Twenty one years ago David Ghent set up Minuteman Press in Bath as a small high-street print shop with two employees. This was one of the first of the originally US-based Minuteman franchise branches in the UK.
Today there are more than 1,000 branches worldwide, with about 50 in the UK.
The Bath company has flourished over the years and today employs 14 people. “Turnover passed £1m several years ago and David is proud to be the only UK Minuteman franchisee to be a member of the international president’s Million Dollar Circle,” says Dave Dixon, operations and marketing director, who joined the company 14 years ago.
“We pride ourselves on being a one-stop shop for graphic communications. We are still based on the high street; however we are very fortunate to have almost half a football pitch of space right in the centre of the city. This means that a lot of our clients who still like to pop into see us to discuss their design and printing needs can do. Our business has grown over the years by supporting very small businesses to become much larger businesses.”
Today the company’s printing is all digital, having taken out its last two-colour litho press last year. It now runs a mix of Xerox commercial dry toner presses and three wide format HP inkjets (two aqueous, one Latex).
The latest toner press is the subject of our story here: a Xerox Iridesse six-colour dry toner model with special ‘embellishment’ colour capabilities.
This replaced a Xerox Colour 1000i press that could print five colours. “The Iridesse was a trade-in for the 1000i and very much before time,” says Dixon. “Xerox were keen for us to be an early adopter so put together a package that we couldn’t say no to!”
Pre-press is handled though an EFI Fiery workflow. Quite Software’s Quite Imposing Acrobat plug-in is used to set up imposed PDFs that are then moved to hot folders that set up the job queues for the various printers. “When using speciality colours on the Xerox Iridesse the Fiery front-end is then used for that element of the colour management.
Finishing equipment is digitally driven too. Dixon says: “Our Valiani flatbed cutter has enabled us to take on a variety of very short run digitally printed packaging work, plus a whole new market of point-of-sale materials for our clients.”
Co-operation with the other Minuteman branches proves useful, says Dixon. “Many have matured from small traditional copyshop operations to running some pretty good kit. For example we didn’t opt for the long press sheet initially on the Iridesse, however our friends at Minuteman Press Kings Lynn did. This is great as it means that they are on hand to help us with long-sheet work, knowing that we can get a good match for other collateral that we may be doing for our clients.
“Others have foiling and some are now moving into dye-sublimation. In return we have a good number of franchisees who will come to us to use the gold, silver and clear inks. It’s also great to be able to share challenges or new ideas as a large group of print professionals.”
Minuteman Bath had run Xerox digital presses before, and still has a Versant 80 and Colour C70 as well as the new Iridesse. “We have enjoyed a very close relationship over the years and we are one of just 21 Xerox Premier Partners in the UK,” says Dixon. “This has given us some great insight into the future of print and has meant that we have enjoyed some great hints into new technologies coming from Xerox.”
“We did look at the Ricoh kit, mainly because we were interested at the time in the white ink application. However our unique business relationship with Xerox and the print quality of the Iridesse really helped make the decision an easy one.”
The Iridesse is a new generation mid-productivity press, replacing the Colour 1000i model. It is an SRA3+ format dry toner press with the ability to run two special colours as well as CMYK. These can be white, clear, gold or silver. “White wasn’t available when we first took on the Iridesse, however we are currently in the process of proving our business case for it,” says Dixon.
Special colour units are placed before and after CMYK in the laydown sequence and can easily be changed. Xerox also stresses a wide range of substrate weights, plus new levels of automation.
The press is also highly automated and prints on a wide range of stock. There’s an option for sheets up to 1,200mm long, though Minuteman’s press doesn’t yet have this, say Dixon.
“For us it wasn’t just the unique six-colour capabilities of the Iridesse, it was also the ability to add future enhancements such as the huge 1.2m sheet length and white inks, when we are ready. However what really stood out was the new HD inks and exceptional CMYK print quality. We no longer shudder when we see an expanse of Cool Grey 10 across a sheet, wondering what colour we may end up with!”
The press can also accept thicker stocks than earlier toner presses, which is proving useful. “The 400gsm board is certainly an advantage over other machines and it can also deal effectively with coated and embossed stocks. In fact we have moved all of our standard business card stocks up from 350gsm to 400gsm.”
Did the adoption go smoothly?
“Once the machine was installed we had a couple of days before it was fully handed to us to run live jobs,” says Dixon. “We had one of the first Iridesses so it did take a little time to get things like parts and other consumables into the country and most importantly on-site ready for us to use. We kind of knew this would be the case and it didn’t cause too much issue.
“As an early adopter it took some time to get enough trained and experienced engineers near to us to deal with any issues quickly enough and I think that Xerox had a little learning curve with that.”
Any problems? “Sure, every new machine has its teething problems. The 400gsm works well, however you’re really going to have to spend some time up front getting your stock profiles right. There’s occasional colour management needed, but nothing like the digital presses of old!”
As advice to other potential users, he says “Keep enough parts on the shelf and make sure that your press operator is well trained.”
Dixon is enthusiastic about the Iridesse’s all-round capabilities. “This machine has the HD toner technology of the iGen without the iGen price tag,” he says. “It has the imaging technology of the Versant range and the speciality inks that we enjoyed with the Colour 1000i. On top of this is gives us a 120 sides per minute speed.
“The only negative is that we only have one of them, which means that if there’s any downtime, finding an alternative way to complete some jobs is a challenge. Although we have a great piece of kit in the Versant 80 for a backup machine, the speed and quality just isn’t there.”
It’s added new capabilities for the company, he says. “There some great effects that you can do with the Iridesse, we have recently found out that the clear ink works really well over a matt laminate to give a superb spot UV finish, with no set up costs and with the advantage of variable data. You don’t see variable data spot UV that often! It really is a versatile piece of kit and as long as you look after it well it will come up trumps time and time again.
“For the price point this is a great press if you’re a digital printer looking to increase your capacity, or a litho printer looking for a decent bit of kit that’s going to help you win some of that short volume work.”
Colours High-density CMYK with optional fifth and sixth colours (white, clear, gold, silver)
Speed 120 A4ppm for all paper weights
Max media sizes 330x488mm standard, option for 1,200mm long sheets
Media weights 52-400gsm
Resolution 1,200x1,200x10-bit Ripping and 2,400x2,000x1-bit imaging
Price About £180,000 with typical options
Contact Xerox UK 0870 873 4519 www.xerox.com
MMP Bath, trading as Minuteman Press, was set up in 1998 by David Ghent, who still runs it as managing director, with his wife Angela as company secretary. This was one of the first UK branches of the US-based Minuteman franchise. Today it employs 14 people and turns over more than £1m. It handles a mixture of commercial and large-format print work and still has a high-street store front in Walcot Street. Production equipment is based on three Xerox digital production presses including the latest six-colour Iridesse, plus three HP wide-format inkjets and a Valiani digital cutting table.
Why it was bought...
Minuteman Press Bath has had a long and successful relationship with Xerox. Operations and marketing director Dave Dixon says he was swayed by the ability to add future enhancements and the HD inks. It also helped that Xerox offered the company a deal it “couldn’t say no to”.
How it has performed...
“This has made our lives a lot easier and the press does exactly what it says in the sales brochure,” says Dixon. “We now have the confidence of running some of those traditionally tricky jobs knowing we will get a good result. Our clients have been really impressed with the effects that we can create with the gold, silver and clear inks, especially when we are combining a couple of them together. The clear over metallic, for instance, gives the iridescent effect that everyone has been raving about.”