Solopress details strategy behind its £5m move into B1

Danny Powell, copywriter, Solopress
Monday, January 16, 2023

Driven by demand and an appetite to diversify, Solopress recently announced £5m in new investment. Now, the Essex-based printer shares the logic behind its strategic spend and how it changed the business and its offering to trade clients.

Cooper: We found ourselves with a decision to make
Cooper: We found ourselves with a decision to make

Solopress has been pursuing an ambitious programme of expansion post-pandemic, made necessary owing to the success of the Solopro service. Solopro was introduced in 2020 to provide a more tailored service for trade customers, print resellers and businesses that rely on high volumes of print.

Record numbers of trade customers now use Solopress as a result of the benefits that Solopro offers which include account management, flexible pricing, and priority production. This large increase in demand from the trade meant that resting on their laurels was not an option.

A previous round of investment saw the printer acquire the world’s first HP PageWide T250 digital press in 2020. The last 12 months alone have seen the arrival of a HP Indigo 100K, a Konica Minolta Motioncutter 23 laser cutter, a StitchLiner MkIII, a HT300 three-knife trimmer, two Horizon folders, two Pitstop high-speed creasers and three Kodak Magnus 800 B1 platesetters.

The HP Indigo 100K joined the digital battery in 2022

This latest round of investment has seen them leap into B1 printing with both feet with a state-of-the-art Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 press.

The company’s litho lineup already included three Heidelberg Speedmaster XL75 10P presses as well as a Heidelberg Speedmaster SM74 5 Colour press.

However, according to managing director Simon Cooper, it was time to think bigger: “Prior to the pandemic, we were already starting to run up against capacity issues. Suppressed demand during 2020, gave us some breathing space, but it was clear as the market recovered that expansion would be key to staying on top of the workload.”

Yet it wasn’t always clear to Cooper and his team which route Solopress should take in its expansion.

“We found ourselves with a decision to make between expanding our inkjet capabilities, or stepping up to B1,” he said.

“Ultimately, we concluded that our capacity for digital print was already well served by the PageWide T250 and our Indigos, so we took the more ambitious path. Our mix of digital and litho is now optimal for our current offering which sets us up well going forward.”

The space required to run the new press meant that a number of elements had to come together for a shift to B1 to become feasible. Fortunately, additional shopfloor space became available adjacent to Solopress' existing site in Southend, providing the last piece of the puzzle.

With the demand to warrant it, the space to operate it and the funds to pay for it all in place, Solopress invested in a 2018 Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 press, plus associated finishing plant. The installation was completed in November of last year.

In addition to increasing production capacity, the step up to B1 also brings efficiencies in terms of speed. There’s little difference in makeready time between the new press and the incumbent B2 machines, but the greater print area vastly increases production speed. Running at 18,000sph, we can now achieve approximately 2.5 times the volume of printed sheets on the floor for the same amount of press time, compared with our existing XL75s. Plus, the XL75s are now freed up for shorter run jobs where they can be more cost effective.

A further opportunity that this expansion presents for Solopress is in the publishing sphere.

While the HP PageWide investment contributes to their capacity for digital publishing, the move to B1 on the offset side of the business halves the number of makereadies required for these types of jobs. This extra capacity will make Solopress an attractive partner for publishers moving into 2023.

Solopress's XL 106 is highly specified and automated

Print quality was also high on the priorities list that informed this acquisition. The new 10-colour machine incorporates Heidelberg’s Prinect Inpress control 3 spectral measurement system for automated colour and register control.

According to Cooper: “The level of control we have over colour management with the new machine means we can offer fantastic levels of fidelity and repeatability for our customers.

“Reprints owing to colour and register deviations are pretty much non-existent on jobs that go through this press.”

While many businesses hunkered down during the pandemic and waited for the storm to pass, Solopress grasped the opportunity to expand. Suppressed demand allowed the business to undertake installations and training that would have proven difficult with production running at full capacity.

The result is a post-pandemic print business that’s in great shape to cope with renewed demand. Increased capacity, website improvements and new products have contributed to 2022 sales figures that are outstripping pre-pandemic levels and continuing to rise.

For more information on how Solopress can support your business and clients through their Solopro service, visit

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