There’s nothing accidental about rapid rise and rise of Magnify Media from two HP Designjet 5000s in the rumpus room of a house in north-east Melbourne, billing $750,000 in its first year, to a facility in inner-city Richmond, with 50 staff and a $12 million turnover.
It’s an evolution fuelled by the smooth cooperation of its three principals – managing director John Duplock, general manager Andrew Jedynak and sales and marketing manager Linda Volpe.
“There’s no red tape, no hurdles – we sit and we plan and when we agree on the next phase in our development, we move forward with it rapidly,” says Duplock.
All that smooth planning has brought the dynamic wide-format company to the brink of its next big phase – the introduction of workflow and colour management tools in the form of a new GMG platform.
Duplock, who cut his teeth as a bench combiner at ShowAds, quickly scaled the promotional ladder there in sales and marketing roles, followed by a stint ‘up north’ in a Sydney position, and then as general manager at ShowAds Digital on St Kilda Road during the 1990s.
He grew an appetite for the budding digital side of the industry, operating Xerox DocuColor 4040s, and some early wide-format machines. It was the wide-format kit that fascinated him the most, with its potential for transforming the printing of retail displays and ushering in a technological tsunami for what was then a screen printing stronghold.
Richmond has been Magnify’s HQ since 2001, when it moved from its first home in the suburb of Eltham and took on a corner of what is now an almost 2,000m2 space.
It was large-format from the start. “I steered away from small document print-ing, as I didn’t think there was that much money in it,” says Duplock, who says the accessible location makes a big difference in time to market, both in terms of trans-port and client visits for on-site approvals.
At one point, the business was running six Designjet 5000s. “We just found a massive demand for volume. We had six machines, not because we had a lot of individual jobs, but because we had a lot of jobs that required high volumes.”
In the mid-2000s, Magnify still saw itself as a relatively small player that was handling heady volumes across its equipment, such as a bus shelter campaign involving 750 city lights with UV ink on polypropylene. It was at that point that Duplock and his colleagues realised that volume would be their forte.
A visit to Drupa 2004 introduced Duplock to the HP TurboJet. After installing one of these in 2006 to replace the half dozen 5000s, the company moved up to two shifts per day, seven days a week.
Duplock made the conscious decision to specialise in wide-format point-of-sale (POS) work and pursue jobs that were traditionally screen printed. Early on, the management team decided they would not tackle the super-wide market, such as billboards, given the sheer learning curve and overheads. “If you’d asked me two years ago who my competitors were, I would have said anyone with a TurboJet, but now it’s more screen print businesses.”
Conscious that Magnify had thrown down the gauntlet to a declining screen industry, Duplock knew he needed to produce double-sided work at the speed of the TurboJet. He wanted large-format UV inkjet but at screen volumes.
“We were telling people we were a screen printer, but we would get massive shortfalls. A client would request 500 A0s and we’d run them on the TurboJet and then they’d want 250 A0s on 400gsm double-sided, and we couldn’t run that stock on the TurboJets at the time.”
Duplock found a solution in 2009 with an HP Scitex FB7500 ultra high-speed flatbed printer. His was the first 7500 in Asia-Pacific. The install turned Magnify into a talking point, and the Richmond centre into a local wide-format showcase. A second 7500 has since been added. “The volumes we punch out with the 7500s, even I’m surprised,” says Duplock.
HP had heralded the 3,500×1,650mm-format FB7500 as the critical volume-friendly UV inkjet technology to hasten screen’s demise, and Magnify was the ideal coalface to prove these claims.
Magnify has slashed its accounts from over 900 to under 200 in the past two years. Its turnover has leaped 70% in the past 12 months, but only 12 job bags were added from the 2009-10 to 2010-11 financial years, as the company honed down its accounts.
Now there is a select array of ad agencies (three of them among Australia’s top 10). Print brokerages, including Ergo, Wellcom and Foxprint Solutions (?), are strong customers and they also open doors to other work. And then there are the direct clients. The accent has firmly been on large runs from a short client list.
A typical run would be 1,000 sheets, he says, with maximums around 4,000 impressions. Magnify’s main work is in POS – posters, magazine stands, product standees – all of them with rapid delivery cycles. Duplock says that, generally, a standee that cannot be delivered within a week is worthless these days.
Customers have been a contented lot, he reports. “Our client retention is second-to-none. It’s one of the two secrets of my success.” The other is that he runs a cheerful shop. “My staff retention has also been second-to-none.”
The full package
Duplock says Magnify now has its eyes on package printing. It has added an industrial designer to the staff and is well equipped to handle the long runs. What’s more, the press fleet can deliver what webs cannot – lightning-fast turnarounds, measured in days not weeks, to match today’s shrinking retail marketing cycles. HP figures show a tiny 1% of package print is produced digitally, so it’s the dawn of an era, says Duplock.
“That transition from analogue to digital is just happening right now. We’re in the right place at the right time. The smaller screen outfits are drifting away and the Styleprints, the Actives and the Magnifys, which have invested heavily in UV inkjet technology, are benefiting massively.”
But an increasing tendency to run jobs across various machines meant that colour management issues emerged. In January, the company’s individual Onyx RIPs were replaced by GMG’s new Production Suite, which Magnify bought through Kayell Australia. The colour platform, comprising RIPs and an integrated workflow, enables uniform colour to be produced across all of Magnify’s printers.
Magnify is the world’s first site for both the RIPs and workflow of the GMG Production Suite, which was specifically developed for large-format printing. In fact, only days after ProPrint spoke to Duplock, he flew out to wide-format trade show Fespa in Barcelona to see GMG Production Suite run through its paces in its worldwide launch.
Brett George, Magnify’s print production manager, says GMG Production Suite is the optimum solution for a company that wants all its output devices to run with colour consistency.
“It downloads and sends its files to one RIP at one location, so you know everyone is using the same settings when it goes through the RIP. The beauty of this software is that the calibration or linearisation of the file, the actual software for the RIP to process the file, is really in-depth, so all the printing devices go through an extensive process of calibrations and profiling in conjunction with the RIP.
“So, no matter where you send your file, all the machines will print very, very close to each other, in terms of colour, even when they’re using different types of UV inks and different processes,” says George.
Duplock adds: “The GMG Production Suite means that the colour management process is now train-tracked, so to speak. The guys can’t deviate from it, so shift-to-shift, colour remains uniform.”
He says an international team from GMG assisted with the installation of GMG Production Suite at Magnify, as it was the world’s first commercial site for the whole integrated product, including colour management and workflow.
“It is fully integrated into the TurboJets and our plotters at the moment. We’ve found the colour consistency is second-to-none. It’s fantastic. It’s improved print quality and it’s improved productivity through lower ink consumption.”
Duplock does not foresee the new colour platform impacting dramatically on sales, as such, but will make itself a welcome addition by improving turnaround times even further, as proofing times will fall away.
He says: “Since we’ve had it, we have reached a 90-plus percentage strike-rate for sign-offs, because it’s such an even-grounded platform. Greys are totally neutral.”
George notes that installing the GMG Colour Platform, which is rated to ISO Coated v2, involved “a big set-up at the beginning, getting those calibrations right on each machine, but once they’re right, you can throw any file at any machine and they’re basically the same. We’ve seen it on the TurboJets already.”
The only ongoing maintenance is a quick weekly check to make sure calibrations haven’t wandered.
Asked if ISO-based colour consistency is a marketable quantity to agencies and their blue-chip corporate clients, Duplock says it is, but only in a general way. “It’s more from the approach of ‘we’d like to be innovative’, and we’ve been first in the Asia-Pacific region with a lot of things we’ve done’. That sort of approach.” He says corporates are now looking at hiring colour specialists, so that colours remain consistent across multimedia campaigns, for example, magazines and retail shopfloor collateral, but it’s early days in Australia.
Brave new world
Garry Muratore, GMG’s Oceania sales manager, says Production Suite is “revolutionising” colour management in the wide-format sector. “We were so glad to work with a progressive organisation like Magnify Media as part of our global launch campaign. Production Suite is the most complete solution in the market for indoor and outdoor advertising, sign and super-wide format printing, adding new capabilities in regard to colour consistency, flexibility and economy.
“Production Suite does away with production functions taking place independently. It’s a true workflow. PDF images are received and automatically processed to a final product utilising MX-based colour management, preflight technology based on application and the utilisation of XML data to communicate with devices such as cutting tables, negating the need to process a file multiple times.”
William Kope, Kayell Australia’s manager for professional sales, graphic arts and print, says the built-in preflight engine checks files for mistakes against a pre-determined set of parameters, and allows for almost any object element to be edited or corrected. Features include high-quality soft-proofing with accurate colour on-screen, as well as white ink and varnish control across a job. The user can also easily add folds, define cut lines, and create tiles.
Kope says GMG’s Production Suite seamlessly incorporates the developer’s ColorServer colour management technology into the production workflow. This allows for optimum colour consistency across multiple devices and varying substrates, increasing productivity and efficiency. If files for the same job come with different colour spaces, GMG ColorServer converts them easily to one uniform colour standard, such as ISO Coated v2 or GRACoL.
Fulfilment strides ahead
Getting away from talk of sophisticated software and back to the tactile world of equipment, Duplock says he will be keen to see further work done by machinery manufacturers to bring fulfilment up to speed. “Printing speeds are still much better than finishing, so there are still bottlenecks.”
The company has brought a lot of its finishing in-house – forme cutting, mounting and laminating, says Duplock – but also outsources to nearby finishing house Q, located adjacent to Magnify, which it uses for some of its mounting and laminating.
Magnify has just rented a further 1,000m2 one street away to set up a forme-cutting arm, which Duplock says makes it the only digital POS house in Australia, if not the region, with its own forme-cutting.
“With forme-cutting comes fulfilment and everything else. We cut the struts for the standees, but then someone has to stick them on. That will be up and running in a few weeks.”
Based: Richmond, Melbourne
Head count: 50
Turnover: $12 million
Major kit: Four HP5500s, an FB500, an FB700, two TurboJet 8600s, and two FB 7500s
Markets: POS, projected entry into package printing
· Magnify Media started out in the living room of a house in north-east Melbourne and has grown to become a $12 million point-of-sale business
· The company was an early proponent of the burgeoning digital printing market, starting out by opting for HP Designjet machines rather than ever investing in screen-printing machinery
· Volumes runs have been a focus since the early days. Magnify installed an HP Turbojet in the 2006 to get the required increase in capacity
· The next big technology step was the installation of Asia-Pacific’s first HP Scitex FB7500, later followed by a second machine
· Magnify Media recently become the first company in the world to implement GMG Production Suite, a bevy of workflow and colour management software tools to allow efficient and accurate production across multiple output devices
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