Stephens & George to invest £4 million in technology from Heidelberg

Sixth Stahlfolder TH 82-P adds to the folding machine park

At the end of 2020 Stephens & George will commission a peak performance press Speedmaster XL 106-8-P with an inline sheet sheeter CutStar Gen 4. Photo Heidelberg

Stephens & George has come back from the pandemic stronger than ever, investing £4 million in technology and innovative solutions by Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg). The new order comprises a Stahlfolder TH 82P automated Stahlfolder and a new P-Stacker. This is their sixth TH 82P automated Stahlfolder. The investment also includes a new Speedmaster XL 106-8P with Generation 4 CutStar, which replaces an existing XL106-8P with Generation 3 CutStar. As reported in March 2021, the new Generation 4 CutStar will offer further benefits. The new press is due to be installed towards the end of December 2022, after which the oldest press at Stephens & George will be just over two years old. Since 2018, Stephens & George have invested in five presses that all use full ‘push to stop’ technology – including three long perfectors with CutStar.

P-Stacker ensures production stability at a high level

During a consultation with Heidelberg, the company observed that productivity in their bindery tended to drop during a 12-hour shift. Therefore, they invested in robotics to standardize their processes and maintain the same level of productivity through the shift. Automation is the cornerstone of their bindery today.

Since the pandemic, Stephens & George has been heavily investing in robotics and automation and is now confident about the use of robotics in their bindery. “We now have four P-Stackers and six Stahlfolder TH 82-P automated folders,” says Andrew Jones, chairman and managing director of the company based in Merthyr Tydfil, “and we’re one of the first printing houses in Europe to have six of them! We firmly believe that automation in general, and specifically these folders, is the way forward for industrial printing and finishing production.”

Stahlfolder TH 82-P keeps pace with Heidelberg peak performance presses

Stephens & George is one of the first printers in Europe to operate a total of six Stahlfolder TH 82-P folders.
Photo Heidelberg

Stephens & George has invested in many generations of Stahlfolder, ranging from the 66 and 78 formats through to the 82 formats and now onto the range-topping fully automated TH 82-P format. They have been impressed by the reliability and build quality of all the variants.

I’ve been consistently impressed by the user-friendly interface and great customer and service support of Heidelberg. The TH-82 P folders have enabled us to stay right up behind our fleet of XL 106 push-to-stop presses. The Stahlfolder TH 82-P coupled with the Stahl P-Stacker has been a real industry game-changer. We are so confident about the ROI of this latest technology that we have invested in four Stahl P-Stackers. The folding team has bought into this innovative tech as it enables them to work smarter and they are less fatigued at the end of their shift. This latest investment is testament to our confidence in Heidelberg’s overall suite of solutions,” says Marcus J Partridge, group director of Postpress at Stephens & George.

Repeatedly chosen for ‘best technology from Heidelberg’

The company expects to become even more efficient and productive thanks to the new technology, further increasing its OEE stats. It’s all about obtaining maximum efficiency and productivity during each working shift with quality standards that everyone aspires to. “Our team of highly skilled drivers relish the challenge and continue to set new targets and goals. Effective teamwork with key suppliers is paramount to our ongoing success story and we will continue to produce the very best products for our customers,” affirms Paul Enoch, manufacturing director at Stephens & George.

Stephens & George is one of many long-term Heidelberg clients, consistently opting for Heidelberg technology after comprehensive competitor analysis. “We believe that Heidelberg equipment is the best in the marketplace,” says Andrew Jones, “and we will always make use latest technology of Heidelberg.”

We’ve worked closely with Stephens & George for decades,” says Ryan Miles, managing director, Heidelberg UK, “and we’re proud of the longevity of this and so many other of our customer relationships. Our target is to deliver consistently high levels of satisfaction,” Heidelberg is delighted to continue to be the partner of choice for Stephens and George, and Ryan says that the relationship is as strong as it could possibly be. “In the years to come, as well, we look forward to offering Stephens & George the support and consultation they need to make the best possible decisions for their business.”

Stephens & George operates a 24×7 production service and attributes 56% of its work to magazines, 34% to commercial contracts and 10% to other one-off jobs. Within their purpose-built facility they offer printing, folding, saddle stitching, perfect and PUR binding, mailing and operate their own fleet of delivery vehicles.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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