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An independent frame of mind – Print21 magazine feature

Monday, 30 January 2012
By Print 21 Online Article

Before the recent increased focus on specialisation and the fashion of businesses to concentrate on a few core elements, printing companies were diverse and complex operations. A printer was prepared to accept any type of job, even if it meant subbing it out to a specialist firm. But, even then there are still some printers that like to and are capable of doing it all themselves. Patrick Howard went to Frontline to meet Wayne Godsell, a printer seemingly prepared to tackle just about anything.

It’s like walking into an Ali Baba cave of printing technology. The Artarmon premises of Frontline Printing are not extensive but they are crammed with technology and printing processes. It is all here—as the sign over the door tells; digital sheet printing, wide format, digital roll labels, flexo, hot foil stamping thermal; and inkjet. And that is merely the technology; the output is even more eclectic.

Wayne Godsell is a printer with a breadth of skills that is becoming increasingly rare in the industry. He is deeply versed in the ways of printing, a printer to his very soul, but in an industry that often places too much emphasis on trade qualifications, it comes a no surprise to learn that he didn’t start out that way. An accountant by training, he got into printing almost by chance back in 1984, specialising in variable data while digital was barely on the horizon.

Over the years he built up a successful if unconventional business, taking on just about every challenge in printing. Along the way he acquired an impressive in-depth knowledge of the arcane procedures of most printing processes. He is now the printer other printers send work to when the job is difficult and complex, especially when it involves variable data printing (VDP).

Pictured: Wayne Godsell next to his son Paris on the frontline of print.

Walking around the production floor, among the wide array of equipment, it quickly becomes apparent that Frontline is prepared to turn its skills to every thing from personalised DM pieces, to hot foiling, labelling, card and price ticket manufacturing, barcoding and wide-format label printing.

Ably assisted by his son, Paris, there is practically nothing that fazes Godsell. He is able to print on just about any substrate from plastics to metalized wide-format substrates. In fact the only thing you won’t find at Frontline is an offset press.

“I’ve always steered well clear of offset. It’s a declining market with too many competitors. There will be a lot less offset in the future. I’m more comfortable with digital,” he said.

Take his word for it

In an age of increasing specialisation, when the business mantra is about finding a niche and sticking to it, it is refreshing to meet Wayne Godsell. It is as though his business has grown by learning how to do everything that others were not prepared to put the effort into. In the process he has avoided any hint of the dreaded commoditisation of printing. Everything coming out of Frontline is value-added; everything carries a premium.

He appears to be fearless about adopting new or unfamiliar technology, of being first on the block with the new press. Far from being captive to any one brand, he is always prepared to buy the most suitable technology for the job. He proudly points out his label presses on the ground floor as examples of innovation. Among them is the first Rotamag Series 1 label press developed by Peter Jessop of Rotary Engineering.

An icon of Australian engineering design, Godsell swears by its reliability and performance over the years. He laughs that Jessop did such a good job in over engineering the machine that it will never need to be replaced.
“He asks me when I’m upgrading and I tell him, why would I? Your press never breaks down,” he said.

R&D is hardwired into Frontline’s DNA. Paris Godsell is currently putting in long hours on a new Roland VersaUV LED large format inkjet. He is testing the machine’s ability to print on various metallic substrates, getting the colour right and setting it up to not only print posters but also to produce decals and labels. It is very much … like father, like son.

Specialist is a­s specialist does

As a result of his independent views, Godsell’s endorsement of a technology is worth real value. Nothing is brought into the shop without a thorough comparative testing with similar products.

Latest investment decision led Frontline to install a Konica Minolta BizHub C8000, a further endorsement of the brand, in that it already has a C6500, a C65HC and a 1051 PRO.

“What I like about Konica Minolta is that they always give their machines a very conservative rating. When I looked at the market the Konica Minolta had the best colour by far. The print quality is so high there was no question about it. It’s also a very versatile machine, we put through up to 450 gsm without a problem,” he said.

His background in VDP tests not only the imaging capability to its limits but also the software. There is no variable job too sophisticated for Frontline.

Further along in the shop there is thermal label making for people such as Woolworths. Some of these are massive jobs in numbers but well within Frontline’s capacity. Nothing is outsourced and the company is thriving.

So next time whenever the industry conversation turns to the supposed benefits of specialisation, remember Wayne Godsell. Being a specialist does not mean you can only specialise in one thing.

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