Investment and growth in a digital age

L-R: Mike Tansey, Ken Tansey and Shuan Darby

Walsall-based trade printer of business gifts and promotional items, Redfern Marking Services, entered the digital age in 2016 with the purchase of a Compress UV DTO printing solution, but just how has this changed the business? P&P editor Melanie Attlesey finds out.

Redfern Marking Services has been in business since 1984. A trade printer well known for its expertise, Redfern offers overprinting on a multitude of products that are sold through the business gift and promotional items industry. The company’s specialty lies in printing pens, pencils, T shirts and shopper bags.

Orders can be as small as a few units or as large as tens of thousands to suit clients’ requirements.  Managing director Ken Tansey took over the firm in 2014 and began reinvestment following the global recession. Machine refurbishment, IT upgrades and now digital technology have contributed to the revitalisation of the company. Ken says: “Since I took over the company it’s been my constant mission to keep us at the forefront of the market which includes advancements in technology.”

The investment

The company’s most recent purchase was the Compress iUV 600s LED flatbed printer supplied by Impression Technology Europe. It was after a visit to Printwear & Promotion LIVE! in February 2016 that the purchase was made.

Ken says: “We attend the show every year to see what’s new and to take a look at the equipment on offer. I met Impression Technology Europe at the show and when I saw their Compress range I was convinced this was the way forward; we selected the Compress iUV 600s.

“After a demonstration I knew that these machines could achieve a print on to many surfaces including those which are uneven in a way that no other method could, as well as being able to print many items at once; I saw how we could grow the business by being able to offer many more applications than we could previously.”

Redfern has always offered screen and tampo printing for promotional objects, such as pens and pencils, but now the Compress iUV 600s adds to the company’s existing screen, textile and pad printing capabilities. At present Redfern prints up to 2,000 textile items a day, 1,000 digital items, 10,000 tampo printed items and 60,000 screen printed items on two manual carousels. “Over the years we have seen many things change in the business, but one thing is the amount of shopper bags that we now print. This is a big market for us, especially since the introduction of the 5p bag charge,” says Ken.

Jeffrey Tansey using the Compress iUV 600s

While these traditional methods are still appropriate for a variety of applications they are becoming fast outdated; they have limitations such as the inability to print on to some uneven plastic surfaces as well as only being able to print one item at a time using only spot colours. But this has all changed for Redfern with the addition of the new UV flatbed printer, as the team of 10 can now print on a whole variety of different items, such as books, rulers, erasers and leather items – providing they are flat.

Ken adds: “This was a significant investment for us, so I wanted to make sure it was right. The Compress unit stood out because it offered some very key features for us; it has a larger print space, a higher bed size and it’s an enclosed machine so we don’t have any issues with dust. It comes with not one but two pieces of pioneering UV printing technology.

“UV Wave Dot Imaging is unique to Compress and the option of uni or bi-directional printing will drastically reduce banding while also vastly increasing print speed. It also has a WIMS White Ink Management System. White ink management traditionally requires a large amount of maintenance and upkeep due to the density and heavy consistency of the ink itself; traditionally the consistency of white ink may lead to the ink clogging up the equipment resulting in the machine breaking or performing at a low standard creating inconsistent designs and prints. WIMS prevents this happening.”

Ken continues: “Critically though, the Compress machine offered a much more cost effective bulk ink system in bottles rather than cartridges; estimated to be around 30% saving with absolutely no impact on quality with its 2880dpi. Digital is the future, it’s as simple as that.

“ITE installed the unit for us and after a satisfactory training programme Redfern were up and running and have already fulfilled many orders. We’re constantly amazed at how it can print such a range of images and items to such a high quality and so easily. This machine can print onto uneven surfaces that previously proved problematic. For example a new client presented us with touchpad lock covers to be branded. The print area was uneven and concave in places and the flatbed digital printer was the only equipment we had to handle this properly. The touchpad project has enhanced our capability.”

“We are learning all the time with regards to the Compress iUV. Every client introduces us to a new way of printing or a new product to print on. It’s a constantly evolving process.”

The future is bright

Ken is joined in running the business by his son Mike and Shaun Darby. “It is important for me that Mike and Shaun are involved in all aspects of the business, from logistics to printing. We are a team and if one person is off sick it is important they can step into the shoes of someone else.”

The flatbed of the Compress iUV 600s

Over the next few years, it is hoped that, given the recent burst of growth, that Redfern will have moved out of its current 4,000sq ft unit into one that is bigger and more fit for purpose.

Ken explains: “We are one of the only independent trade-only promo printers still operating that has its own stockholding in a warehouse. This enables us to provide a quick turnaround for our customers when required. Now we have made the investment in new machinery and turned the business around, a move into a larger premises is definitely our number priority over the next few years.”

So there you have it, digital printing really is the way forward for any traditional promotional printer as evidenced by Redfern Marking Services. It adds another string to the bow, plus another revenue stream.

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