Stephens & George Print Group has rounded off its £16m investment programme with Heidelberg that kicked off in 2018.
The Merthyr Tydfil-based business, which specialises in magazine and commercial printing, is set to take delivery of a new Speedmaster XL 106-5+LX3, which will be in operation in early 2022 and will replace an existing nine-year-old XL 106-5LX.
The new five-colour plus coater machine will be Stephens & George’s fourth press since 2018 to use full Push to Stop technology and, upon its installation, the company’s oldest press will be just over three years old.
In February 2021, it installed a highly spec’d ten-colour Push to Stop Speedmaster XL 106 long-perfector with the latest Push to Stop CutStar inline reel sheeter, to replace two older Speedmasters.
Stephens & George chairman and managing director Andrew Jones told Printweek the latest investment is the concluding part of a multiple press deal with Heidelberg.
“We’ve replaced all of our existing equipment with the latest Push to Stops, which are more efficient than the previous machines,” he said.
The business has also just ordered three robotic P-Stackers – the first due in October with the other two to follow in late November – as well as a fifth TH 82-P automated Stahlfolder, which is also due for delivery in October. This kit will all be additional to the company’s portfolio.
“We were investigating the possibility of using robotics in our bindery. Following consultation with Heidelberg we looked at the P-Stackers and we decided that this was the right solution for us,” said Jones.
“We have been trying to reduce the requirement for manual handling for many years now. This makes sense from a health and safety point of view as the operators do not need to pick up and stack down eight to 12 tonnes of paper per shift anymore.
“Another point is that after a 12-hour shift productivity tends to fall – the P-Stackers should ensure that the operators maintain the same level of productivity throughout the shift.”
He added: “We are one of the first printing houses in Europe to have ordered a fifth TH 82-P automated folder. And we believe that these folders are definitely the way forward for industrial printing and finishing production.”
Jones said when the business comes out of the coronavirus pandemic it “will have gained valuable experience [and] will be ready to grow further in the coming years”.
Heidelberg UK managing director Ryan Miles said the manufacturer’s relationship with Stephens & George “is as strong as it possibly could be”.
“We will continue to strive to provide the support and the consultation needed so they can make the best decisions for the future growth of their business,” he added.
Operating on a 24/7 production basis, Stephens & George attributes 40% of its work to magazines, 40% to commercial contracts, and 20% to other one-off jobs.
Within its circa-14,000sqm purpose-built facility the 145-staff business offers printing, folding, saddle stitching, perfect and PUR binding, and mailing. Its stitchers and binders are from Muller Martini.
Earlier this year a charitable trust set up by Stephens & George was awarded a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.