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Tue, Jul

The onset of something big

The onset of something big

As BETA test site of the first Inca Onset S20 printer, PPE is already seeing new markets open up thanks to the technology.
Four month after taking the world's first Inca Onset S20 on beta test 3D POP manufacturer PPE is finding new markets in retail and fashion and converting customers from litho to inkjet print production. Plus, it's winning back work from Asian suppliers. That's hardly surprising for a company whose mission statement is: "We aim to remain at the forefront of our industry, by significant investment in the latest technology throughout the business" and whose opening Web page says: "Attention seekers. It's who we are .it's what we do best!" In taking on the Onset S20 in February PPE lived up to both claims. Though established almost 40 years ago by the parents of the current joint managing directors Neil and Nigel Parker, PPE has only been in wide-format print since 2003. It forms just part of the PPE Group's remit to "design and manufacture merchandising solutions for a wide range of market sectors.

To ensure that customers' total display requirements are always met, creating additional sales, enhancing brand awareness and supporting the drive to improve brand imagery." To this end the group has expanded over the years from its beginnings as a plastics fabrication plant for local industry to now encompassing PPE Limited, PPH Moulders Ltd, PPE Merchandising Solutions Europe, The Point of Sale Centre, Dauman Displays International and Interbin Storage and Display. The company provides a full POP service from design, manufacturing and print through to installation and it's this 'under one roof' approach that gives PPE tremendous strength and has contributed to its success and growth. Its impressive manufacturing facility occupies a 7.5 acre site in Harlow, Essex, where 280 staff design, print and manufacture 3D POP/display products for top retail brands throughout Europe, 24 hours a day, five days a week. Group turnover in 2008 reached ?27.33m. All this is proof that PPE is forever pushing forward and the Onset S20 is key to its future direction. We can't stand still," says Neil Parker. "We have always been a far sighted company and we are investing and expanding where we see a niche." Parker says the sheer productivity of the new Onset S20 has been instrumental in the company deciding to diversify into offering pure display print at volume levels and enabling PPE to offer what it considers to be the fastest and most competitive display print service to the retail market. PPE has been using Inca UV large format inkjet printers, supplied by Fujifilm Sericol, for many years and the new Onset S20 sits alongside a Columbia Turbo and a Spyder 320 (+white) with four operators cross-trained on all platforms.

The wide-format digital print operation also houses two HP5000 printers and a 60in-wide Seal 62 laminator. "We are always updating our capabilities and over the last year have invested ?2.5m on improving our production assets throughout the facility," says Parker, who now sees digital printing as a core element in its production facilities, providing substantial savings over conventional screen print (the company runs various screen print machines) for short and medium length runs. "We are really blown away by the capabilities of the new Inca. The cost benefit is amazing. Not only can we now offer a very competitive display print service, it also wins hands down against offset litho for display on cost and speed, and more than matches it on quality," says Parker. "It has added a huge capacity for print and has already opened up new markets for us in retail and fashion display where quality is paramount. Plus, because we can produce more work in less time, cost of production has been cut and we can pass the savings onto our customers. It represents a real step change for our business." Soon after installation PPE put the Inca Onset S20's levels of performance, quality and flexibility to the test. With the ability to print panels edge to edge up to 3.2m x 1.6m and 50mm thick at speeds of 250m2/hr (equivalent to 50 full bed sheets/hr), the Onset S20 delivers high-volume production at high speed at a competitive price. But it's the white and gloss facility of the printer that has really impressed PPE. The machine uses Uvijet four-colour CMYK inks plus the ability to select Fujifilm Sericol Ultratone ink (lights, orange, violet) or white. PPE has chosen the white option to suit the material it produces. This, as well as a choice of matt satin, semi-gloss and gloss finishes, delivers enormous versatility in the range of products that can be printed (e.g. display POP, exhibition graphics, backlit/frontlit displays, outdoor signage printing, etc.) The Wasatch Rip provides easy file set-up and in-depth colour management control for a variety of applications. "The white capability is important and the gloss is fantastic," says Peter Clark, PPE production director. "We expect the percentage of gloss jobs to increase as people see the results." Speed too is important to PPE.

As Parker explains, "the retail market is very demanding and we are always aiming for the fastest turnaround. Our order book is only three to four weeks at any time and its all price/speed driven. The market is fiercely competitive and delivering quality at speed allows both keeping the business and winning business back from Asian suppliers too. The new Onset S20 is all about driving cost down and cutting production time." PPE's challenge now is selling it the capabilities of its new printer and its advantages over screen/litho where, as marketing manager Paul Jackson explains, "the Onset S20 means reduced stock holding for customers, and a fast, quality print-on-demand service". "We are heavily promoting the benefits to customers to persuade them to switch from litho to the Onset digital," says Parker. "Some customers are initially suspicious but they are starting to realise the environmental, time and cost benefits of printing directly onto display substrates and we are expanding our customer base as a result. Seeing is believing and we have been producing sample jobs to demonstrate its impressive capabilities." Jackson confirms that the company is "currently undertaking several initiatives including telemarketing activities, e-mail broadcasting, sampling to existing and potential customers about the benefits."


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