The EFI FabriVU 340.
There’s nothing this company can’t do for its clients, and its latest equipment installation from CMYUK has pushed its services into the stratosphere
For the last 20 years the ethos at Watford-based Rocket Graphics has been to turn £50k accounts into £100k ones, £100k into £200k. You get the picture. Alongside this drive to deeply serve its client base has been a strategy of considered investment in technology, which means that whatever its customers want, Rocket can deliver.
Founded in 1998 by Tim Porter and joined very shortly afterwards by Oliver Bridgeman (both of whom are still at the company), this digital, wide-format, print stalwart specialises in lifestyle/experiential services i.e. brand implementation for events, venues, interiors, retail and exhibitions. This has been its market focus since inception, and continues to be so now and in the foreseeable future.
The company prides itself with an established reputation for quality and reliability with an almost forensic approach to its hardware. At the end of every shift for example, all printers are cleaned and purged to ensure highest possible colour fidelity. This is no commodity print shop, but a business based on added value and customer partnerships.
“We have a reputation for delivering on time and not letting anyone down, so we've stuck to our core business,” says Sales Director, Antony Rider.
The next level
In 2012, the company underwent a step-change. At this point it was turning over approximately £2.6m a year and outsourcing a significant amount of work. DavId Wicks ex Finance Director from Service Graphics came on board in the same role, and bought in Rider (ex Service Graphics for 19 years) as Sales Director 6 months later. The company moved to the location of its current premises but residing in a single unit of approximately 5,000 sq ft.
Now Rocket Graphics occupies three units totalling nearly 20, 000 sq ft, a staff of 52 and a turnover of £8m. Significantly all services are now done in-house including a dedicated installation team.
Rocket Graphics has enjoyed a long and close relationship with CMYUK, which has kitted out the company with the vast majority of its wide format print equipment over the years.
In the last 16 months alone CMYUK has supplied Rocket Graphics with an EFI VUTEk LX3 that replaced older EFI VUTEk machines, 2 x Mimaki UCJV300-160 UV, roll-to-roll printer/cutters, a FabriVu 340 3.4m dye sublimation printer, a Kiliverik Calendar press and 2 x Graphtec FC8600/160 vinyl cutters in a £700, 000 investment.
Rocket now has the ability to output totally consistent, superior colour quality across all its machines up to 3m wide. “You could argue,” says Rider, “that extends to the 5m as well, although there’s a slight drop off at that size with dot gain.”
CMYUK is a vital part of Rocket’s eco–system and represents a dynamic of trust. “A print partner that understands what we’re all about and ensures we buy the right machines in the first place,” says Rider.
That said, the company is eyes wide open to all the latest technological offerings and market intelligence, making sure that it gets best–fit machines for the jobs in hand.
The shared history and the understanding that CMYUK has of Rocket’s business has been highly valuable. “CMYUK has always given us good advice,” says Rider. “We’ve never gone out and bought a bit of kit for the sake of it, everything is considered.”
This supplier relationship has meant significant deals on inks and materials, as well as equipment trade-ins, and of course, when machines occasionally break down, CMYUK offers a good, fast service base from which to repair them.
As a long-standing user of EFI VUTEK and Mimaki printers, Rocket has experienced the technological improvements that each generation of machine brings.
Says Rider: “Investing in VUTEk printers gives us colour consistency across the board, which is something we need especially when, with some jobs, we’re outputting 800 items on different materials, and all the colours have to be the same.”
With daily print schedules that are often interrupted by urgent, last minute jobs, Rocket requires machines with minimal print lead times and are blisteringly quick. EFI VUTEk machines tick all the boxes. The latest EFI VUTEk LX3 for example, will print a job in 6 hours, which on its older forerunner would have taken 15. This performance leap has allowed the company to ramp up its productivity significantly.
“They deliver the colour and the speeds we want at the quality we need, ” he says.
Machine versatility is also an imperative. “We’re printing onto G-Floor, different substrates, different vinyls, removable and conformable car wraps and our range of media is ever growing. We need versatile machines that can print and cope with new products as well as a piece of plywood. Invariably a typical day will encompass a whole range of materials that we’re printing on to get a whole range of projects out,” says Rider.
The company has always used Mimaki printers – precursors to its wider machines. “They are part of the armoury and we can get an amazing amount through them with the numbers we’ve got,” says Rider.
The soft spot
Rocket’s latest installation has been the EFI VUTEk FabriVU 340 digital, fabric printer along with a Klieverik 3200mm calendar press.
This machine replaced an old MTEX inline sublimation printer bought 5 years ago through another supplier. It’s purchase, admits Rider was a mistake. It was colour inconsistent and stretched materials that caused issues when stitching during the finishing process. “It was badly supported,” says Rider. “Purchasing the FabriVu was a no-brainer. It’s a lot more reliable, and is opening up new areas for us.”
The FabriVu has needed to hit the ground running – which it has – as Rocket is experiencing growth in the retail sector, just recently winning the account for ubiquitous UK high street chain River Island.
Rocket has increased its stitching capacity with two new sewing machines. This capability, along with automatic cutting tables has enabled Rocket to unlock new market opportunities such as the 3,000 seat covers that were printed, profile cut and stitched for The Cricket World Cup.
“We can do 200, 300, 400, 800 TMS (total media solutions) very quickly, get them stitched, finished, folded and out the door,” says Rider.
The purchase of the FabriVu reflects wider market trends. For example, Rocket Graphics now only prints 30% rigid board, with the rest of its work output to skins and fabrics. It has already migrated 20% of its work to this digital textile printer. It’s already opening up additional retail work, which within the next 2 years is expected to net £200, 000 worth of business.
As far as the future is concerned, Rocket Graphics is set to do more of the same –– continuing to meet the evolving needs of its existing clients, whilst also attracting new clients from the same sector. Maximising its arsenal of equipment is central to this growth vision as is the continual drive to deliver on quality. Says Rider: “We’re not a commodity supplier that’s not to say we aren’t competitive, but people use us because we add value, and that’s where we sit in the market.”