From its beginning as a school reprographics department to a fully-fledged commercial printer, a key aspect of the journey for Park Community Enterprises is its partnership with Ricoh. That relationship has helped develop a thriving business and met the founding principle of marrying education and enterprise.
Park Community Enterprises is a commercial printer with a difference. It was set up by the Park Community School, a coeducational community secondary school in Hampshire, as a business but also as a vehicle to offer students a safe and realistic environment for work experience.
Following its ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted report, the school was encouraged to increase enterprise experience with the aim of marrying business and education. After considering several options, the school decided to set up a digital print shop.
Gary Dickens, one of the directors of PCE, says: “When we started, the idea was to try and establish a profitable company and to offer as many employment, training and life skill opportunities to as many students as possible, initially at our own school and then other schools.”
Around 40% of PCE’s work is for schools with the rest providing commercial print services to local businesses and organisations like builders, estate agents, charities and local authorities.
PCE evolved out of the school’s reprographics department but has had a patchy experience with a variety of different print products. When it launched as a fully-fledged business, a more professional approach to print equipment was needed. Digital print was key because this would give students the widest scope of functions and capabilities to experience.
Mr Dickens considered several leading print equipment manufacturers, finally landing on two contenders. Both provided excellent proposals with Ricoh finally winning the contract because of the range and quality of its products, level of professional service and its focus on a partner rather than a supplier relationship.
Over several years, PCE has developed and expanded its Ricoh print technology culminating in the commercial grade production print facility in place today.
PCE has been an early adopter of some of Ricoh’s print technology and recently identified direct to garment (DTG) print as a core area of opportunity. The business invested in a new Ricoh Ri 2000 Direct to Garment (DTG) printer, which was installed at the Havant premises last year.
The Ri 2000 DTG printer was developed for the fast and easy production of personalised garments and other fabric accessories, with users benefitting from excellent output quality on both light and dark materials. It is suitable for printing virtually any digital image onto products including T shirts, polo shirts, face masks, hoodies, tote bags, cushion covers and much more.
“The production kit from Ricoh is the lifeblood of the company, without it we can’t do anything,” says Mr Dickens. “The Ricoh products are high-quality and the benefit is that I know what I am getting is good. I’ve never been disappointed with a piece of Ricoh kit.”
As a commercial printer, PCE provides a range of typical print services including business cards, letterheads, banners, posters, stickers and vinyl signs for vehicles. But, because of its history with the Park Community School, PCE has developed specialist expertise in servicing the education market.
In addition to the print equipment, Ricoh provides PCE with a range of support services, consultancy, advice on print techniques and consumable supplies.
“I sometimes forget the uniqueness of what we have done at PCE. We are the only school in Hampshire with its own business and it regularly attracts head teachers from all over the country. Ricoh has played a big part in supporting us and enabling that success. Had we chosen another supplier, I don’t think we could have developed such a strong partnership or shared vision,” says Mr Dickens.
PCE has succeeded in achieving its main vision of marrying business and education. Students from the Park Community and other schools regularly come to PCE for work experience.
Mr Dickens says, “Work placements can be very varied, but I know that our students get an experience that is not available at other schools. They get exposure to real-world business life, but in a school environment with all the safeguarding measures. We are giving them a great opportunity to gain better life and work skills for the future.”
Mr Dickens emphasised that one of the most important benefits of Ricoh has, and continues to be, the relationship. He concludes: “You want to work with people you like because it makes for a much better way of working. I’ve always felt that Ricoh has wanted to have a partnership with PCE, and it is a relationship, not a transaction. In fact, I don’t think Ricoh has actually ever sold us anything.”