Me & my... Ferag UniDrum

Jenny Roper
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Christmas telly is a matter of grave importance. A second missed of Great Expectations and your dad will be asking plot-related questions for the next two hours. Perhaps more pressingly, "Look, Doctor Who is on!" is the perfect escape from another round of charades with gran. Thank goodness, then, for the Christmas telly guide.

And thank goodness for publishing, commercial and directory printers BGP. While the rest of us were winding down and preparing for a long leisurely period of sofa-slumping and over-indulgence, BGP was furiously installing a Ferag binding line, a vital bit of kit it needed to meet demand for quick-turnaround Christmas television listings.

Perhaps fans of Christmas telly should be thanking manufacturer Ferag, too. It was Ferag that agreed to condense the normal installation period of up to 10 weeks down to just four, so BGP’s bindery would be ready for the Christmas rush.

"We were very impressed that Ferag was willing to speed up the installation period," says BGP operations director Lindsay Atkinson. "That’s gone a long way to building on what was already a very good relationship between BGP and Ferag."

The relationship between the two companies was first forged 11 months before the November installation, when the printer installed its first Ferag binding line at its Bicester site.

BGP was so impressed with the speed and reliability of the first A4 binding line that it invested in another to take on more work, offer quicker turnarounds and enable the firm to price its services more competitively. This time around, the company opted for an A5 and tabloid line to process this kind of work more efficiently.

"The A4 line could bind A5 work," reports Atkinson, "but not as quickly as this specially designed line. So whereas before we had to outsource some A5 work, now we can do all of this binding in-house."

This emphasis on bringing a wider range of work in-house has been key to BGP’s history of expansion, explains Atkinson. Whereas the company was primarily known for printing telephone directories when it started life over 35 years ago, it now prints a range of publications, from glossy women’s mag more! to electrical goods supplements. It has grown in size, too: once based in a factory in Colchester, BGP now occupies three sites – it has a web offset printing and stitching site in Bicester, a perfect binding site in Buckingham and a sister company, Stones, in Banbury.


Overcoming challenges

But while the company is fresh from a raft of kit investments, and while BGP’s ethos might be one of growth, the company is not immune to the challenges currently facing the publication market – indeed, its recent move to cuts its wage bill generated a lot of headlines and even more discussion on BGP sees investment in kit as a way of rising to these challenges.

The second Ferag line is a perfect example of that enterprising attitude. As mentioned earlier, this line was specified with A5 booklets in mind because Atkinson and his team had noticed a growing trend for A4 publications to downsize to A5.

"Because the marketplace is what it is, people will opt for an A5 rather than A4 option to cut costs through saving on paper," says Atkinson. "That’s happening more and more now."

Of course, another trend, not just for Christmas TV guides but most print jobs these days, is increased demand for short turnaround times. The Ferag lines, reports Atkinson, certainly deliver on this front.

"The most recent Ferag line replaced two Muller Martini 300 lines," says Atkinson. "The overall output of one Ferag machine far exceeds the two lines it replaced."

This was why, when it came to purchasing both the first line in January 2011 and the second in November, BGP opted for Ferag over the Muller Martini high-speed Super Lines the company also considered.

Technology-wise, the key to the Ferag line’s superior speed, explains Atkinson, is the line’s use of a rotating drum mechanism rather than a vertical track to feed booklet sections in.

"The action of the drum is non-stop, whereas on a vertical chain the booklet has to stop and start as it gets folded in different directions," he explains.

"By designing this drum for A5 and tabloid work," he adds, "we can process A5 booklets much faster on this machine than we could using the Ferag line with a rotating drum designed to fit in A4-sized work."

Another advantage that the Ferag line has over its competitor lines, says Atkinson, is the reduced manning that it requires.

"We run with four or five people on the Ferag, whereas in the past we’d have run the same job with seven people between the two Muller Martini machines," he explains. He reveals that this improves BGP’s overall unit cost.

Of course, quality training is also key to getting the best performance from any given workforce. The training Ferag provided was also crucial, then, in helping BGP run its lines as efficiently as possible.

For each installation, reports Atkinson, Ferag sent the BGP binding line staff out to its factory in Switzerland. This was backed up by onsite training at BGP’s Bicester plant.

Atkinson was particularly impressed by the fact that Ferag provided training not only for BGP’s operators, but also for the company’s engineers. This training – combined with the overall reliability of the equipment, plus a remote service that enables Ferag to dial in from Switzerland over a modem and fault-find on the machine – has meant that Ferag engineers have not yet been called out to either line.

Also reporting that even the speedy four-week install was performed "seamlessly", Atkinson is understandably very pleased with both binding lines. "They have been excellent installations," he says.

He would, then, wholeheartedly recommend Ferag to other magazine and supplement printers. "The lines are ideal for anyone who finds themselves in the situation of having four or five binding lines, as they could replace them with two Ferags and make a substantial saving on labour," he says.

So will BGP be investing in another line anytime soon?

Atkinson says that he certainly wouldn’t rule this out, as the company has enough press capacity to fill another line. That said, a third line might not be needed at present: BGP has the luxury of enough space to store the two old Muller Martini 300 lines, in case it requires them for another busy Christmas period.

So fans of period dramas and Eastenders omnibuses can rest assured. With BGP on the case again this Christmas, there will be no classic TV missed. And more importantly, with a trusty TV guide at hand, there’s sure to be the perfect excuse to escape the relatives.


Output A4, A5 and tabloid products
Speed 32,000 copies per hour
Section size From A5 to 480mm spine length (for tabloid or double parallel A5 products) – A3 and A4 products also possible
UDR 480 speed 30,000 copies per hour subject to product make-up
SNT 50 side trimming drum speed 50,000 copies per hour or 100,000 copies per hour in two-copy-per-gripper mode
SplitTrim device (for double parallel work) centre cut size 4mm width and up to 6mm thickness
SplitTrim device speed 60,000 copies per hour
EasySert inserting unit speed 25,000 copies per hour
EasySert inserting capability Four, which can be expanded to up to 40
Insert size Tabloid down to postcard size inserts including CDs
Price On application
Contact Ferag 01279 63 56 57



Established over 35 years ago, BGP operates in the publishing, commercial and directory markets and has three sites: a web offset printing and stitching site in Bicester, a perfect binding site in Buckingham, and a sister company, Stones, in Banbury, where BGP’s sheetfed work is printed. The company has invested £40m in recent years in technology across the group.

Why it was bought...
BGP bought a second Ferag binding line in November last year after being impressed by the efficiency and reliability of its first, installed in January 2011. Replacing two ageing Muller Martini lines, the second Ferag line was designed to allow BGP to take on more work. The move was intended to increase the speed with which BGP’s bindery could process work; and to allow the company to bind its A5 and tabloid work, as some of this was previously outsourced.

How it has performed…
BGP operations director Lindsay Atkinson says the company has been blown away by the speed of the machines and the absence of technical issues requiring Ferag engineer assistance. "They have been excellent installations," he says.


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