Print Week: Rollem bolsters new print division with new kit and hires
Rollem Group, the UK-based finishing equipment manufacturer for the playing card industry, is focusing on investment and recruitment for its new print division Top Deck as business booms.
Based in Barnsley, south Yorkshire, Rollem is one of the key manufacturers of finishing machines for the playing and gaming card industries, such as Top Trumps, Pokemon, playing cards and Panini football cards.
“During lockdown we began to get phone calls from UK trade printers who needed their cards to be finished and they couldn’t or didn’t want to go to China or Europe,” explained Rollem managing director Stuart Murphy. “So, we began to use our showroom devices to do the finishing for them.
“We started to get more and more requests for finishing and then the conversation moved to printing. So, we went out to the trade to get quotes but in such a specialist area, which is what’s needed, they were really expensive with long lead times so we decided to set up our own print division,” Murphy said.
He first took on a Xerox Versant digital printer from Zerographic, around three months ago, and began to process the print jobs that were streaming in. But he quickly realised two things: they needed more room and they needed a more powerful printer.
“Our first big customer, Elanders, who do a lot of flashcards for children who are learning to read, basically dropped 20 pallets of paper on the shopfloor and we thought, ‘Oh dear, we need a bigger space’,” he said.
Murphy initially took on an extra 100sqm space but quickly followed that with a further 550sqm facility, five minutes away from Rollem’s existing 2,230sqm manufacturing facility, with one dedicated to Top Deck’s print and the other for its print finishing operations.
He conferred with Zerographic again and decided to take on a Xerox Iridesse digital device as its main printing press, around a month after the Versant, switching the latter for use as a backup device.
The Iridesse is a six-colour, inline cutsheet dry toner device that prints at 120ppm and offers inline embellishment. It can handle weights from 52-400gsm and lengths up to 1,200mm with 1,200×1,200×10-bit ripping and 2,400×2,400×1-bit imaging.
“Stuart very quickly realised that although it’s a great machine, the Versant was just too small for the workload. He looked at the Iridesse and was blown away,” said Zerographic sales executive, professional print, Andy Rabone.
“The registration of the Iridesse is really tight, which is so important for this application and also the special colours and materials that it enables. What makes it unique are the inline colours, being able to run a mixture of colours and being able to use fluorescent ink to create spot colours. The device really gives him the resilience he needs,” Rabone added.
“Our order books are full to bursting,” said Murphy. “It’s mainly work from the Far East that would normally have gone out to China but we have some big UK names we are talking to.
“They are desperately trying to bring their printing back to the UK and we only deal with FSC paper, we use no plastic and there’s minimal travel so it’s what they are looking for in terms of environmental considerations,” he added.
Once printed, the cards are sent across to the finishing division where Murphy has made a range of further investments in the last six weeks including a Matrix machine from Vivid Laminating Technologies, for foiling and laminating, a Heidelberg Foilmaster for die-cutting boxes, foiling and embossing, an Ideal guillotine and a second flatbed laser cutter from Lotus to produce prototype boxes.
Pre-pandemic, Rollem had been turning over £2m annually for some time, Murphy explained, but with the addition of Top Deck’s printing and finishing operations the group is set to pass the £4m mark this financial year.
“I can’t see that we will grow the manufacturing business further because I think it’s at its optimum level now but Top Deck is going to do really well over the next year,” stated Murphy.
The Top Deck business has taken on five employees across print and finishing with a further 12 anticipated in 2022, Murphy said. Furthermore, with order books for Rollem full until 2023, he anticipated growing the equipment manufacturing team by at least six next year.
“We went into lockdown not knowing what we were going to do and this has totally surprised us,” Murphy said. “Our order book is three times longer than it was, we’ve set up the print business, the finishing business and we’ve recruited staff. It’s absolutely great.”
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