Clifford Press, the country’s leading independent trade printer for the POS, POP, and packaging sectors, is to ramp up its unique service still further with the addition of a second KBA RAPIDA 162a six colour Large Format (1,200x1,620mm) press to its Coventry pressroom. The new press will feature the KBA QualiTronic inline colour measuring system to lead the company’s drive to ISO 12674-2 certification.
Paul Cockerill with the current RAPIDA 165 Large Format press
The decision followed a thorough evaluation of the print marketplace as the sector continues to readjust in the aftershock of the financial crisis. For works director, Paul Cockerill that meant an open mind and a blank sheet of paper:
“As a trade printer, our business is not just about offering a regular service and top quality print, very often we are the printer’s or buyer’s safety net for last-minute jobs, or disaster recovery situations, so we also need capacity to juggle work and still meet deadlines.”
That could have opened the door to a digital solution to take the shorter runs and free up the existing RAPIDA 162 for higher volume work: “But…” Mr Cockerill explains: “production speeds are still an issue and we felt the digital print quality just wouldn’t suit a lot of our work – such as the cosmetics sector, where skin tones are so demanding. The more we looked at it, the more a second large format litho press made sense.”
Clifford’s impeccable reputation among the leading agencies and print buyers was another factor that made the decision almost inevitable, as sales director Paul Thomas explains:
“We operate a completely confidential trade service and bend over backwards to meet our customers’ highest expectations. We never compromise on quality, even when we’re turning round work the same day or overnight, and would sooner turn business away than breach a confidence. This year we have been offered more and more work – much of it in higher volumes – but we’ve had to pass rather than risk compromising our existing workload. The second KBA RAPIDA 162a will change that; in effect we will be offering 48 hours of large format capacity every day of the year.”
Having identified large format litho as the optimum strategic route, the next decision was ‘which manufacturer?’. Paul Thomas continues: “We had to stand back and take a cold, hard look at the financials of the leading contenders, regardless of emotional baggage or technological considerations. When we did that, the Koenig & Bauer Group was in a league of its own; and perhaps it’s no coincidence that their financial stability goes hand-in-hand with the most advanced technologies… they seem to have the right formula across the board.”
KBA (UK) Ltd director for key accounts Chris Scully with Paul Cockerill
Clifford Press has specified its new press for conventional inks, thick stock capability, combination coater and UV drier to maximise options within the pressroom:
“Our first RAPIDA 162 is a hybrid, so we still have the option to print full UV when necessary, and we will upgrade it to network with LogoTronic and QualiTronic, so we’ll have complete calibration from our Luscher CtP and Esko worflow through to proofing and the pressroom,” says Paul Cockerill. “We’ve cherry-picked the best-of-breed at every key stage of production, and the new press fits that profile.”
The coating and drying options are particularly important for sectors where visual impact and tactile finishes are everything. Paul Cockerill’s in-depth understanding of the finer points of the alchemy involved in this delicate process illustrates the transformation Clifford Press has undergone since it was first established by former employees of book printer Jolly & Barber in 1994.
“Regardless of the expensive systems and sophisticated technological aids, printing is still very much an art form; we can combine UV drying with water-based coatings, silk sealers and so on to achieve some remarkable results,” he explains. “We are happy to offer our advice if we feel it’s going to make a difference – our experience is part of the service we offer.”
Another factor that sets Clifford Press apart from many trade printers is its establishment, three years ago, of a trade finishing arm. Although this has proved effective in helping keep control over work and meet deadlines, it has proved invaluable as an education aid to the pressroom in planning work for downstream processes. Paul Thomas says:
“It’s great that we have this option in our bag for customers who require a quick and reliable service, but it has also made a significant impact on our efficiency – and the prices we are able to quote; very often errors don’t get picked up until after laminating, die-cutting, converting and so on, and that makes an enormous expense that eats into your bottom line, one way or another. Our finishing and printing operations talk to each other to iron out problems and identify ways of improving efficiencies that apply to all our work, not just the jobs we’re finishing ourselves.” And he adds: “We achieve the optimum price point for our customers through production efficiencies that comes from investment in the most advanced systems and our own hard-earned experience; others can be found who will undercut any price you’d care to quote but our customers know that this option is not sustainable and can come with a substantial risk. Just as we form lasting relationships with our chosen suppliers – among them KBA – we also build business partnerships with our customers and we’ll be taking on extra production and sales staff to ensure the smooth running of our business as it expands still further; we are in this for the long run and not just for a short term gain".