Clays has expanded its print facilities for the first time since it was bought earlier this year with the investment in an HP PageWide T490HD web press that is set to begin production in mid November.
The new press is currently being installed and will run alongside a Manroland folder capable of producing 2-up book blocks. It joins two other HP inkjet machines installed three years ago – a T260 and a T410 – at Clays’ Bungay, Suffolk facility.
The new investment has taken place in order to bring book specialist Clays’ digital production facilities into “completely mainstream volume capability” to be finished on the firm’s highest-speed binding lines.
It represents Clays’ first kit spend since it was acquired by Italian firm Elcograf, part of the Pozzoni Group, in a £23.8m deal in May.
Operations director Ian Smith said: “HP’s inkjet provision continues to work well for us and, while we stay close to the market for this technology, we felt confident that an additional HP press was the correct decision. This press has HP’s latest high-definition technology and can be upgraded to four-colour if we so choose.
“The market continues to move to shorter run lengths with quicker turnarounds, as publishers further develop a supply chain model of print to retail order. This has been a growing feature of the supply chain for several years now and that shows no sign of slowing down. This investment provides the capacity required going forward to support this model.
“We are exploring a number of other investment opportunities to optimise our operational efficiency and to ensure we are meeting our customers’ needs in a constantly evolving marketplace.”
The 1,060mm-wide printer runs at speeds up to 305m/min and takes paper weight from 40-350gsm. It represents a 50% increase in Clays’ inkjet capacity, according to Smith, and will typically be utilised for mono book run lengths of 1,500-5,000.
With a restructured board now in place, Clays currently employs around 700 people and turns over £76.5m.
The business runs a wide range of conventional and digital kit for production from one copy to millions in a variety of formats. One of its machines, a Timson web press, suffered a small fire on 1 October, but the situation was quickly dealt with and caused “no impact at all” to service.
Former Clays parent company St Ives, which has now fully exited the print sector, recently rebranded under its new chief executive J Schwan with the new name Kin + Carta.