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Lindsay Yates’ ‘leap of faith’ into digital age

Wednesday, 28 October 2015
By Patrick Howard

A new HP Indigo 10000 fed by a Tharstern MIS and an Agfa Apogee workflow is transforming the well-known Sydney printer’s operation but David Shoppee is careful to point out that “offset is by no means dead.”

At the digital coalface: David Shoppee, COO with Todd Evans, who made the switch from printing offset to running the HP Indigo 10000

One day in June staff at the Sydney printer came in to work to find the old manual production board had disappeared. In its place an electronic screen with all the jobs for the day lined up had become the new nerve centre of the business. It was, according to David Shoppee, Chief Operating Officer, ‘a leap of faith,’ a decisive moment in the company’s transformation towards becoming a fully integrated part of the digital age.  For a brief time that morning chaos reigned as production staff came to terms with the change, but it soon settled down and manual scheduling never returned to the Artarmon site.

According to Shoppee, it’s part of the process of making sure that changes are not only implemented but that once in place there is no going back to the old ways. “It’s not easy and it needs constant attention,” he told members of the LIA last night during an open house at the plant.

He had no shortage of significant milestones to share with the 30-odd members of the printing association who attended. The installation of the HP Indigo 10000 in April has proved to be a textbook case of transition to digital production for a high-end, traditional commercial printer. Although Lindsay Yates still has a Konica Minolta production unit, almost all the digital work was transferred to the new press apart from some document production.

But not content to introduce new printing technology the company also completely changed its software infrastructure. A Tharstern MIS is in the process of fully automating the ordering process, stripping JDF data and content to an Agfa Apogee production system. Already an automated proofing channel powers an Epson inkjet and informs prepress staff on completion.

Within two week, the system will become fully automated with the Tharstern deciding on the output device for every job and the Apogee ensuring the files are correctly pre-flighted and delivered. Two weeks later he hopes to bring web-based proofing online.

Shoppee and his partner, Paul Richardson, managing director, have a vision of a fully automated production system that will be state of the art and will allow the company to reach a first plateau target of 100 jobs per day.

He told the visitors he was comfortable in opening up his business for inspection because, “it’s not the technology that matters, it’s what you do with it.” Describing the HP Indigo 10000 as the “gold standard” in digital printing he was full of praise for Currie Group and its NSW manager, Richard Watson. A major hardware and software upgrade saw the press off line for a week in July but since then “it hasn’t missed a beat.”

Under the experienced eye of Linda D’Arcy, general manager – digital printing, who cut her eye teeth with Michael Tan’s very first Indigo in the country at WYSIWYG in the mid-1990s, the press is currently operating a single shift but with plans for a second well advanced. The way the 10000’s B2 format fits into the well established offset finishing system was part of the reason the company made its investment. With two Heidelberg offset presses  – a XL 105 six-colour with coater and a Speed master 76 six colour with Coater – continuing to pump out most of the print, Shoppee is happy to keep a foot firmly placed in both technologies.

When asked why the company undertook such a massive transformation he talks about “print’s Harvey Norman moment.” The way he tells it, ten years ago Harvey Norman sold digital televisions for $6000. Now they cost $1000, so the store has to sell a lot more just to make the same profit. With shorter print runs and tighter margins, printers are facing the same problem; they have to do a lot more jobs just to stay in the same space.

He has a target to double the number of printed jobs this year and believes that only by introducing high-end digital printing fed by an automated workflow can he secure the company’s future.

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