Marcomms and transactional specialist MBA Group has signed for the UK’s first Ricoh Pro VC60000 colour inkjet webs, part of a three-press, circa-£5m strategic spend to target growth in the direct marketing and transpromo markets.
The first press was delivered to MBA’s Warrington site in the last week of February, and is expected to go into live production in April.
Two more will be installed at its headquarters in North London around September.
“We’re really a hybrid house for marketing and transactional output, which were two separate markets that have come together over the past 10 years. We’ve had continuous colour for a while now, so we’ve always been at the front of that evolution, but now we want to take it to the next level,” said Kevin Stewart, MBA group sales director.
MBA installed a brace of twin-engined Xerox 980s in 2009, the first in the UK.
“We still get decent quality out of the 980s, but we felt that we had hit a quality ceiling with that technology. The Ricoh’s will give us the quality that marketers are desperately looking for – variability at litho quality,” said Stewart.
“We already produce a certain amount of smaller-run marketing communications [cut-sheet], but this investment will enable us to take a leap forward in terms of volumes.”
Initially the London-bound Ricohs will run in tandem with the 980s at the Tottenham site, at least until all three VC60000s are in full production.
The Ricoh VC60000 was premiered in September 2014. Ricoh has already installed machines in France, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden over the past six months.
The four-colour inkjet press has a web width of 520mm and can handle substrates from 40-250gsm, including coated offset stocks as well as uncoated, when used with Ricoh’s undercoat and protector coat units.
It can produce 50m/min at its maximum 1,200dpi resolution, but has a has a top speed of 120m/min at 600dpi or 100,000 A4 duplex images per hour.
MBA’s machines will be identically configured with Ricoh’s pre-coat flood coater and post-coat unit, which protects image areas, and Hunkeler rewind, unwind and dynamic perfing units.
MBA’s management team has spent the past two years investigating the continuous inkjet market, reviewing the various technologies as well as trying to identifying what Stewart described as a “true technology partner” not just in terms of the products available now, but also their future developments.
“Heading sales it was very important for me to be comfortable with what we’re selling and all the testing we did on the various platforms gives me and my team the confidence go out and sell what we know is the best quality in the market, with the best flexibility in substrates. That combination is incredibly important to us, because it’s important to the marketers,” said Stewart.
The circa-£40m, 300-staff business offers a wide range of multichannel services, from email, MMS and SMS marketing to design, print and fulfilment.
According, to Jon Barratt, MBA marketing manager, as the firm switched its focus from purely print to print and data driven response and trigger mechanisms across a wide range of platforms, this helped shape its thinking towards its next big continuous inkjet spend.
“We’ve looked at this investment from a client perspective: what do they need, what do they want, and what can we do to exceed their expectations as part of a multichannel offering? It's all part of a larger strategy to not only grow the business, but create stronger partnerships with our current and prospective clients.”
While the Ricoh spend is focused primarily on MBA’s established direct marketing and transactional divisions, the firm believes that the VC60000 technology could open up a wide range of new applications including print-on-demand publishing and catalogues.
“We’re certainly not going to run before we can walk, but the market possibilities the new machines give us are incredibly exciting,” said Stewart.
“MBA is a fantastic partner for us in the UK, and it not only gives them a platform to grow in their existing core business but also to branch out into new areas and secure new volume through the new products and services they will be able to offer their clients,” said Ricoh head of production print Stephen Palmer.