Star product: BlueCrest Epic Direct Mail

Simon Creasey
Wednesday, February 12, 2020

An automated, easy-to-use DM inserter that pushes the envelope.

Epic DM was intended to capitalise on renewed growth in the direct mail market
Epic DM was intended to capitalise on renewed growth in the direct mail market

What does the machine do?

The Epic Direct Mail (DM) is a new inserting line targeted at high-speed direct mail applications. Manufactured by BlueCrest – formerly the document messaging technologies division of Pitney Bowes – it builds on the company’s established Epic platform, a multi-format machine for transactional and direct mail applications. 

When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?

It was unveiled at the Print 19 trade show, in Chicago, in October last year and according to Wilhelm Kanzler, director product management insertion, graphics, BlueCrest, the Epic DM was intended to capitalise on renewed growth in the direct mail market.

“We thought how can we support our clients in this growing market because most of the [existing] machines are ageing so-called ‘gripper arm’ machines that are running at very low cycle speeds,” says Kanzler.

The other key consideration for most of the company’s direct mail clients around the world is operator cost.

“Therefore, the question was: is there a chance to bring a machine to the market that allows our clients to run those growing volumes with fewer operators on a shorter time frame? That’s exactly what the Epic DM is about,” adds Kanzler.

How does it work?

The company currently has as many as 8,000 Pitney Bowes inserters operational around the world and the Epic DM is an evolution of this long-established technology. However, it also encompasses new technological features, such as a graphical user interface (GUI), to make the machine as highly automated as possible and allow users to switch between envelope formats and get up and running in just a few minutes. 

“First of all the client decides which material to process and then on the control screen they select the dedicated job, they click on that and then the machine adjusts itself automatically to the new job,” says Kanzler. “This takes one to three minutes max. Then the operator loads the material, clicks another button and the machine runs. The main job for the operator is to load the material and take away the filled envelopes to the bin or the trays.”

How fast/productive is it?

The maximum speed is up to 24,000 cycles per hour, which Kanzler says compares favourably with the “legacy” gripper, or three-arm machines, that are only capable of around 3,000-4,000cph.

“Obviously the machine is not as cheap as a three-arm machine because it’s much more productive, but with one Epic DM machine you can replace three, four or even five old legacy machines,” he says.

What is the USP of the product?

The Epic DM was developed to make it as easy as possible to use so that it’s as productive as possible, with job setup times reduced by up to 40% due to automated adjustments, according to BlueCrest. Kanzler says the fact the machine is fully automated makes it stand out from the crowd. “The Epic DM is the first automated inserter where you can change applications by just clicking on a button,” he adds.

A version of the machine is also available that can be upgraded to a transactional machine. “So in the morning the client can be running Vodafone telephone bills and in the afternoon they can be running Red Cross adverts,” explains Kanzler.   

How easy is it to use?

Ease of use is embedded in the DNA of the Epic DM, to the extent that Kanzler reckons “no specific skill set” is required to run the machine.

“Operators are surprised by how easy it is to operate and also how easy it is to maintain the systems. Now the machine has much higher maintenance cycles, which means the time between maintenance is longer,” he says.

What training and support is on offer?

The machine has been developed with self-serviceability in mind and features on-board diagnostic tools to reduce downtime. BlueCrest also offers a range of different support packages for customers. The most basic offering sees clients essentially do all of the maintenance themselves and buy the spares from the manufacturer; Kanzler says “self-maintenance” is the most popular package chosen by the DM market.

“We train them on the machine, we train the operators doing the first level support and only on seldom scenarios do they need to reach out to our technicians,” says Kanzler. 

The next level up gives users access to BlueCrest’s technician’s for a certain number of hours per month/year and the highest support package for time-critical users who are operating multiple machines includes an on-site technician.

How much does it cost?

According to Kanzler, a “reasonably” specced machine would set you back around £495,000. “This could be lower if the client has a very simple application and it could be much higher if they need to run multiple inserts in parallel for one job,” he says. 

Sales targets and installations

As the machine is still in ‘launch stage’ BlueCrest isn’t divulging detailed numbers about its sales aspirations or existing install base, but Kanzler says it has high hopes for the Epic DM.

“We have thousands of machines in the market globally from our history and we are aiming to replace those machines with the Epic DM,” he says. “One Epic can replace a significant number of legacy machines because of its productivity and efficiency, so we will be looking to sell a few hundred over the next few years.”


SPECIFICATIONS

Max speed 24,000cph tri-fold; 21,000cph half-fold; 16,000cph flats

Max collation thickness 12.7mm

Max stock weight 105gsm

Envelope formats
Width Min: 178mm; Max folded: 292mm;
Max flats: 353mm
Length Min: 86mm; Max folded: 162mm;
Max flats: 254mm

Price Around £495,000 for a “reasonably” specced model

Contact BlueCrest 0843 487 3700 www.bluecrestinc.co.uk


ALTERNATIVE

Bell & Howell Producer Direct Mail

Two versions of this automated inserter are available. The Producer 250DM processes letters and flats at up to 16,000cph and 12,000cph, and the Producer 400DM, which primarily processes letters at up to 20,000cph.

400DM

Base cycle speed 20,000cph for letters; 18,000cph for 152x229mm

Envelope sizes 102x178mm to 160x330mm

Price On application

Contact Bell and Howell + 1 800 961 7282 www.bellhowell.net

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