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U.K. Print Industry Leader Invests in the Future

Friday, April 14, 2006

Press release from the issuing company

“If you stand still you sink.” That is the philosophy adopted by the Howard Hunt Group, according to its Commercial Director Colin Shaylor. A look at the company’s history of exceptional growth since its conception in 1990 is testament to its commitment to this philosophy. Investment in technology and expansion has been the Howard Hunt Group’s primary method of putting this doctrine into practice. The company, with high profile clients such as BT, British Gas, Oxfam, Norwich Union and Vodafone, took its most radical step in 1998 when it finally outgrew its original site on London’s Old Kent Road and relocated to three large units in Dartford, Kent. As Mr. Shaylor testifies, “We are never shy of changing or going forward. We constantly look to the future to see where the next trend is coming from. Sometimes this means taking risks, but our experience as a pioneering company has taught us that risks move things forward.” Significant developments in the company’s history have included the purchase of three Mitsubishi 16-page presses. The latest of these, a Diamond Max, was installed at the end of 2004 and came equipped with the QuadTech Color Control System with Instrument Flight on ICON. For this press, the Howard Hunt Group concentrated on specifying a level of automation and presetting so that it would specialize in short-run production. Mr. Shaylor explains; “As our run lengths vary and can be as short as 7,000/8,000, it’s important to get good copy very quickly. Therefore, we felt that an automatic closed loop color control system was essential. We were particularly impressed by the speed at which QuadTech’s Color Control System achieves target densities and how the Instrument Flight feature allowed rapid and predictable color adjustment on-press if the job required it. Many of our jobs include one or two special colors in addition to, or instead of, the normal four-color set. Coverage is variable so a flexible and sensitive system was one of our prerequisites. “We also do a lot of reruns. CIP3 helps us set up the job exactly as before, and ICON ensures we get things into play quickly. We have been so pleased by the way the QuadTech equipment has performed that we are seriously considering retrofitting our existing presses with Color Control Systems.” The Complete Package The investment in technology forms the basis of the Howard Hunt Group’s evolution from an ossified “color on paper” printer to the one-stop shop it is today. Mr. Shaylor comments, “We wouldn’t be where we are today without adopting technology. We can now offer a complete package from data management to print and direct mail. When a customer comes to us, we can see through the entire process from start to finish. Nothing is beyond our scope anymore, and our flexibility has increased the services we can offer our customers, as well as attracting new clients.” Indeed, a vigorous commitment to customer satisfaction is what keeps clients returning to the Howard Hunt Group. Mr. Shaylor confirms, “Our policy is to never let anyone down. We are not in this for awards. People appreciate our service because we are down-to-earth, trustworthy and honest. Above all, we deliver a quality product. As technology pushes things forward, improving the level of quality that can be attained, we ensure that we keep up to date. That is why we invested in the Color Control Systems as well as the QuadTech Ribbon Control System with MultiCam and the QuadTech RGS V.” Keeping it in the family The inveterate “family” ethos at the Howard Hunt Group is at the core of the company’s strength and plays a major role in its success. Even though many of the staff at board level are related, it is apparent to any observer who spends time at the company that “you don’t have to be family to be in the family.” This is one characteristic of the business of which Mr. Shaylor is particularly proud; “There is no ‘them and us’ culture here. This is a friendly, fun company to work for, where anyone feels at ease talking to anyone, from the directors to the youngsters learning the trade on the shop floor.” At the Howard Hunt Group, the importance of the youngsters who will form the next generation of print professionals is not underestimated. As Mr. Shaylor testifies, “It is the young people who bring in the fresh ideas, and we love that. That is why we see investing in the future as not just being about buying new equipment, but training the people who will form the backbone of this industry for decades to come.” Training for the future “Key to any company’s success is the team who works with you”, says Mr. Shaylor, “We believe that employing good individuals is paramount, and we are extremely selective. Once we have these people onboard, we look to keep them in the company through training and subsequent promotion.” Mr. Shaylor recognizes that as the printing industry changes, so does the range of skills that are required of his workforce. Again, training is essential: “Nowadays, our jobs typically consist of much shorter runs, so we need to be highly automated to succeed. The marketplace is so price driven, that to keep winning business we need the cost saving devices, such as the Color Control Systems on our presses. Even though this means that the machines are taking over some of the jobs, we still need to have skilled press operators to use the new equipment. Besides, if you understand the technology, you can let it do the work, allowing the operators to get on with other things. The people on the shop floor understand this and see the training as a chance to enhance their working life and skills, and keep them at the forefront of their industry. They are continuously learning how to use equipment such as the Color Control System to maximum effect.” Mr. Shaylor’s view is backed up from the shop floor. Press Operator Tony Trusst comments, “The Color Control System is a perfect product. I have the confidence in the equipment to be able to mind other areas of the press and get exactly what I’ve programmed in.” Mr. Shaylor believes that the introduction of the QuadTech equipment to the Howard Hunt Group has brought more to the company than simply quality control and waste reduction. He concludes, “The investment in the QuadTech auxiliaries has actually lifted staff morale as they see money being invested in the latest equipment and technology. Moreover, it gives operators the opportunity to develop their trade and to make products that are both successful and creative.”




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