To get to Adare Ltd you leave the motorway and drive past Yorkshire’s Sculpture Park and between then between lush Yorkshire hills to Clayton West, a village just a few miles from Huddersfield, formed by the indsutrial revolution and seemingly untroubled by the internet revolution.
The factory is at the base of the hill, the site of a former mill on the river Dearne and seems as solid and permanent as the hills around it. Inside the plant there are five Muller Martini reelfed litho presses representing a technology that was the mainstay of the business for many years, dating back to the days when this business was Waddington Business Forms.
Today while ink on paper remains crucial Adare Ltd is at the forefront of the transition of print into communications. Litho has been joined by digital printing warehouse for fulfilment, prepress, data handling and especially mailing on site. Initially digital was for overprinting with mono only but now following a large investment with Ricoh, it delivers both overprinting and white paper printing on Ricoh InfoPrint 5000 inkjet presses. These are combined with digital messaging, SMS or email, to provide activity triggered and targeted communications between retailers, government or financial businesses and their customers.
This is what Adare calls Essential Communications Solutions, a combination of transactional, direct mail and transpromo printing and electronic messaging alongside print. It is the company says a solution “which supports legal compliance, regulatory adhesion and data driven, fully variable messaging” and has been adopted across Adare’s customer base.
This, however, is to make what goes on in the business seem rather more straightforward than it really is.
Managing director of the £50 million business is Barry Crich. He joined Adare Ltd 17 years ago and has been managing director for the last 12. The decisions which have put the business where it is now started in 2011 with the installation of the first Ricoh 5000 and a full suite of GMC applications. This investment has enabled the transition from a print business to a true communications company.
“That was the core investment that we made three years ago,” Crich says. “The whole document platform is GMC; everything runs through that and is the investment that enables us to offer the solutions that we offer. We are not a printer. GMC is fundamental to what we do. It takes customer data and directs it to anywhere we want it, either to paper or to a glass screen. Where previously we had used a spread of technologies, now it is all handled by the GMC engine.”
In the last year or so, it has grown the document scanning side of the operation, scanning in forms for storage, archive and retrieval purposes. These are immediately available to clients so that a call centre operator can call to his or her screen the digital version of a form that an end customer has filled in.
Print though is essential to the business. Almost all is mailed out, the company having earned the right to have its own franking mark, pre sorting mail before it reaches the Royal Mail. This produces a big discount, appropriate to a business mailing 1 million items a day, though this is less than 60% of its total capacity. The excess is necessary because SLA agreements it has with customers set tight response times. It simply cannot let these slip because it is busy and cannot contemplate outsourcing this element of the business. Hence the system must have the capacity to take up the strain.
A retailer will send a daily data stream of customer purchases arriving at the factory by 2am in the morning. Adare will have these printed and in the post that evening so that the consumer will have the printed invoice and details about his purchase or financial commitment within 48 hours.
That pack will contain the personal details about that transaction, but may also include further inserts and printed sheets, again dependent on the type of deal. Adare keeps stock of such standard items in a 7,500 position warehouse, supplying them to the eight transactional enclosing lines or the four lines that are dedicated to direct mail print.
The enclosing systems, provided by CMC, naturally include variable inserting and full camera verification. Five will operate from preprinted reels, three are sheet only machines taking variable content from the Xerox cut sheet presses. It has there Nuveras for mono work and two iGen3s. “We need to make sure that we have a good match between the iGen quality and the Ricohs,” Crich explains. “And with the mailing, we know that everything is sorted before it gets in the mail.” A high speed sorting line flies through the process of consolidating the different jobs into the postcode order that creates the discounts that Adare’s customers are looking for. A smaller business can thus share the cost benefits that large volume mailers enjoy.
As befits a business of its size, Adare plays a big role in its community, both locally where it has been recruiting youngsters into the business during the recession, and in the transactional print world. It supports the Keep Me Posted campaign (www.keepmeposteduk.com), which like Two Sides, keeps the pressure on institutions that might otherwise switch entirely to digital communications to continue to use print. Crich points out that not everyone in the UK is connected to the internet and there are population groups, the elderly for example, that prefer a printed statement.
There is a strong ethos of developing its own people, whether from the village or further afield. In all the company employs 270 and thanks to expansion into scanning and growth elsewhere, has been increasing staff numbers. There is signage to underline the team work ethos around the factory and to emphasis the company’s core values. Having a full set of ISO standards is essential to the business. These are not framed certificates but are treated as tools to improve the business, whether its environmental position, its business processes or its handling of secure data.
It means that one or other of these is subject to audit at all times. “The development of our people is absolutely key,” he says. “We have good people at all levels, both long standing employees and young people coming through.”
This also provides support to what he says is a strong management team. Operations director David Narey sits on a number of postal committees for Royal Mail and others and sales director Martyn Vanquerat is a member of the Ricoh European Council, which is used to help guide product development. “We know our place in the market,” says Crich. “We try to punch above our weight and I think we are pretty successful in that respect.”
If it is not the biggest player in the market, Adare is certainly not without influence. Equally it is active in researching what the market wants from it. “We want to know what the market is telling us,” he explains. And that has been about data and colour, though not exclusively so. “There are customers that are happy with mono on preprinted reels. A grey picture however is not attractive and there is strong evidence that colour will elicit a greater response than just appealing words. We have come through that learning curve.”
That began with an examination of the options available. A list of five suppliers was trimmed to two or three and then into deeper discussions before the decision to work with Ricoh was made. The process had taken a year Crich explains, but it was not time wasted as this is about a long term partnership. “We needed to know their road map,” he says, something which included visits to the Boulder headquarters for the continuous feed business.
The first IP5000 inkjet press was a success and that has led to a second line, each with two engines. There is space for a third line when the time is right. The colour inkjets are complemented by four IP4100s for overprinting, as the demand is still there. Coupled with the GMC investment, Adare is positioned for the future. “Had we not gone down the digital route in 2011 onwards, we wouldn’t be in the position we are now,” says Crich.
The future, however, is clearly about colour and digital communications. Marketing messages and images are being used, turning the transactional document into a transpromo message. “One of the barriers we have to overcome is that customers don’t have all the information about their clients. This needs data and relevant assets to drive it. However, the trend is away from mass direct mail towards targeted communications. It’s about relevancy of that communication to the recipient,” he says.
This is where the investments are taking the business. “A business like ours cannot just offer a posted paper solution. We have to have the all round offering, so we need to take advantage and offer digital communications. That might be email to drive consumers to a website, it might be sending a postal pack if an email is not opened. Some of our customers want the document as a PDF so we can offer scanning of returns to either capture the response or to keep their customer databases up to date. It’s about the one to one communication that starts with an initial transaction that builds into a relationship.”
This is why Adare says that what it offers is Essential Communications. “We are always looking at the extent of the proposition,” says Crich. “And it is getting broader as customers look for more from us. They do not want to deal with myriad different suppliers, they simply do not have the resources for that. They want to deal with one supplier that can take all the data and deliver to the mail.”
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