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Solopress future proofs operations with £600,000 bindery investment

A raft of IFS supplied Horizon finishing systems, supported by iCE software, have been chosen by Solopress to future proof operations. The £600,000 investment in a BQ500 iCE Perfect Binder, an HT300 iCE Three Side Trimmer, a StitchLiner Mark III and two AFV-566FKT iCE Folders will expand capacity and help production meet expected growth plans.

The Southend-on-Sea company was founded in 1999 through an informal collaboration between two start ups. It produces a wide range of commercial print including leaflets, flyers and brochures mainly for small businesses. During the pandemic Solopress invested in its print production equipment. That included a new Heidelberg XL106 litho press and an Indigo 100K digital press. They joined three Heidelberg XL75 litho presses two Indigo 10000s, two Indigo 7800s and an HP PageWide T250 web fed inkjet press.

Head of Operations, Jack Clifford, explains the investment: “In 2022 we turned over £32m up from £21m the previous year and we reported 99.5% on time delivery. We expect demand to increase at least 15% over the next 12 months. We wanted to continue with this great level of service so we needed to invest in systems that could manage production and increase our capacity. We reviewed what we had to understand what was needed to make improvements and where the greatest benefits could be realised. We also wanted to invest in solutions that placed less demand on our operators.”

The BQ500 iCE Perfect Binder and an HT300 iCE Three Side Trimmer were chosen to create a self contained book production line. The 800bph Horizon BQ-500 four clamp perfect binder includes highly automated set up via a large 12.1 inch colour touchscreen, memory storage of up to 999 jobs, pre-installed variable software capability and variable thickness production of 5mm. The Horizon HT-300 incorporates iCE LiNK cloud-based workflow as well as the operator focused features. It runs at 1,100 books per hour and offers fast set up and reduced operator touchpoints.

Says Jack: “One of our big goals for the future is to move more into book production. Before the investment everything had to be guillotined separately and that wastes a lot of time. We wanted a stand-alone line that would be ready to manage just the book work. Being easy to run the systems allow for less operator intervention too.”

The Horizon StitchLiner Mark III was chosen to replace a Horizon StitchLiner 5500. “It was a straight replacement,” states Jack. “We had the StitchLiner 5500 for seven years and it was time to upgrade. We hope to increase our saddle stitched book production, too, and the Mark III will enable us to do that.”

The final additions were the two fully automated AFV-566FKT iCE Folders. They have been developed to deliver enhanced functionality to tackle a broader range of fast turnround run lengths quickly and efficiently. They feature a new look, advanced colour touch-screen panel cover and a status checking screen for a quick at-a-glance overview. Jack, who added that and two-up folding will be added soon, comments: “We needed two new folders to join the existing fleet for the extra capacity. Collectively, once upgraded, they provide us with the ability to put 1.5m folded items on the floor every day.”

The inclusion of iCE LiNK cloud-based workflow was important for operational oversight and reportability. It provides access to an intuitive easy to use dashboard that relays real-time production analysis for improved efficiency and profitability, remote update capabilities and scheduled maintenance resulting in less downtime. The information is accessible via smartphone, tablet or desktop PC. Says Jack: “The data capture is important for us. We need to see exactly how long jobs take and how much jobs cost us to produce. With iCE LiNK this now gives us that insight”

Jack added the Horizon systems were chosen because: “They are ideally suited to the mid volume work that we produce. We have worked with IFS for years and know the service well. When we call on them they are very reliable. They have been a great partner over the years.”