Grafenia has begun a radical overhaul of its Manchester printing hub that will see three B1 presses replaced with one new high-spec eight-colour perfector.


New Lithrone GL840P H-UV: installation is underway

The site currently houses two four-colour B1-format Komori Lithrones and an eight-colour Komori 40SP double-decker ‘super perfector’ that was the first press of its kind in the UK. It has a unique double-coater configuration and is the only one of its type in Europe.

A new 15,000sph Komori Lithrone GL840P H-UV press began arriving at the site today (18 January), with installation set to be completed by the end of next month.

The £2.1m investment will also include an upgrade of the site’s computer-to-plate equipment, with the supplier yet to be confirmed.

Grafenia chief executive Peter Gunning said the oldest existing press at the site dated back to 2001, and the major advances in press technology since meant that a single press could now do the work of three.

“We’ve seen the GL840 do a full plate change and job change in 75 seconds. Cutting-edge press technology made us re-evaluate our options,” he explained.

The high-spec press includes inline colour control and synchronous plate mounting.

Gunning said group had carefully weighed up the pros and cons around the higher cost of UV inks.

“Yes, the inks are more expensive, but there are a lot of benefits in getting rid of drying times, and there’s about 20 things that we don’t need to pay for or spend time doing. That all adds up and it offsets the additional ink cost,” he explained.    

Gunning said the business would also benefit from a substantial reduction in makeready waste.

“It also uses 30% less power than a press with a dryer, and we’ll be taking out three dryers. And we won’t need to use spray powder so the press hall will be more like a digital printing clean room environment.”

The hub produces print for Grafenia’s own Nettl and Printing.com partner networks and for its trade printing service, Marqetspace.

Of the ultra-competitive online print market, Gunning said: “We want to provide a good quality and reliable service, rather than the cheapest, not necessarily reliable thing.”

The investment has been funded via a seven-year deal with Close Brothers Asset Finance, and Gunning expects the PLC to recover its deposit payment in under a year through savings in paper and energy.

Komori UK managing director Steve Turner said he was delighted to secure the sale.

“Grafenia is the first web-to-print company in the UK to install a press of this type, although a lot of European players already have them. Peter and his team did their homework and spent a lot of time analysing and evaluating their options. They spoke to other operators and went to see the press in action. This is a major win for us and I’m really pleased,” he said.

“It’s a huge leap in press technology – the press couldn’t be more highly-specified. They can easily achieve on one press what they were doing on three, and still have headroom to grow,” Turner added.

The 3,720sqm hub employs around 70 staff in production roles, and Gunning said the firm was likely to reduce headcount due to the reduction in manpower required to run one press. The site operates three shifts running from Sunday night through to Saturday morning.

“We are trying to redeploy as many people as we can, but we do expect to make some labour savings,” he said.

The two old four-colour presses are being removed to make way for the new Lithrone, while the perfector will remain in place for an interim period. The new press should be up and running by the beginning of March.

Gunning said he was confident in the reliability of the press, but also had contingency plans in place for different products in the event of a worst-case scenario.

Turner added: “Grafenia considered all factors before making a decision. They have long been a Komori user so they know our service infrastructure and the quality and speed of service we offer.”

The production hub has an extensive in-house finishing facilities and also runs Konica Minolta digital presses for short run work. A decision on the new CTP setup is expected to be made soon. 

Grafenia is in the midst of a transformation and expansion plan. The group had sales of £14.63m last year.





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