The Netherlands is a tough print environment, and cooperative alliances are often effective in defending market share. When quality print providers Mart.Spruijt and Grafinoord merged in May last year to form Mart.Spruijt Grafinoord, one of its first decisions was to buy a KBA press. This was such a successful move that a second Rapida 106 was installed in August.
Mart.Spruijt in Amsterdam has two managing directors: Martin Key, an entrepreneur, trouble-shooter and technician, and Rob Kastelein, a passionate printer with ink instead of blood in his veins. While both men come from different backgrounds, have their own history and character, they were unanimous in their choice of KBA.
In the course of its century-old history Mart.Spruijt established a formidable reputation in the Dutch graphic arts industry for beautifully crafted, top-of-the-market books of illustrations for artists and museums. Grafinoord, which is based in Assendelft, 25km (15½ miles) north of Amsterdam, also specialises in high-quality products.
Grafinoord's presses, including two KBA Rapidas, were sold off. “While that was a big event,” says Rob Kastelein, “it was nothing compared to letting several employees go. In the eighteen years since the company was founded we'd been through thick and thin. I am more a father figure, whereas Martin studies the figures. He said 'Rob, we can't go on like this!' and he was right.”
Mart.Spruijt was also totally reorganised. When Martin Key became the new owner in 2007, the firm employed over 40 people. A few years later, extensive automation and the first new KBA Rapida 106 meant that just 15 employees were needed for the same volume of work.
Martin Key explains: “While it was by no means easy, it was different for me than for Rob. I hadn't worked with these people all my life. But even if that had been the case, you can't ignore economic principles. When a company has been a big success for so many years, which was certainly the case with Mart.Spruijt, there is a tendency to rest on one's laurels instead of staying on the ball. That can soon lead to problems.”
Cutting the knot
Martin Key took a two-pronged approach. This entailed rationalising production and investing in a KBA Rapida 106, the contract for which was signed at Drupa 2008, and seeking a prospective partner with a view to a merger. “I conducted dozens of negotiations, but persuading printers to move out of their comfort zone is no easy task.” However, Rob Kastelein of Grafinoord expressed interest in his ideas.
Rob Kastelein says: “Although I don't have Martin's head for figures, I was aware of shifts in the market. When we asked ourselves whether we should invest in a new press, I cut the knot and we both sat down at the table. Looking back, that was the right decision.”
Preference for coating
The commercial department was enlarged, the management information system enhanced and the question posed as to which press should be purchased. Rob Kastelein says: “Grafinoord was a KBA house, but that doesn't mean we opted blindly for a specific brand. I continually tested the choices I made.”
The same applies to Martin Key: “While our experience with KBA had been good, when choosing a new press we approached it with an open mind. I don't focus on any particular brand, however good it may be, but on the cost calculation. Our press crews work in shifts, so I can have every press running for twelve hours a day or sixty hours a week with no overtime. This is the level of plant utilisation I must achieve to establish a sound basis for the company.”
Production speed and job changeover times are prime criteria. “We scrutinised every press on the market. Whichever way we calculated, a second Rapida 106 was the result. Of course print quality plays a major role, but this was something KBA had sussed long ago. The enthusiasm shown by KBA importer Wifac also played a role. What is more, our press operators know KBA presses inside and out. In short, when Grafinoord joined us we made a joint decision and inked the contract. At Rob's request, this time we opted for a Rapida 106 with coater.”
The second Rapida, with its array of automation modules and quality control systems, was installed at the end of August last year. The two ErgoTronic consoles are particularly noticeable. One stands with its back to the press, the other (in mirror image) at sheet delivery. Rob Kastelein says: “It looks good but is primarily a practical solution.”
Mart.Spruijt Grafinoord boasts a full complement of certificates. “If you want to earn money you have to have your production process totally under control. There must be no weak links in the chain. We have always been printers of quality, and we are out to maintain our standing while streamlining production processes. Our KBA presses fit our plans perfectly.”