Me & my: Komori Lithrone S429 H-UV


Climbing to the very top rung of a company’s management structure can be difficult for somebody who isn’t an expert in how all aspects of a business should be run. But fortunately for Harrogate-based commercial printer Platinum Print, when founder David Wyvill stepped down as boss in January, production director Mark Plummer was perfectly primed to step up to the plate and take on the role of managing director.

With 23 years’ experience at the business behind him, both on the shop floor as a printer and in the pre-press department, and later in management as production director, Platinum couldn’t have found a more knowledgeable pair of hands to steer the business forwards.

And continuing with the company’s extensive investment programme was one of the first jobs on Plummer’s to-do list. Platinum has found that continual investment in the latest technology, and the resulting ability to diversify its service offerings, has been crucial to its ongoing success. This strategy has ensured that its customers, who include a range of esteemed clients across Yorkshire including Bettys & Taylors Group, Engage Mutual and Yorkshire Wildlife, keep coming back for more and placing larger orders. 

“We want to be able to sell lots of different services to our clients. We have people that spend £500 a year but we have other customers that will spend half a million pounds a year. And although we try to focus on the larger accounts, the smaller companies are important too as they will hopefully also grow and turn into bigger accounts in the future,” says Plummer.

Platinum was founded in 1988 by Wyvill and his wife Marina, who still own the company to this day. It started branching out into large-format services around four years ago and recently boosted its digital capabilities by purchasing an Océ Arizona 350GT. The £3.4m-turnover business, which employs 29 staff, also runs a Ricoh C901 and a number of other Ricoh and Konica Minolta machines, two large-format roll-fed Mimakis, a range of finishing kit, and mailing equipment for its direct mail operation.

Also operating a five-colour Komori Lithrone NL528C with coater, Platinum was already familiar with the press manufacturer’s technology and service and snapped up the opportunity to become the first company in the UK to install a four-colour Komori Lithrone S429 with H-UV drying technology.

“I’d heard about the H-UV option probably two to three years prior to making the investment and I thought it sounded like a cunning plan, something that would be nice and dry with no spray powder. I kept my eye on the technology and we got to the point last year when we were at capacity with our litho presses so it was time to look at our next investment,” explains Plummer.

Demanding role

The firm had a Komori Spica 529 perfector running alongside its NL528C but made the decision to replace that machine as it was limited in its ability to handle certain stock weights. The demand for full-colour work was continuing to grow and after weighing up whether to plump for a new digital or litho press, Platinum opted to rule out a digital investment for the time being and began researching the quick drying litho market.

It focused its attentions on the S429 with H-UV and visited an open house at Komori’s Utrecht showroom towards the end of last year to be given a demonstration of the machine. “I knew that the saving of having no build-up of spray powder and no marking when a job is going through finishing equipment would make a big cost difference. I was really keen to see what this machine was capable of doing,” reports Plummer.

“We did some testing of our files on our papers. We ran them off and it did exactly what it said on the tin. We also did a little bit of due diligence, which it passed with flying colours. We took along a few jobs that had caused us problems and issues and other things that we might shy away from doing and they flew through the machine.”

The machine was installed at Platinum’s factory in March and the installation and training, which took around five working days, was as smooth as can be expected bearing in mind the switch to UV, says Plummer. “We had a few tiny little issues in the first couple of weeks as the press was settling in and the operators were getting used to it. But Komori was, and always has been, exemplary in looking after us and it wasn’t long until those initial niggles were overcome.”

Since its installation the firm has primarily used the S429 for short-run jobs with the majority of its runs around or under 5,000, although it occasionally uses it for run lengths of 15,000 or 20,000. The press has enabled the company to take on a range of jobs that it couldn’t have done previously, or might have passed up.

“Another printer that had heard about us asked us to print onto a paper that they couldn’t stop curling. And we’ve done a few self-adhesive vinyls that we either wouldn’t have done in the past, or perhaps would have done and then had to wait three days for them to dry. Now they can go through the machine straight away and be cut, packed and out the door the same day,” says Plummer. 

With such a productive machine capable of so many things, the company now only outsources very long-run jobs that would tie up the press for a long time. With the extra capacity now in place, Platinum puts some of the longer run jobs onto the NL528C, which Plummer says has enabled it to bring a lot of the work that it previously outsourced back in-house. “We only outsource now if we get chock-a-block with work and have a capacity issue.”

Since installing the S429, Platinum has found some of its features to be invaluable. With semi-automatic plate changing on the NL528C, the S429 marks Platinum’s first Komori press with this feature fully-automated. “The plates are pre-loaded while the end of the last job’s running. The operator is not involved with the process whatsoever, which means that he can be getting the press ready for other things and doing something more productive,” explains Plummer.

The environmental benefits of the press have also been key to the business, which prides itself on its green ethos. It has ISO 14001 certification and has been alcohol free and using sustainable papers for nearly a decade.

“The machine is spotless. If it had spray powders it would still be horrible and dusty all over. It’s a knock-on effect to have a print room that’s clean and relatively dust-free, it makes a big impression on customers as well as staff. If you’ve got a clean area you do quality work.”

Timed to perfection

But Plummer’s favourite thing about the press is the uncoated drying times, particularly with the rise in use of uncoated papers that the firm has seen over the past few years. “It was a problem: uncoated paper dries more slowly, but turnaround times have got shorter. But that headache’s gone now and it’s not an issue. We can get a job done quickly whatever paper it’s on.”

The S429 has opened up a raft of opportunity for Platinum, which has been able to diversify its services and plans to add more in the future. “We’re about to start testing on some plastics and short-run packaging is another area that we can look at now. And if somebody wanted us to do a job on 600-micron board tomorrow it wouldn’t be an issue,” says Plummer. 

“The headache and the planning issues have gone away because it’s brought to the company the flexibility of not having to need to worry about whether or not we can do a job.”

With no issues or concerns to report, Plummer feels that the investment has been more than justified. “The fact that it makes ready so quickly means that we can get a lot more work through it. It’s been a great investment and my press operators are smiling every day. It’s one of those refreshing decisions that we can look back on and say that we definitely made the right choice,” he concludes. 


SPECIFICATIONS

Max sheet size 530x750mm

Max speed 16,000sph

Plate size 605x745mm

Feeder pile height 1,000mm

Delivery pile height 1,100mm

Plate changing system Automatic

Price (with H-UV curing) £675,000

Contact Komori UK 0113 823 9200 www.komori.eu


Company profile 

Platinum Print is a Harrogate-based commercial printer that was established in 1988. The £3.4m-turnover, 29-staff business is overseen by Mark Plummer, who was appointed as managing director in January after spending 23 years at the company, most recently as production director. It offers print, design, cross-media and direct mail services and produces items including catalogues, brochures, exhibition displays and banners for a range of customers across Yorkshire. The firm also runs a five-colour Komori NL528C B2 press, a number of Konica Minolta and Ricoh digital presses including the Ricoh C901, large-format Mimaki roll-to-roll printers and cutters, and a range of finishing kit and mailing equipment.

Why it was bought…

The firm bought the Komori Lithrone S429 H-UV to boost its capacity and enable it to take on a wider variety of work in-house by benefitting from the machine’s quick drying times. It had first considered an investment in H-UV curing technology a few years before the S429 was installed but took the plunge after testing the machine at a Komori open house event in Utrecht.

How it has performed…

The quicker makeready and uncoated drying times have boosted Platinum’s productivity and enabled it to carry out work on a wider range of substrates. The company has already used it for self-adhesive vinyls and is looking into using it for plastics and short-run packaging in the future. “It’s brought to the company the flexibility of not having to need to worry about whether or not we can do a job,” says Plummer. 

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