a more efficient and cleaner model. Four-wheel steering made the EDiA more manoeuvrable than its predecessor and IPX4 waterproof rating means it can move between delivery trucks and the warehouse in all weathers. It can run for a fortnight before needing overnight recharging.
How it has performed...
“It saves messy refuelling issues, fuel storage difficulties and fuel availability,” says Lawrence Green. “The electric truck never runs out of fuel! For us the cleanliness added to its ease of use are the main plusses. I don’t think we can claim it has boosted business but it has certainly made life a lot easier!”