Me & my: HP Indigo 10000

Simon Eccles
Monday, February 8, 2016

Steve Harding, founder and chief executive of Hardings Print Solutions (HPS), describes the company he set up in 2009 as a complete marketing services and print manufacturing business.

It offers a wide and growing range of largely marketing-related printed products, which it either produces in-house or project-manages through outsourcing. This approach has enabled the business to more than double its turnover in the past three years, from £3m in 2013 to an anticipated turnover of £7.5m this year. 

The list of services includes product development and production (such as POS and speciality packaging), assistance with brand development and management, project management of its own print or managed services, direct mail data services plus personalised print and fulfilment and large format installations. Trade work is on the increase too.

“HPS has quite a diverse mix of work but what we are seeing now is much more targeted communications, and not only in the obvious DM channels, but also in POS and packaging, where we are seeing a significant growth within our customer base,” says Harding.

As well as the broad product portfolio, Harding attributes the company’s success to a fanatical commitment to customer service: “HPS has been built on exceptional customer service. In our opinion, this is a statement that is easily made but not always executed. At HPS it is our primary focus, we are a truly customer-centric business. Most of our new business comes via referrals.”

The company has also recently added a dedicated design department, after being asked on numerous occssions to carry out artwork amends and design work, and this has given it a further dimension to its client relationships. 

“We are finding that we are attracting and working with more and more large high-street retailers, producing, packing and then distributing in-store POS, on top of their usual print and direct mail requirements. However, with the addition of our design team, they are also taking advantage of our creative product development offering, which is great as this service goes hand in hand with the direction and growth of highly personalised print media.”

The company now serves a broad range of customers, from design agencies to high-street retailers and blue-chip brand clients.

“We have around 250 live customers, with our top customer representing 8% of our turnover,” Harding says. “I would say that 70% of our customers are in the retail market or serving the retail industry, and ad agencies. These companies always want to react to competition very quickly and HPS offers a very agile service.”

Fast growth

Harding began his print career as a repro apprentice before moving into production, and then sales, where he stayed for 10 years. Originally HPS operated out of a rented space in Feltham, just south of Heathrow, but in 2013 it was successful enough to justify its own, larger premises, although it stuck with the location. 

However, rapid growth meant the firm had to look again at its facilities and move to an even larger, 1,300m2 premises just two years later. 

“We have always been in Feltham, close to three major motorways and 35 minutes from London,” says Harding. “We moved to the new factory in June last year as we had outgrown our previous. Although we are now rapidly filling the new factory due to increase in capacity of our large-format division. We really don’t want to have to move again any time soon!”

Harding says a lot of the success has been due to the customer-focused service ethic, as well as, crucially, having the right key employees. He singles out production director Jamie Gardner; sales director Geoff Stone; and a more recent addition to the team, managing director James Jose as being central to the firm’s growth.

The company’s first digital press was an HP Indigo 5500 SRA3-format digital press, with associated pre-press and finishing kit. This was soon joined by the large-format equipment that’s used for POS work. 

Last year’s move was partly in anticipation of the arrival of the big, 11 tonne HP Indigo 10000, which was installed in September. This sheetfed B2-plus digital press offers the same high quality as the original 5500, but with the benefit of larger sheet sizes, or greater throughput of smaller jobs by doubling them up. 

“We bought the Indigo 5500 three years ago as we were getting a lot more short-run commercial digital work, and with the personalisation side growing significantly, we were forced into looking at another press,” Harding says. “A lot of people asked ‘why take the jump to B2?’ The simple answer was we knew we could fill it. We won a major client six months ago that keeps the press busy for two weeks of the month.”

Harding says that he didn’t consider other manufacturers. “We have always liked the quality and service of HP,” he says.

HP introduced its long-anticipated B2 series at Drupa 2012 with a choice of duplex sheetfed, simplex carton configuration, or simplex continuous for labels and flexibles. It says it has shipped more than 220 of the general-purpose HP Indigo 10000 sheetfed duplex model. This makes it by far the most successful B2 sheetfed press so far, as all the rivals have only sold in handfuls. 

The duplex 10000 uses an enlarged version of the familiar Indigo Series 3 SRA3 electrophotography and liquid toner ink technology, with the same photo-quality printing, economical short runs, instant job changes and the ability for completely variable printing on every copy. 

The sheet size is slightly larger than B2, which is beneficial for some impositions as you can get more items on. 

Although not a dedicated carton press, many users, including HPS, do also use their 10000s for short-run packaging on light cartonboard. There is provision for up to seven colours, including the ability to mix your own spot colour inks, which is unique in the digital press world. Most printers stick to CMYK plus perhaps white, but it’s a useful facility. 

Up and running

Harding says the installation went smoothly and the new press was immediately producing a high volume of work.

“We are told HPS was the biggest ramp-up customer in the UK, producing 1.2 million clicks within the first four weeks,” Harding recalls. “One of our operators used to work for HP and is a Grade 2 engineer, which probably made the whole process easier for us, hence the reason for the big figures, we were running very smoothly from day one.”

As the Indigo 5500 was already in place, HPS could use its existing prepress workflows and the finishing kit already in place. “We’re now looking to add to our finishing capabilities having looked at what Horizon and Duplo have to offer,” Harding adds. 

HPS has been delighted with the new press: “It does everything it says on the tin. We do a lot of POS on it which is product-specific and sometime franchise-unique, which was previously produced litho. The 10000 has allowed us to deliver some savings and greatly reduce production waste. 

“The quality has always been of the highest standard. The machine is complementing our client-focused ethos and helping us gain an improved business profile as a marketing services operation. The clients’ brand goals are at the centre of what we do, allowing them to be more focused on their in-store marketing strategy.”

What should anyone considering a B2 HP Indigo look out for? “The dodgy sales patter!” jokes Harding. “To be fair we haven’t had many problems but I do genuinely believe a large part of that is down to the two great operators we have. Maintenance is key and we do this for five hours every week. HP service, I have to say, is great and always improving.”

Finally, would he buy it again? “We’re thinking about it, shall we say!” 


SPECIFICATIONS

Ink type Liquid toner electrophotographic

Colours Seven including CMYK

Max sheet size 750x530mm

Stock weight range uncoated: 70-400gsm; coated: 90-400gsm

Max media thickness 0.45mm

Paper source Up to three drawers inline

Duplex As standard

Resolution 812dpi, addressable as 2,438x2,438dpi HDI (high-definition imaging)

Footprint 8x4.7m 

Weight 11,000kg

Price Around £1.5m

Click charge Yes

Contact HP 01344 363368 www.hp.com 


Company profile 

Hardings Print Solutions was founded in May 2009 by Steve Harding. From relatively humble beginnings it has grown quickly and last year it moved into a new 1,300m2 site, partly to accommodate the new HP Indigo 10000. The company produces a wide range of marketing services centred around print, from design through brand management, digital and offset-digital hybrid printing, finishing, as well as direct mail, data management and fulfilment. 

“I hate the term, but we’re a one-stop shop!” Harding says. The business has grown rapidly and today employs 16 staff with a projected turnover of £7.5m for this financial year. 

Why it was bought...

HPS produces digital work in-house, originally with an HP Indigo 5500 that was further supplemented with a selection of large-format inkjets. However, rapid growth and increasing demand for personalised work was putting pressure on the existing kit. The company’s experience with Indigo machines made them the obvious option and the B2-plus format of the 10000 meant the company would get a massive bump in throughput. 

How it has performed...

Harding reports that the firm was very quick to get up and running on the the new press, its experience with the 5500 being a boon. “Turnover and profitability has been boosted,” Harding confirms. “I think it has also enabled our clients to be more creative and think more about how they utilise not only highly targeted print, but print in general.”

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