The importance of print within Auctioneering

By Emma posted April 30th, 2018

BBRPCP’s Market Manager Emma Ball talks to Alan Blakeman of BBR Auctions and Publishing about his views on print.

With over 38 yrs of experience BBR has built a unique niche within the collecting world that is run by collectors for collectors.

As an enthusiastic collector Alan Blakeman started his business with a small A5 newsletter in 1979 for likeminded collectors and today the rapidly expanded family firm has become a world leader in all its specialist fields with regular catalogued auctions.

Alan, why do you choose to invest in a printed catalogue when there are so many alternative and accessible digital platforms?

Specialist areas require specialist solutions.

The Collectors Magazine 

After 40 years BBR has become a world read publication, keeping the wonderful world of our collectors informed and up to date with much researched material not available anywhere else.

Young people may Google everything but most often it does not come up with the articles we impart.

BBR magazine back copies are stored lovingly in binders – sounds archaic but the information contained is unique – and we want it to stay that way.

BBR Auction catalogues

So very much of our items need to be seen; thus giving a better ‘feel’ for the items themselves. One item on a screen simply does not convey this essential ‘feel’ factor.

Equally, much of our material is so rarely seen and to have a visual reference, along with the actual prices, is held in high regard by our customers.

Some past catalogues fetch good money years after on ebay!

Whilst many salesrooms are only using auction images and words online I believe they are missing out on those who A) still value the printed catalogue and B) Luddites that do not want to see images just on a screen and can’t view afterwards…. Or refer back too years later.

How does print facilitate your business objectives and growth?

Much as above…. an A4 page of full colour images imparts so much – it is highly tactile as well as being visually stimulating. Not really comparable to goods which are simply same as same as represented on a digital platform.

We travel the length and breadth of the UK taking with us bundles of past magazines & catalogues. Beginners and the inquisitive amongst us snap these up at fairs which in turn fuels interest and therefore expands our customer base.

BBR catalogues are essential to us, they are a hallmark of what we do; everyone comments they are so impressive, real eye openers.

Visitors to Elsecar Heritage Centre walk into our building and can instantly see what we are about… a very visual spread to digest – take some away, or just remember & tell others. The printed product is a very tangible form of promotion.  

Do you think social media will eventually replace printed catalogues and brochures in your industry?

BBR has produced full colour magazines, auction catalogues & many specialist books covering our fields of collecting.

In many respects our threefold production is quite unique – but certainly helps us stand out from the crowds.

Social media does affect many areas of print production, but without a doubt specialist collecting demands the printed product for its survival.

Without it the market would shrink for sure.

What sets PCP apart from its competitors?

In 40 years we have used a good many printers and only last year in 2017 stumbled upon PCP. Our graphic designer directed them our way.

I like the ease of use in sending print ready material, the first class empathetic customer care and (perhaps above all else) the incredible speed & efficiency from sending artwork to the delivery of our books.

If I lived around the corner I’d treat them all to Friday night drinks most weeks!!



Better Control of downtime ups productivity

By Emma posted April 4th, 2018

Landscape slight smileNick Mansley, Features & Production Editor, PrintWeek, interviews our Operations Director Adam Walker and Process Engineer Stuart Griffiths to uncover how down time has increased productivity at PCP.

Nick spent half a day at PCP in March where he had opportunity to look around the 14 acre plant to get a real understanding of the Total Productive Maintenance programme implemented at PCP.

The following is an extract from the interview publishing in Print Week on 26th March.

When Adam Walker joined Precision Colour Printing (PCP) as head of operations three years ago, the company was busy and successful, but aware that its maintenance practices were not serving it as well as they might.

PCP, which specialises in magazine and high-end brochure work, was operating what Walker describes as a ‘run to failure’ approach: maintenance issues were addressed when something went wrong. Otherwise the equipment was in operation as much as possible. This ‘repair reactively’ culture has been common across the web sector and PCP says it can be used effectively, although it is resource-and time-hungry.

PCP has always aimed to install the best technology. It was the first business in the world to invest in a Heidelberg Speedmaster SM 102 long perfector with Inpress Control, in the summer of 2010, and last year bought Europe’s first nine-colour RMGT (Mitsubishi) 1050 Tandem Perfector UV-cured B1 press, specifically to produce a range of innovative visual effects for magazine covers.

The workhorses of the operation, however, are its three web presses, which are no longer in the first flush of youth. The company runs two Komori 38S2 webs (one 32pp and one 16pp) and a 32pp, 10-unit Manroland Rotoman. One of the Komoris is nearly 18 years old now, while the other two webs are both more than a decade old – and their need for TLC is only increasing.

The challenge

Walker knew the whole maintenance culture of the business needed to change. The run-to-failure approach meant downtime was unpredictable, uncontrollable and costly. If a press went down it had serious implications for productivity and threw schedules into confusion.

The method

A key element of the remedy was the appointment of Stuart Griffiths as process and continuous improvement manager. He and Walker had worked together before and the two set about revolutionising the company’s maintenance culture. The model they decided to adopt is called total productive maintenance (TPM).

TPM is defined as a system of maintaining and improving the integrity of production and quality systems through the machines, equipment, processes, and employees that add business value to an organisation.

In PCP’s case this consists of a set of relatively simple tools that are used to monitor and manage a hugely complex set of variables. It spreads maintenance tasks out so that machines are never down for very long but still get the TLC they need.

Griffiths outlines the basic principle: “We used to have higher than expected breakdowntime and sporadic maintenance time. The idea was, if we increase our maintenance time we’ll reduce our breakdown time but also reduce the total amount of downtime.”

TPM was implemented initially in PCP’s bindery on the stitching lines in August 2016. This had been something of a bottleneck for the business and so presented an ideal space for PCP to try out ideas and test how the system would work in a more complex press hall environment.

This began with the introduction of a system for better organising engineering maintenance, allowing the operators to highlight problems on the machine that they would like addressed during the next maintenance slot. Following this a detailed operator maintenance programme was developed. The senior operators drew up a list of tasks for each unit, measured how long each took to carry out and then created a schedule that balanced maximum productivity against expected workloads.

Griffiths explains: “We spent a lot of time with the crews, pulling all the tasks together. Roll-out was in December 2016 on the stitching lines, with 11 hours of additional maintenance assigned to each machine per month.”

The system uses a series of check sheets that set out colour-coded tasks for operators and engineers on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. As each is completed the worker dates and initials the sheet. This ensures accountability, but also means staff can take credit for their work.

Introduction of TPM in the bindery had an immediate effect, resulting in an initial 8% improvement in uptime plus an increase in overall machine speed, thanks to improved machine condition.

While print bosses might baulk at the idea of taking their money-makers offline for more than the bare minimum, it’s important to see the big picture. Walker says: “The business first thought that we were going to reduce capacity by doing more maintenance, whereas in fact we’ve increased capacity.”

At the end of 2016 PCP was ready to move TPM to the web presses. “Putting the web TPM together was actually extremely challenging,” says Griffiths. “Because it’s very difficult to work out what part of the machine we can work on, on what days.”

Walker adds: “And each activity has an impact on other activities. There’s no point changing the lock-ups, for example, if you haven’t cleaned the ducts.”

All these details had to be considered right down to the potential for “bumping bums” while working on adjacent press units.

Staff also needed to be persuaded that this strategy was going to work. Walker says: “When we started the programme on the web presses there was among some operators some resistance because previously the business had brought in third-party lean engineers to address these things and nothing really got done.

“But we don’t see any of that now because we do it now on a daily basis – and we push it and push it – and they’re starting to see results. The buy-in has been excellent.

The system is easy to tweak, too, as Griffiths explains: “If an operator says, ‘actually, we should be checking this too’, I’ll feed that into the system. So, next time I print that sheet out, there’ll be another task on it.”

And it’s the expertise of the people operating the presses that is ensuring TPM’s success. Walker adds: “If we identify a period of no work, Stuart will go down and discuss with the number one: ‘Is there anything that’s come up that’s more of a priority than what I’ve got on the board?’ As an example, they might say ‘yes, I’ve been having problems with the folder or the pins’ and we can focus on that.”

TPM gives Walker and his team the forensic tools to investigate production issues. Walker says: “The concept is complete visibility. For example, if we have a roller that has been replaced recently and it’s blown up on us, we can question the compound of the roller, how long it has lasted, why it has failed. We can do more of a deep dive post-mortem – is there an underlying fault. Because it’s all there to see. And we can manage our supply chain better.”

While there will always be unplanned downtime even with the best equipment, PCP’s goal is to achieve a Goldilocks level of maintenance – not so much that maintenance eats into production time, not too little that breakdowns do. But PCP has found that even with a fixed amount of TPM time, performance continues to improve: “We’re getting better at it; the crews are getting slicker at it,” says Griffiths.

To help continually improve understanding of the presses, PCP has a Komori web unit set up in one corner of its press hall on which workers can be trained, techniques honed and procedures timed without any impact on the actual presses.

The result

The figures pretty much speak for themselves, but Walker says the key benefit is the control TPM gives PCP – downtime is being reduced and Walker is in control of more and more of that downtime, rather than having his press hall thrown into confusion. The extra time given over to maintenance is being more than paid back, he says.

With more structure being applied, Operations is now working pro-actively and has significantly improved control and stability.

Since 2016, PCP has doubled its scheduled maintenance – to 24hours per month – and reduced downtime hours by over 30%.

Comparing quarter four 2016 with the same period in 2017, PCP has seen a 16% reduction in unplanned downtime on its web presses and a 12% reduction on its stitching lines.

And it’s not just about the time the press is available. Griffiths says the increase in time allocated to maintenance has also increased the quality of the maintenance. “Because we put a proper structure in place, we get far more effective maintenance.”

Walker points to an instance just before Christmas, when engineers completed the reactive maintenance on one of the Komoris, as part of the TPM schedule, with time to spare and moved on to an inspection of the press as part of their proactive maintenance. While inspecting one of the dryers, the engineer found a hairline crack in an impeller, something that would never have been spotted prior to the introduction of TPM.

Walker: “We never had time to do it before because we always doing repairs during press downtime.

“Had that impeller failed in production that could have taken out a chamber, and we could have been waiting for two weeks for the parts. In fact we got the impeller out, did the repair and put it back within the scheduled maintenance period.

“We eliminated a big problem within a controlled and scheduled timeframe.”

Print quality too has improved as a result of better maintained, cleaner machinery. Griffiths: “In terms of ink marking complaints, things like blobs, hickeys, etc, – we’ve actually seen a 65% reduction year on year.”

PCP also has a clearer idea of its ongoing costs for each machine, something that is particularly relevant for the older webs. “There will come a point when we’ll have to spend too much on maintaining that productivity, and at that point the business can make a decision and say ‘this asset is now costing us this amount, is it time to start thinking about a new one?’” says Walker.

“And we’ve got the full support of the board and the MD. And that helps if we make requests for funding, because it’s understood that we will deliver and they’ll know that we’ve exhausted every other option.”

Championing Apprenticeships

By Emma posted March 13th, 2018

AlexPinnerAlex Pinner, No. 1 Printer at PCP has successfully completed his BPIF Level 3 Apprenticeship in Machine Print.

Alex started his apprenticeship with PCP back in 2012 and last year after successfully completing the programme Alex was offered a full time permanent position as a No. 1 Printer.

This is Alex’s story so far…..

‘What made you decide on an Apprenticeship?’

I chose to go with an apprenticeship after I’d completed my course at Stafford College, where I was studying graphic design. I’d been there for 3 years and I didn’t feel that University was the right choice for me at the time as I was a bit fed up of being stuck in a classroom. I was told about the apprenticeship by a family friend and what really attracted me was the fact I could carry on learning whilst getting out there and doing a real job. For me the apprenticeship was definitely the right thing to do.

‘How would you describe your experience so far?’

I definitely believe that this is the best decision I’ve made in terms of my career so far. Working alongside the BPIF in my apprenticeship my mentor Steve Power really helped me to get to grips with printing and everything that comes with the job. Coming to PCP I’ve learnt from some very experienced people. I’m also grateful to have learnt my trade on the old sheetfed Mitsubishi 6 colour because it was very hands on being an old machine. This gave me valuable experience that I can take with me throughout my time as a printer. I’ve also been lucky enough to work on web presses in my time here at PCP, only for a brief time but I believe this has given me good knowledge on how other print presses in the company operate. For me the most challenging part of my time here at PCP has been the install of the new RMGT Sheet Fed Press where I’ve had to learn a new machine and be trusted to run it on my own after just 6 weeks.

‘What are your career aspirations?’

I’ve not really had a big think about this to be honest the past 5 years have flown by. But I see myself here at PCP in the future and I would like to push on towards a Team leader role in the future once I’ve gained enough experience.

‘What would you say to anyone who might be considering an apprenticeship?’

I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship to anyone who wants to take a step into the working world but still wanting to learn. It’s a great way to get valuable experience while earning a good wage. It’s not all about filling in a work book and I’ve definitely learnt more by getting stuck in and speaking to experienced printers around me.





PCP staff training awards presented …

By Emma posted March 9th, 2018

GB Shot 1On Wednesday 7th March Precision Colour Printing presented training awards to colleagues, hosted at a ceremony at the Park House Hotel in Shifnal.

A number of colleagues are taking courses run by GB Training and the British Printing Industry Federation whose training co-ordinator Steve Power, said: “We are delighted that PCP recognises the value and importance of the training given to its staff as all concerned will benefit in the long term when completed courses come to fruition.

“These courses give staff members added confidence in their work which eventually results in greater efficiency, less waste and getting the job right first time, thereby encouraging emerging talent to train, develop and prosper within the organisation.”

PCP managing director, Alex Evans, added: “Credit must go to our team who put in so much effort with their studies and relevant training projects, often in their own time, aspiring to achieve accreditation for the different tasks which they perform within the company.

“We currently have over 30 staff members studying a wide variety of disciplines, including team leading, HNC engineering and machine print levels, alongside three apprenticeships.

“I would like to personally thank them for their hard work and achievement in being part of the PCP learning and development success story, which provides us with a multi-skilled and highly talented workforce.”

Pictured are, from right, Alex Evans with award recipients, Umar Farooq, Matt Edgerton, Craig Ash and Paul Mason.

Celebrating National Apprenticeship week at PCP #NAW2018

By Emma posted March 5th, 2018

Jayleigh photoPrecision Colour Printing (PCP) employs 5 apprentices across its business working in a number of different operational areas.

One of those apprentices is Jayleigh Price who has been working at PCP studying the BPIF Level 3 Apprenticeship in Machine Print.

We interviewed Jayleigh for National Apprenticeship Week and this is her story so far…..

When did you start at PCP and what attracted you to the apprenticeship programme?’

“I started in March 2016 so I’ve been employed now for nearly two years. I saw the job advertised on the internet and I thought it looked like something I wanted to do, so I applied. I don’t like office work, as I’ve always been more of a practical person and prefer on-the-job tasks and activities. So that is what attracted me to the apprenticeship programme.”

‘How would you describe your experience so far?’

My experience so far has been great. At first I started in the bindery but when an opportunity came up in the printing side of the production I decided to go for that and I’m glad I did. I was in print for a few months learning the assistant role on the Manroland. After this I started to train on the 6 Colour Mitsubishi Sheetfed press. I was only learning the basics and how to UV. It was an amazing opportunity to see how well I’d picked up the training and to run the machine. When the 6 Colour was replaced with a newer press I started to train on the 10 Colour Heidelberg Sheetfed Press. I’m currently still training on this press and will be for the rest of my apprenticeship. My mentors have both really helped me progress massively so my experience has been amazing as I’ve had the opportunity to go on a variety of machines and learn and develop my knowledge with different people.

‘How do you balance your studying alongside working full-time?’

“I do prefer practical over theory but I don’t mind it. We have coursework to do every couple of months but I do find it helps me when working on the job. For example, if we learn about the different chemicals to be aware of, it improves my safety and knowledge when dealing with the machinery. I like to keep PowerPoints and revision materials so when I work alone instead of asking for help, I can refer back to my notes to see how and what I do.”

‘What benefits do you feel you gain because you are on an apprenticeship scheme?’

“Definitely a lot more help, I receive continuous training whereas if I came into the company as a normal employee it would be a lot less. The salary is also a nice benefit and I can learn on the job.”

‘Do you think you’d get the same benefits if you went to university or took a different career path?’

“I think it would be different benefits. On an apprenticeship, you learn the theory and then put it into practice straightaway, whereas at University you learn the theory for the majority of the time and you don’t put it into practice until after you graduate. I can benefit from what I learn almost instantly. It’s also a good start to getting on the employment ladder and an opportunity to get your foot in the door and work your way up.”

‘Do you feel continually supported in your job role and comfortable suggesting new ways of doing things?’

“Yes 100%, if I don’t understand something my colleagues show me diagrams and explain it a different way. I get on really well with all the different mentors and I also get involved in activities. If I feel more comfortable doing something a different way they are happy with that and always encourage me to suggest new ideas.”

In your opinion do you think apprenticeships offer a good career path?

“Yes definitely, well I am guaranteed a job after so I am in a better position than someone with no experience. Even if I didn’t have a guaranteed job, I have the experience so it gives you the flexibility to move around.”

‘What are your plans for the future? Have they changed since you starting your apprenticeship?’

“Well I wanted to be a footballer but now I’ve started this job I’m definitely a lot more driven and I want to work my way up in the business and I’m always offered new qualifications and training opportunities.

(Jayleigh Price pictured with Mentor Dave Drinkwater on the10 Colour Heidelberg Sheetfed Press)