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Business

Nexpress fires up West Country expansion drive

One of the UK’s fastest growing print houses is expanding its western front, Brendan Perring heads up to the line and investigates

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Steve Cropper, managing director of the Gemini Group, is heading up an expansion across the West Country

One of the UK’s biggest print success stories is set to write another chapter in its gutsy history after revealing it has just installed a Kodak Nexpress 2500 digital printing press in order to facilitate a market share expansion in the West Country.

“I have been managing director of Gemini Group for the last four years, and in that time we have had to pull ourselves through quite a bit to get to where we are today,” says Steve Cropper, managing director of the Gemini Group. 

He continues: “The company has gone through quite an evolution over the years and it sees us now with production arms in Shoreham-by-sea and Bristol that, with this investment of a further Nexpress, both run litho and digital print technology.”

Gemini Group also covers offices in London and Brighton, with its Bristol operation known as Gemini West. The Shoreham operation alone has seen an investment of £4.5m over the last four years, while Bristol’s plant has likewise seen substantial money poured into bringing right up to date.

In order to be a successful print operation today you have to be lean, responsive and flexible in your approach

Cropper continues: “In order to be a successful print operation today you have to be lean, responsive and flexible in your approach. The solution to this challenge is automation and running a hybrid production system that can move between litho and digital production through the use of sophisticated software that acts as a bridge between our operations and output capabilities.”

Indeed, Gemini has updated its stitching line at Shoreham by investing in Muller Martini equipment, four Heidelberg digital folders, an advanced pre-press system with Prinergy software from Kodak, two Magnus Kodak platesetters, a Heidelberg Speedmaster 75 and XL 106, and full ISO colour accreditation. 

The Kodak Nexpress 2500 can print in five-colours at a top speed of 5,000 A4 
sheets per hour

On the digital front it already runs a Kodak Nexpress SX 3300 long-sheet, Digimaster, and a Nexpress NX 2100—seeing the turnover generated by these machines go from £30,000 a month to £150,000 in recent times. Gemini West has likewise had its pre-press upgraded, a new Heidelberg Speedmaster SX 74, Muller Martini stiching line, and now the new Kodak Nexpress 2500. This latest investment is capable of five-colour printing and can pump out 5,000 A4 sheets per hour.

Cropper continues: “We simply had to reinvent what we were doing and get slicker, tighter, and far more flexible. There is no choice in this day and age. It is still a work in progress though, we put some very big numbers through here in October and we were very surprised how far we had gone on from even 18 months ago.

“I am a big Kodak fan and like what they do. You could argue the HP Indigo is the top of the range, but the results from the Nexpress looks very, very good. Even when printing digital first and litho afterwards there is not a lot of difference between the two. We are also expecting a very quick return on investment on this new 2500 press and will have it working to full capacity within six months as we expand our market share in the West Country. It all depends how hard you push it and we will push it very hard.”

A key element to its success though I think is its Prinergy software, as it is the glue that binds together its technology and automates its processes right down to whether it is digital or litho a job is run on

Gemini West is a pivotal part of the growth prospects of the Gemini Group and is run by managing director Rob Page, and director’s Bob Sydenham and Lawrence Flavell. The firm’s Kodak account manager, Richard Kidd, is certainly complimentary of its outlook: “They are a very forward-looking company, and with this latest digital investment into its Bristol plant they can really cover all bases now. 

“A key element to its success though I think is its Prinergy software, as it is the glue that binds together its technology and automates its processes right down to whether it is digital or litho a job is run on.  They are a good example of a very big litho customer that have put in digital machines and transitioned successfully into a hybrid workflow.” 


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