Forward thinking positivity, great vibes, a can-do attitude and energy by the bucketload are the first sentiments that come to mind upon arrival at the head office of Revolution Print in the regional Victorian city of Ballarat.
Is it the zest and enthusiasm of co-owners Leon Wilson and John Schreenan? Is it the graffiti wall art signalling quite rightly a ‘new game’?
Or could it be the imposing presence of a mighty maroon vinyl wrapped Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1, with all 10 tonnes of it taking pride of place in its very own purpose-built, temperature-controlled room unmissable in the sleek production space behind beyond the main office?
With all that considered it is no surprise this forward-thinking business is making waves.
Clearly backing their confidence in themselves and the print industry generally, Revolution Print’s owners invested well over $3 million on new equipment in 2018 alone and became the first company in Australia to marry the KM-1 with an MGI JETvarnish 3DS embellisher in the process.
This shopping list, in both physical and financial size, and the expansion of the business into Goulburn (NSW) and Echuca (VIC) also illustrates the self-belief these two business owners have plus their faith in the industry as a whole, despite it considered by some, at times, to have a cloudy future.
But there are no clouds hovering over Revolution Print.
Revolution Print’s purpose-built head office in Ballarat, Victoria
Wilson, 33, with an innate ability to think technically and just make things work has transformed the company’s online ordering system meaning jobs come in from across Australia and go out again in a seamless workflow operation.
He’s continuing to settle the MGI into its new home – in a room next door to the KM-1 and funnily enough his former office – but Wilson is confident once the “smarts” behind it are up and running and the market has been “educated” about the touchy-feely embellishments and attention grabbing foiling it can print at the right price, it will be a match made in heaven.
“If you’ve got the smarts behind it you can make this machine absolutely sing,” Wilson tells ProPrint.
“Print IQ is our quoting and production system but I developed all the hot folders through Xerox Free Flow Core so I can drop and drag.
“It’s simple but you have to spend the time and the investment to set it up right.”
Wilson says luxury foiling is just one of the options available on the MGI JETvarnish 3DS
Wilson is confident the investment will pay off as newer technology brings new opportunities and other benefits like ease of training staff.
“With the quality of the gear we think it will last at least 10 years but it will pay off instantly because of the quality, reliability and speed and of course because it’s newer technology it’s easier to train staff on as well so there are so many benefits with upgrading the equipment.
“As much as there is a financial cost there are hidden savings everywhere.”
For Schreenan the investment, which also includes a complete upgrade of Revolution’s finishing equipment with a full range of Horizon products supplied through Currie Group, is well worth it with the KM-1 dramatically changing the notion of what is possible by allowing clients to tap into the luxury end of the market without the associated price tag.
“The cost is not as big a premium as it used to be which is again part of that ‘extreme digital’ vernacular,” Schreenan tells ProPrint, adding that advertising agencies are loving it as the KM-1 can deliver the same effect as offset on an uncoated stock without having to increase the run quantity and invest in plates.
“It’s being able to create that luxury experience without the price of all the set ups and at lower runs.
“There is no one we’ve done jobs for that haven’t loved it. They are some of our existing clients, mostly word of mouth, used to be around this area but nowadays it’s 30-40 per cent coming from here and the rest from Melbourne, and the region.”
While extreme digital is lived and breathed at Revolution, the company is certainly continuing to hold onto its offset roots which date back to when it was founded early in the 1900s by Schreenan’s family.
A seven-year-old beautifully maintained five-colour Shinohara offset press continues to earn its keep although the split since bringing the KM-1 onboard has tipped from half and half to 75-25 digital versus offset.
Once the pair decided to partner up and Wilson put his money where his mouth was and took a 50 per cent share in the business, they then turned to the tough decision of upgrading their production kit.
After much considered research the decision was made to go with the KM-1 primarily because it is a hybrid offset and inkjet digital press featuring Konica Minolta’s quality print heads and Komori’s precise offset paper registration.
“The cool thing is because it is a relationship between an offset company and a digital company with Komori and Konica Minolta, the paper path is Komori, so offset registration which means registration is always perfect,” Wilson said.
“The big thing about this and what is changing the game is the way the paper goes in and the way the paper goes out is offset and was built by Komori.
“It is very simple inside. Offset has always been deemed as super reliable and we can run this for 60 hours straight which you could never do on digital presses before. We just wheel in pallets of paper.
“So what we could do is get this sheet and put it back through the machine and do a double triple quadruple layer of black over the top and it will hit the exact same spots as it did the last time because the registration is perfect so you are not getting skew or anything like that. The largest sheet size we can run on it is 750x585mm so it’s a cross between A2 and A1 so you can do a bigger sheet than A2 on it.”
Wilson displays the variable data capabilities of the KM-1 and the MGI combined
Wilson also loves that you can run any stock through the KM-1 and it will respect it.
“On a satin you will get a satin finish, on an uncoated you will get the exact finish that everybody wants from an uncoated look where previously you could never get that effect without offset, dinted stock as well so it just sinks in absolutely perfectly,” he said.
The pair knew they would need to upgrade their finishing gear to avoid production bottle necks but thought they could put it off for a year or so, but this was not to be.
“Our plan was to upgrade all of our finishing gear in a couple of years, but due to the fact that we did become a lot busier with new work plus existing work we ended up upgrading in the last quarter of 2018,” Wilson said.
With all this equipment on board Revolution has huge capacity. Currently it runs from 7am to midnight five days a week but testing is underway to go to a 24 hour a day, five day a week operation.
“We are running from 7am to midnight five days a week at the moment but we are testing the waters of going 24-5 and it won’t be long before we are running that,” Wilson said, adding he’s installed monitoring cameras inside the KM-1 that link to an app on his phone so he can monitor the press even if he’s offsite.
“The machine doesn’t slow down for different stocks. It’s 3000 prints an hour no matter what stock or size you are running.”
When asked about the industry more broadly, Wilson’s openness and philosophy of sharing information and equipment shines through.
He doesn’t believe in sales people, but rather account managers are charged with educating brand owners about the possibilities that await.
Press checks are in the same boat – old school – and basically never happen anymore.
“The business is growing and we are continuing to put everything back in through the equipment, the marketing and products that we are about to invest in and put out there to really capture the attention and educate the market about what is possible in print,” Wilson said.
“So we don’t sell, we educate, selling is old school.
“We don’t have sales guys, it is all about education because there is a massive technology shift and generational shift in print now.
“Without education no one is going to understand what this equipment can now do and how it benefits and the price point it can be sold at.
“It’s just stuff you previously wouldn’t consider doing because the technology may be there but hasn’t allowed you due to the restraints or quality or cost or wastage.”
Likewise Wilson views competition between printers as something that should be left in the annals of history.
“I’m trying to beat down the walls,” he said.
“I don’t like the word competition anymore, it is more about relationships and collaborations that can happen rather than competition and fighting against each other,” he said.
This keenness to work together and build relationships with others was witnessed first hand at the Holmesglen Institute in Melbourne where Konica Minolta conducted a demonstration of its AccurioLabel 190. After watching the demo and hearing from a variety of speakers, Wilson hung about keenly watching the mechanics of the machine and filming the production process on his phone.
But it did not take long for Schreenan to duck off for a coffee with another printer apparently to discuss possible partnering opportunities.
All of this points to the view that the future in business is about openness, collaboration and growing stronger together as an industry, sharing equipment and reaching out for help when needed.
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