Wellington has a vibrant print scene that has witnessed many companies come and go. New Zealand Printer visited some printers in the capital to find out what makes the Windy City print scene tick
From its origins 50 years ago, when Jon Milne started the business, Milne Print has grown and today, from its premises in Wellington’s central business district, the company continues putting out quality print to local clients and some nationwide.
Jon Skogstad, managing director at Milne Print, took over the business a few years ago. He says, “My father bought the business about 30 years ago. I came into the company about 10 years ago and, when Dad passed away in 2006 I made a commitment to the print business.”
He has also made a commitment to reducing the company’s effect on the environment and Milne Print has achieved Enviromark gold level. He says, “We can see the advantages of making the industry more sustainable. It’s good for the environment but it’s also good for business. I recently heard Phil Lawrence talking about print improving its environmental impact and what he said makes sense.”
The company has had to adapt to survive in Wellington. Skogstad says, “For us, up until about four years ago, we were a two colour A3 printer. We made the jump to a six colour A2 press about three and a half years ago. While we had digital, we realised we needed to get into multi-colour and we could see that digital was going to erode into the A3 market.”
Changes at Milne Print happened at the same time as changes to the world’s financial state. He continues, “We had a struggle trying to build volume because the recession hit but we have been growing our turnover even though, to start with, turnover was too low. However, we have had continual growth.”
The A2 environment continues to present a competitive challenge with bigger firms like Freestyle and Pronto Print disappearing last year, and one or two smaller companies also having to close shop. While he has great sympathy for these businesses, Skogstad has no intention of joining them. He says, “It’s been tough for the last three years and who knows how long it will last. When the recession hit we were quick to cut our costs.
In the end we had to take our night shift off but, this year, we have put it back on. We are hoping to employ an apprentice in the future.”
He doesn’t have any secrets to printing successfully in a recession but Milne Print has done more than survive. He says, “We can react to things fairly quickly. We have some close affiliations with other printers and we out source to them and we swap ideas. Printers do work together and they share ideas and use each others’ strengths. There is a level of co-operation in the Wellington print community and I think Wellington is small enough that these bonds are quite strong.”
Like other capital city printers, Milne Print has seen an increase in small digital print companies starting up.
Skogstad says, “There’s been a trend for smaller digitals that are really customer focused. It’s been talked about for years that there is over capacity but printers will continue to re-invest because they need better machinery.”
Milne Print invested in a Canon C7000. Skogstad says, “The C7000 goes well. It’s a good all round machine.
We recently bought a black and white C1100 from Canon and that is also proving a good printer. We still have the Komori 628, a Speedmaster 52 two-colour and a GTO 52 two colour; it’s cheaper to run the GTO than to buy a new numbering and perfing machine.”
He welcomes the thought that the recession has indeed bottomed out but notes that most in the Wellington print community continue to proceed with caution. He says, “The printers I know have the opinion that we have turned the corner. You have to keep your head down and do what you do well. Make sure you look after your customers.”
Dickon Lentell, managing director of Wakefields Print, has a background in prepress. After training in South Africa, he worked in London before arriving on the Wellington print scene 24 years ago.
The company specialises in digital print and prepress and runs a mix of printers with Konica Minolta, Océ and Ricoh featuring in there. He says, “We installed a Ricoh C901 and it is a real production workhouse. We put a lot of work through on it. We’ve also had a long-term relationship with Konica Minolta and they have also been very good to us. We have got two Océ machines, a 6250 and 2110 and we produce great work on those as well.”
Lentell sees a lot of positives in the industry right now. He says, “There used to be a lot of cowboys in the print industry, especially in offset. Most of them are gone now. In digital printing, there are some real pitfalls to look out for and we get some cowboys there as well.”
Lentell has seen a lot of print companies come and go over the years. He has developed some clear ideas about what works and what fails. He says, “For instance, printers have woken up to the negative side of using print brokers and the way clients buy print has changed too. Designers used to broke a lot of print as well. For printers, that change has been significant and they now find themselves competing on more of a level playing field.”
Despite its competitive nature, the Wellington print scene does contain individuals and companies with a sense of community and the ability to look at a bigger picture than short-term profits. Lentell says, “You get on with some other printers and there is a new generation coming through. The influence of the old generation is fading away as some of the power brokers have disappeared.”
Wakefields also owns Momento Photobooks, a company that has achieved considerable success at the Pride In print awards. Lentell says, “That’s a good thing. The industry needs to celebrate success. We’ve learned a lot through owning Momento.”
He sees the company’s success as no accident and adds, “In Wellington, whether you like it or not, much of the business that takes place is driven by government and recently, there is a lot less printing there. In a very close knit industry, you know most of the other printers and, if you are smart you can still be very successful. It requires discipline. Printing these days is more discipline than rocket science.”
Label & Litho
Out in Lower Hutt, one of the region’s most successful printers has flown under the radar for many years.
Label printers Label & Litho would still be hiding its talent under a bushel if one of its directors, Camilla Welch, hadn’t won a businesswoman of the year award in 2010.
Welch and her brothers Hamish and Angus Kincaid, own Label & Litho, having purchased it from their father, company founder David Kincaid.
Angus Kincaid says, “While we are one of New Zealand’s bigger label converters, we have always tended to fly under the radar, particularly because we haven’t entered industry award competitions and we haven’t belonged to any print groups.”
Label & Litho uses the latest digital print technology and state of the art conventional print technology to print runs of a few hundred, right through to millions of labels. It prints blank and multi-coloured labels as well as doing hot-foiling, cold-foiling, screen-printing, flexo with die-cutting, perforating, printing on the adhesive, laminating and printing on the backing sheet if required. The company has always been quick to embrace new technology, replacing old machinery; putting in CTP and replacing all its computer software. It installed New Zealand’s first reel-fed HP Indigo ws4500 digital press in 2008 and New Zealand’s first reel-fed HP Indigo ws6000 digital press in 2011.
The plant runs an early and a late shift, five days per week providing labels for a variety of markets including food and beverage, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals. Hamish Kincaid says, “There is plenty of work. The recession has not particularly impacted us. When you look at labels; everyone has to eat, drink and they get sick – and those products all need labels. We are in the good position of picking up a number of new customers each month.”
As the company grows, the sibling directors want it to retain its integrity and the reputation they have built up. Hamish Kincaid says, “Of course we are interested in becoming number one and to get there you have to be willing to do what you say you will do for your clients. It comes down to treating our customers the way we want to be treated ourselves. We never think of ourselves as being bigger or more important than our customers. They are the most important factor in the business. And we try to make all of our customers special. It’s not about their size.”
He says the company’s staff figures as another significant factor in its success. He says, “We want solid people. We have quality staff and the latest machinery. It’s not about being the biggest; it’s about being the best. Over half our staff members have been with us for more than 10 years. One man has been in the company for over 30 years. It’s very important in manufacturing work like label printing to have a low staff turnover. Our staff members know our customers’ expectations and can respond accordingly.”
Another advantage the directors enjoy comes from their ability to get along together. Camilla Welch says, “Since coming into Label and Litho, each of us has slotted into our own niche. It works because we get on really well together and we have no infighting and no power struggles.
”It’s easy for us to make decisions; we aren’t answerable to a board or to shareholders so we can make quick decisions. We’ve worked together since 1996 and it has worked for a number of reasons. For instance, we have different areas of expertise; we know our roles. We also work as equals. None of us has any delusions of grandeur. We see ourselves as a group.”
The company joined the EnviroSmart programme in 2006 and became the first label printing company in New Zealand to achieve EnviroMark Gold certification. Welch says, “The EnviroMark programme was huge, a massive amount of work. It paid off because it forced us to look at our waste and our processes. We have improved our environmental performance and also improved our use of resources.”
You get a sense of Kiwi history walking into Apex Printing. A few metres from the door, a plaque on the ground announces that not far from here the first North Island rugby match took place between a Wellington XIII and a Nelson XV, the beginning of interprovincial rivalry and organised by the founder of New Zealand Rugby Charles Monro.
While Apex Printing doesn’t go back to the 19th century, the 65 year old company has had five owners beginning with Harold Toomer who probably used a hand fed platen. Stuart Tyrer came into the business 29 years ago and he has seen a lot of changes in that time. He runs the family business with son Kris who says, “The latest recession has bit Wellington print companies but the big thing is we are still here. You have to keep up in this game or you are history. We are still a jobbing printer with the ability to do quality work. We still do the small end of the market. We are an A3 shop so we work a lot with other printers. For instance, we out-source the A2 work.”
Stu Tyrer says, “We cover the complete range of printing products - offset, digital and wide format and offer a full print service from design to finish including our in house platemaking. It’s certainly a changing market and we have adapted and changed our core business.”
The company has kept up with changes in technology, broadening its offering. He says, “The digital is growing with short runs and quick turnarounds but I can’t see offset dying in the next few years even thought the digital quality is getting closer to offset.”
Both Stu and Kris Tyrer see the company as part of a larger Wellington print community. Kris Tyrer says, “There is a sense of belonging to Wellington though we do work for the rest of the country. We feel we should put back into the community so we help out local charities with sponsorship. The Te Omanga hospice is probably our main one.”
Like other towns and cities, since 2008, Wellington has had to work hard to make it through the recession.
Despite the tough environment, he believes the market can support everyone and the real competition will involve new technology. He says, “In the future, I think it is going to be a battle with electronic technology.
You look at iPads and you see the printed word has become less and less. We keep in contact with other printers and keep up with the game. Everyone can get their share if they do it right. You have to take care of your customers, give them what they need. You have to look after what you have got.”