Browns Print buys hi-spec press from Brazil

Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106

Browns Print has made a pivotal investment in a highly specified Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 that has come all the way from Brazil during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 2018 ‘Push to Stop’ five-colour XL 106 has a very low impression count of just 3.5m impressions. The 18,000sph press was sourced by White Horse Machinery with the first container arriving at Browns Print’s Manchester facility today (13 August).

The £1.6m investment, which includes around £150,000 to convert the press from LED UV back to conventional printing with IR driers, was majority funded through a CBILS loan arranged via Compass Business Finance and Close Brothers.

Browns Print managing director Danny Baldwin said the press would bring additional efficiencies to the business.

“We are taking an XL 75 five-colour out, and the XL 106 will go on that bed. While it’s being commissioned we will keep our XL 105 going, but that will then go out as well.

“Then we will have our 10-colour XL 75, which is a phenomenal machine doing 1m-plus impressions a week, alongside the new XL 106. We will have the same capacity on two presses as we would have done on three,” he explained.

The XL 75 is unusual in running with a CutStar reel feeder, while the new XL 106 will be retro-fitted with the CutStar from the old 105.

Baldwin said the additional costs of ink for LED-UV “did not stack up” for Browns, which produces a lots of sectional work and is currently producing millions of single-use paper menus, hence the conversion.

White Horse Machinery also supplied the firm’s XL 75 and XL 105, and sales director David Watson said the latest investment was testament to the “fantastic relationship” between the two companies.

“Obviously Browns couldn’t go to see the machine. We employed Heidelberg in Brazil to run test prints and assess it, and they also videoed the dismantling and loading process,” he stated.

“They are investing in cutting-edge technology without having to buy new. We’re proud to be associated with Browns Print and long may that continue.”

Browns CTP and Boss Direct merged at the beginning of last year to form Browns Print.

Chairman Tim Guest said the firm had shut down at the end of March because of the Covid-19 situation, re-opening from 4 May with a reduced team.

“We initially gained £700,000 in CBILS funding via Lloyds that enabled us to reopen the factory,” he explained.

“It might seem crazy to buy a £1.6m press during a pandemic, but CBILS is also providing funding for expansion. Before this happened we were really motoring.

“Compass helped us deal with Funding Circle and Close Brothers on the press investment.”

Guest said that if things had been different, the firm would have been looking at presses at Drupa. 

Last year the company had sales of £9.4m and made “a healthy net profit”.

He said that sales had recovered to around 75% of prior levels and he hoped that sales would end up being around 10% lower. The firm has also rebranded with a new logo (below).

Compass director David Bunker said he had a relationship with Browns stretching back to the beginning of his career in finance.

“It’s really exciting – Tim sees opportunities in the business and has really been able to address the Covid situation. They’ve got an amazing team,” he said.

“A lot of work went into the structure and the timing, working with White Horse Machinery who’ve been first-class in their approach to the deal and the customer’s needs. Nick Aust and his team at Close have been brilliant and that showed the value of our strategic alliance with Close.”

Browns Print employed 77 staff pre-Covid, and still has around 15 workers on the furlough scheme. It is consulting on a small number of redundancies due to the revamp and current order levels. 

The new press is expected to be commissioned next month. It is being installed by Quatro Tech.