“We went down the B1 to the XL 75 route four years ago because it made sense then, but with all of the developments we’ve been making with the Heidelberg guys in Germany, we’re going to get the makereadies down to three minutes on the 106,” said ESP managing director Anthony Thirlby.
However, he added that the company, which already holds the ‘makeready world record‘ of 498 makereadies and 2.1m impressions in one 168-hour week on its XL 105, was targeting two-minute makereadies in the next 12-18 months.
The new Speedmaster XL 106 five-colour-plus-coater with extended delivery will be installed at ESPs Colour Hub in Swindon in October. It will be configured with Inpress Control and Autoplate XL and join a similarly configured four-colour-plus-coat XL 105 installed last year.
According to Thirlby, the XL 106 offers a 20% capacity boost on the two three- and four-year-old five-colour XL 75s it replaces.
“We’ve got a fully automated front-end, so the great thing about this new press is that we can increase sales with no additional headcount by just using workflow and automated processes to facilitate it,” said Thirlby.
The company has developed its own web-to-print system, Adapt, which is fully integrated into its Tharstern MIS and Kodak’s Prinergy workflow.
Thirlby hinted that next year he may look at developing Adapt into a fully blown product that could be offered to the market.
In the meantime, ESP is embarking on a six-month project with Heidelberg’s R&D department to drive even tighter workflow integration across its factory.
“Every second is crucial to us on press and in post-press and we do have several ideas that we think will offer huge benefits, because if I can drive up process and drive out sales costs, then we’ll have an even greater competitive advantage,” said Thirlby.
Once the XL 106 goes in, by maintaining the 12-strong headcount on ESP’s press teams and redeploying them over two presses rather than three, ESP will be able to increase operating hours from 112 per week to 144.
This will enable the company to increase its potential capacity to £17m a year with two straight presses.
According to Thirlby, the company’s work mix, which is primarily focussed on short runs, just doesn’t suit long perfectors, although he admitted that the XL 145 and 162-format Speedmasters were his “absolute dream”.
However, he said the costs of reconfiguring pre- and post-press, not to mention the capital investment of the presses themselves – ruled out a switch to even larger formats for ESP in the near future.
“I think it must be tempting for somebody in the UK, someone who is perhaps running seven or eight big B1s though,” added Thirlby.
According to Thirlby, at a basic level the industry is increasingly being divided into the haves and have-nots, with companies that invest in new technology rising to the fore.
“The traditional print mindset and businesses are dying, and dying at quite an accelerated rate, so if you don’t position yourself to embrace new technology, you’re in trouble,” he said.