Philtone Litho upgrades Speedmaster

By Max Goldbart, Monday 25 April 2016

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Bristol-based Philtone Litho has purchased a five-colour Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 with coater to replace its current five-colour Speedmaster CX 102.


Phil Mercer with Tony Billings

The new press will be installed in the middle of July, and will sit alongside an existing four-colour Speedmaster XL 105 with coater. 

Managing director Phil Mercer said: “We’ve got an XL, which we bought last year, but the CX and XL both have different plate sizes, which is just annoying.”

“Trying to run production and having to re-plate jobs is not very cost-effective. We wanted to be in a position where both machines take the same plate size, then we can interchange jobs,” he added. 

The B1 XL 106 comes with built-in Inpress Control 2, with a max sheet size of 1,050x750mm, and runs at 18,000 sph. This is 2,000sph faster than the machine being replaced. 

Mercer said he did not consider other machines when he made the decision to replace the CX. “It was always going to be this one. We looked at other manufacturers years ago but we’re all Heidelberg and have been for probably 15 years now. You need to have continuity for the minders, apart from everything else."

The deal was financed by Close Brothers Asset Finance, which has worked with Philtone for more than 20 years.

The CX was sold in a part-exchange with a customer, in what Mercer describes as a “very good deal”.

Bristol-based Philtone turns over £3.5m, showing growth rates of around 20% a year for the past two years. It employs approximately 45 staff, with no plans to recruit in the near future.

“We are growing between 10% and 20% a year so what that means is that we can take all that extra production on board without having to increase manning levels.”

The company is currently recruiting for three new apprentices: two in finishing and one in print. 

Mercer, 64, recently announced that he will retire at the end of this year, although he will continue to help with the financial side of the business for one or two days a month. His son Neil, currently head of production management, will take on the role of full-time director alongside Tony Billings. They will also both be key shareholders.

Mercer added: “I said I wouldn’t retire until we’d had two good years under our belt, so the end of this year seems a good time to go.” 

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