Solopress has moved into 2023 with a new B1 press, a new site and new possibilities.
Essex based Solopress has invested £5 million and expanded its premises to the tune of over 10,000 square feet. Part of this is its move into the B1 print sector – but the company has also expanded its finishing and digital capabilities as well.
On the recent developments, managing director Simon Cooper had this to say, ‘We have been fortunate enough over the last few years to invest heavily in plant and equipment, giving us an impressive production platform. At the same time we have been busy developing our trade only service, Solopro. We really want the trade to read the news of our investments, to look at our impressive plant list and to see all of that as an extension of their own business. We are here to support the needs of the trade, because their success is our success.’
Demand takes off
Founded in 1999, the company has been headed by Simon Cooper since 2019. It is part of the Online Printers Group, and is a leader in the print e-commerce sector.
With some 60% of its print coming in and leaving on the same day, efficiency and productivity are key strategies at Solopress.
Last year, the print company launched over 20 new products, as well as a new door to door leaflet distribution service. Most notably, Solopro, its elite service for high value customers, underwent a rapid expansion. It now serves 30% more trade customers than it did in 2019.
Solopro offers a raft of exclusive services such as personal account management, tailored pricing and priority production to businesses such as resellers that require large volumes of print.
It was this growth in demand from Solopro customers that prompted Simon and his team to undertake significant investments aimed at increasing the company’s production capacity.
Healthy levels of capital expenditure are nothing new for Solopress. It has been steadily lengthening its plant list over the last few years, including the world’s first HP PageWide T250 digital press in 2020.
Earlier this year, Solutions covered the company’s acquisition of a Konica Minolta Motioncutter 23 laser cutter, which allowed it to offer custom shape stickers for the first time.
However, this latest round of investment is on a different scale altogether. The objective for Solopress was to achieve the capacity for B1 printing, but beyond the press itself, the daunting shopping list included a bevy of ancillary plant, plus additional shop floor space to accommodate it all.
B2, or not B2?
The offset inventory at Solopress featured a three Heidelberg Speedmaster XL75 10P machines and a Heidelberg Speedmaster SM74 five colour press.
However, the company also has an impressive digital roster, with the aforementioned HP T250 joining an array of five HP Indigo machines including the B2 devices, the latest of which is an Indigo 100k installed at the beginning of last year.
From this starting point, Solopress had an interesting decision to make regarding the direction of its expansion, the result of which has seen it sell one of the B2 Heidelberg Speedmaster XL75 10P machines in favour of a larger press and go all in on B1.
Now, with this capability, the printer is able to fit more pages per sheet. Compared to a B2 press, this new installation can essentially double the output, with minimal increases in the pro rata time and labour costs required to prepare and produce each job. The result: faster, cheaper print.
The larger area also allows for more efficient placement of images to reduce unused areas on the sheet. When combined with today’s image control technology available to integrate with modern B1 presses, huge savings can be made in reduced waste.
Space to grow
The stars aligned when a neighbouring unit with 10,000 square feet of shop floor space became available at the company’s Southend site. Wasting no time in capitalising on the opportunity with the timely purchase of a Heidelberg Speedmaster XL106 10P ten colour press, the company swiftly moved ahead with the investment and installation of the B1 press.
It features the latest Heidelberg drupa 2020 specifications, including Prinect Press Center 3, the new 23 metre long press is capable of printing 18,000 B1 sheets per hour in perfecting mode, while a state of the art control station with a 24” multi-touchscreen allows for precise and intuitive control over the operation of the press.
The integrated Autoplate XL3 fully automatic plate changing system allows simultaneous plate change across each printing unit, as well as washing the blanket and impression cylinders. This brings job change over times below one minute.
Separately, three newly acquired Kodak Magnus Q800 platesetters generate B1 plates at impressive speeds of up to 84 plates per hour, ensuring the hungry press is always well served with the metal it needs.
With additional print capacity to theoretically enable an extra 44 pallets of work to be printed per day, it was necessary to beef up the finishing capabilities as well.
As most printers know the finishing element is often where the bottlenecks occur and getting printed work on the floor isn't much use if you then can't finish it efficiently too.
Therefore, a StitchLiner MkIII, a HT300 three-knife trimmer, two Polar 137 guillotines, two Horizon Ice folders and two Pitstop high speed creasers, were all swiftly acquired and installed in the new workspace to cope with this challenge.
Room for another?
While the Solopress’ team is satisfied with the recent acquisitions, the new shop floor area has the additional space to house a second B1 press: a possibility Simon is seriously considering. He said, ‘Having the space for another B1 Speedmaster is an exciting prospect. For the time being, though, we are in a great position to be able to keep our options open. The print landscape is a changing one, and this extra space allows us the flexibility to pivot in whichever direction we choose when the time comes to invest further.’