Deciding how best to expand a print business can involve painstaking research as Icon Print, on Auckland’s North Shore, found out before selecting a Ricoh Pro C651 digital production printer
With a background in offset printing that goes back a long way, Simon Gilbert, founder and director of Icon Print, held a number of doubts that a digital production printer could improve his company’s bottom line.
Gilbert started in the industry at L R Allans, completing his apprenticeship on offset presses. He founded Icon Print in 2003, having previously held the role of production manager at Axis Print for 10 years. He says, “One of my best friends was a print broker and he hounded me to start a print business. We began with a Fuji Shinohara 52 single-colour machine and, for the past eight years, we’ve had this and a Shinohara two-colour press running side by side. We recently sold the single colour to make way for the Ricoh 651 and our large format.
Icon Print used to outsource all of its digital work. Gilbert says, “We had discovered a market for large format and labels and outsourced that work until we bought our own machinery. Over last few years, we also used a regular supplier for our small jobs. We put off buying a digital production printer for a long time but have now made the leap of faith and installed a Ricoh Pro C651.”
The digital printing that Icon outsourced was not done on a Ricoh machine. Simon says, “Mike Laursen, from Ricoh, popped in out of the blue and talked about the printers Ricoh had. I visited Ricoh headquarters and saw them in action. Initially I hunted for reasons not to buy a Ricoh but they surpassed expectations on every job I gave them.”
Gilbert spoke to as many printers as he could find when looking for a digital machine. He says, “I did a lot of research. I called printers in the US, the UK and Canada and spoke to companies that were using the 651 and couldn’t find a bad word. I also gathered feedback from my own customers on the printed results and they preferred the Ricoh’s output as well. In the end, choosing Ricoh was a no brainer.”
He adds that the Ricoh Pro C651 runs well on a large range of stock, from 70gsm right to Spicers 300gsm fat matt which has the same bulk as most 350gsm boards on the market. He says, “It runs synthetics stocks brilliantly as well. The media runs like a dream on the Ricoh; it doesn’t struggle with any stocks and the quality is excellent. The Ricoh marries up well with the jobs we do on offset. The colours and quality match the offset incredibly closely. I can show you an offset job and a digital job and the resulting print is so close, it’s ridiculous. My clients struggle to see the difference. It also prints grayscale incredibly well.”
He made the decision to purchase the digital printer when his outsourced work reached 15,000 plus clicks per month. He says, “As soon as we put the Ricoh in, the clicks started going up and they haven’t stopped. The strike rate just gets higher and higher.”
He finds the digital printer complements the offset press and the large format machines. He says, “Our offset press has got busier since we installed the 651. When we pick up digital work, we can often pick up offset work off the back of that; having large format, digital and offset works because one feeds off the other.
Clients are using a wider range of print media and can get it all here if that’s what their needs are. When they see it all in one place, it’s a massive burden off their shoulders, not having to shop around for different formats.
“Our turnover has increased markedly with the range of services we now offer and the Ricoh Pro C651 has played a part in that. Of course, we are keeping our feet on the ground but we have optimism for the future.”
No fear of digital
For a small print company, Icon Print completes a variety of work with clients ranging from local businesses to large corporates, plus a large proportion of the surf and snow industry, as you’ll find him in the surf or up a mountain when he’s not in the factory. The staff of five includes an offset printer, a large format expert, a print finisher, a designer and Gilbert’s wife Rachel who does the accounts.
Gilbert initially approached digital printing with some trepidation and now kicks himself for not buying a machine sooner than he did. He says, “It was a bit overwhelming, the thought of how they run, but it is ridiculous how easy the Ricoh is to operate. Until the Pro C651 arrived I hadn’t even turned a digital machine on. Smaller printers are scared of investing in digital but they don’t need to be. Some of them look at the front end, the EFI Fiery and they think, ‘Uh Oh,’ but they would laugh if they saw how easy it is. If you can navigate your way through a quoting programme, or if you can do basic imposition, then you can operate this machine, no problem.”