Megacolour’s $2 million mega explosion – Print21 Magazine Feature
26th October 2012
Although it might seem strange in what most pundits agree is a contracting market, there are still medium-sized print providers out there who are willing to spend big bucks on new, highly automated equipment in a bid to expand in a grand way.
Meet Megacolour, the medium-sized Sydney printer that took on around $2 million worth of printing equipment in one hit earlier this year. True story. While some of the industry’s biggest players have been investing millions in new automated equipment with the aim of cutting back on rising labour costs, Megacolour has done it for a rather inverse reason: to get ready to take on the much higher volumes of incoming work it expects to see in the immediate future.
What, you may ask – in a market where printers big and small have been hitting the wall like out of control carrier pigeons? Yes, it is all true.
As it turns out, in the lead-up to its purchase of its brand new Heidelberg CD102 6-colour press and a Ferag plate package with a new Screen CtP platemaking system, the company had been running two-and-half shifts a day, seven days a week just to keep up with the existing work on its old workhorse, a Speedmaster 74 5-colour press.
And even more jobs were knocking.
A change was needed, Megacolour’s management decided. The company’s directors began looking around to see what they could do to grow their productivity and bolster their print quality.
Already a Heidelberg house, they settled on the Speedmaster CD102 6-colour machine to become the new beating heart of its operation. However, the printer’s platemaking options weren’t quite as straight forward. While Megacolour had been making its plates with a Fujifilm system, after a little bit of research, the company chose to go with a complete platemaking package offered by Ferag Australia.
The highly automated end-to-end platemaking package included a Screen PlateRite HD 8900 imager – the first to be bought in Australia – a Glunz & Jensen developer and a steady supply of plates from new kid on the block, Xingraphics, which has a global supply deal with Screen platesetters.
Megacolour finished the complete installation of all its new goodies around the middle of the year. Since then, the company has already increased its volume by more than a fifth, and it has been able to boost its impressions while shifting to a double shift, six-day week work cycle – for now, at least.
“For the jobs we were doing in-house, with our old, smaller press, we were pushing it to its limit. We had two-and-a-half shifts, seven days a week,” says Michael Fang (pictured), Megacolour’s managing director. “So, our first priority was to improve productivity because the market now is quick turnaround – on demand – the faster machine with more automation allowed us to compete with on demand.
“Now, we’re looking at five million impressions for the new Speedmaster in the first three months of operation, which is great. And that’s not everything we’ve done, but it is an indicator. At five million impressions, that is easily over 20 per cent more than what we had been doing, and we’ve quickly gone up to two shifts a day over six days in the week, to keep up with demand.”
Not bad for a medium-sized business in an industry that is, by all accounts, supposed to be getting economically squeezed by the market.
All about the capacity
Like a glass of water left in the freezer, Megacolour’s incoming work had expanded beyond the bounds of its container despite the frigid surrounding environment. Rather than letting the cup overflow, however, the printer has worked fast and furiously to grow with demand.
For director, Gavin Smith, increased capacity meant more automation. Now, with its new machinery in place and operational, automation can be seen in almost every step of the process, from prepress to plate-setting, printing to finishing.
“It’s more automated,” says Smith, of the new Speedmaser. “It’s got the inbuilt spectro on the scanning arm, which means we are now an ISO 12647 printer, so it helps a lot in that regard, for repeatable ISO standard.”
According to Smith, the company also invested in some second-hand finishing equipment in preparation for the new press equipment. However, he says that, even now, the prospect of purchasing some new, more automated finishing equipment, along with a few digital machines, is quite appealing.
“A year ago we bought some second-hand equipment in anticipation of the move,” says Smith. “But what we need to do as the business steadies is increase the level of the equipment we have in here and make it a bit more automated.
“We’re always looking to bring more equipment in. We’re still trying to grow the business. We have some digital, and we will look to see what’s on offer for digital in the coming future. We would also probably upgrade in the finishing side at some point. We’ve noticed that the sheets on the floor have significantly increased,” he says.
Not only did Megacolour take on its host of new machinery to expand its volume potential, it also bought the new equipment with the aim of expanding its sheet size. Smith says that one of the many reasons the company took on the new press was to push the business further into the A1 sized end of the market.
“Previously we had an A2 and an A3 machine and, while we’ve kept the A3 machine, the growth we’ve been experiencing meant we needed to move up to a higher capacity while making sure we were staying equipped with the latest technology,” says Smith. “A lot of our business is evolving, we’re doing a lot of point of sale work now that goes across small offset and large offset. We wanted to keep it in house, but we couldn’t do the A1 parts. Well, with the new press, now we can.”
Now, thanks to the power of word of mouth from its existing customers, Megacolour is already making its mark as a prime competitor in the A1 market, with plenty of new work coming in as a result – a nice and immediate payoff for the big investment on new equipment. For Fang, however, this is just the beginning.
“It’s all about the capacity,” he says. “We want to grow; we wanted to get that big capacity so we had the room to grow.”
We still believe in print
For large and publically listed companies, it might not seem such a grand extravagance to drop a couple of million into new equipment, but for a business the size of Megacolour, it is no small thing. However, for Smith and Fang, both of whom maintain a strong belief in the future of print, it is the only way forward.
“We still believe in printing. When we made the decision to spend $2 million six months ago, everyone thought we were crazy. But, Gavin and I believe in printing,” says Fang. “We don’t have any regrets at all. We can print better, and the end result is, it’s a better product with the combination of pre-press and the press itself.”
Far from being crazy, Megacolour’s directors’ faith in the print medium, belief in the local industry and supreme self-confidence in the business has already helped to shape the massive investment into an unequivocal success story
By Leon Spencer Print21
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