Howitt centre of IOS sheetfed manufacturing as press rationalisation begins

By Matt Whipp, Monday 07 November 2011

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IOS' strategic review of its operations following its acquisition of Lateral Group has begun with the relocation of presses to focus sheetfed manufacturing at Lateral's Howitt site in Nottingham.

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According to an internal memo seen by PrintWeek, a 12-colour B1 Cutstar press will be moved from its Dagenham site to Lateral's Nottingham facility by the end of the month. A six-colour B1 press at Dagenham will be closed at the end of the year, as there is already a six-colour machine in Nottingham. There will also be an immediate review of work carried out at Dagenham, with a view to moving it "to more appropriate sites across the business".

IOS chief operating officer Andy Young confirmed the moves but was unable to confirm the numbers of staff affected, although all four litho shifts at the plant had been put into consultation earlier this year.

"Clearly with the moving of the press there will be some redundancies," he said. "But with the movement of the press we will also be moving work to Nottingham and therefore some employment opportunities will be created.

"We listened to the feedback we had [during the consultation] but we believe that our strategy of creating a centre of excellence around sheetfed at Nottingham is the right one."

However, he said that Dagenham remained a key part of the IOS strategy, with plans to focus the site on services for the financial sectors over the next two to four years.

"There will be a focus on financial services markets, which makes sense geographically as we're only 10 miles or so from the City here, so complex data-driven products and print on demand will be core competencies at the site."

Young maintained that the strategy to create centres of excellence is part of a UK growth plan for the 1,600-staff, £180m-turnover company as it adapts to changing market conditions and does not stem from its US owners DST Systems.

"We recognise the UK market is consolidating and clients want companies that have a strong balance sheet and they want consistency of suppliers, he said. "The restructure following the Lateral acquisition is about us growing for the future as a UK organisation, it's not about a US strategy for rationalisation. It's very much a UK decision.

"The UK market needs to consolidate, and we're talking about the acquisition of a healthy company in Lateral Group, it's not a distressed purchase which is what we see lots of elsewhere in the industry.

"When you bring two businesses of this size together there are some synergies you are going to have to make.

"In business you have a social responsibility as well as a corporate one. We need to safeguard the vast majority of jobs but this will mean some necessary but regrettable job losses."


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