04 August 2017 Business

Route 1: Driving growth of online in the UK

Two friends from their school days have established Route 1 as one of the fastest growing print businesses in the UK thanks to online commerce.

Route 1 is the success story of online printing in the UK. It has grown rapidly from early days above a garage in Newcastle where Adam Carnell and James Kinsella printed, finished and packed business cards and trim only products.

That evolved into business to consumer site Instantprint, joined now in a new factory in Rotherham by Route 1, the trade print service that offers litho, digital and large format products.

It has both B1 and B2 litho printing, flatbed large format inkjet and an HP Indigo 10000 B2 digital press linked to the UK’s first Horizon SmartStacker. A year ago it installed a Heidelberg Cylinder for cutting and creasing as a first step into added value products.

This year it has installed a Fujifilm Jetpress 720, Rollem Jet finisher for cutting and slicing business cards into neat stacks after extra embellishment on a Scodix or an Autobond laminator.

The company has continued to work on ways to make production more efficient, making changes even though it moved into the vast factory space little more that a year ago. The appointment of efficiency expert James Quinn 18 months ago. He has since become a director of the business.

“He has driven through a lot of changes, adjusting the factory layout to reduce throughput times,” says Carnell. “It means we can cut turnaround times.”

Turnaround times have become an important battleground for online print in this country, and one that favours UK suppliers over their German counterparts. “This is something that customers have been pushing for,” says Carnell. “German companies have had to focus on price.”

They are also pushing for more sophisticated products. This comes in two ways: simple standardised products that undergo an additional production process, say foiling, spot varnish or lamination to increase the margin for the printer.

Second, multi-page products are growing in popularity he adds. “A booklet is significantly more complicated than a business card to make sure that the quality is right, checking colour across spreads for example.

“It represents a higher order value and that requires trust which in turn drives confidence to specify complex products. This in turn demands a higher level of technical support. People don’t just ask simple questions. They want to understand the embellishments that are possible on a job. It is a higher level of service which demand a heavier management resource.”

The task is to standardise production as much as possible to keep costs under control and then add a further process on top to create the sought after added value.

“This brings a new level of complexity to producing business cards,” says Carnell. “It has changed our business.”

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Rotherham plant

Rotherham plant

Route 1 is the trade print arm of Bluetree which targets the small business user though Instantprint and print management though Connect, a new service for volume customers. The company has been one of the fastest UK companies and is exploiting automation to keep control of the business as it expands.

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