Fidelity Solutions and their Xerox 770 Digital Colour Press

Fidelity Solutions, based in Ampthill, Bedfordshire installed a Xerox 770 Digital Colour Press from First Copy at the end of 2011. Here we see how the Xerox 770 Digital Colour Press is helping co-owners Louise and Simon Hodge to challenge the market and why they chose the digital press.

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Me & my... Xerox 770 Digital Color Press, By Jon Severs, Friday 27 April 2012

Louise Hodge and her husband Simon, co-owners of self-styled 'single-source marketing agency' Fidelity Solutions, are in a fortunate position. While printers across the country are rushing out to buy in design skills to increase margins with some added-value service, the Hodges have the advantage of coming from a design background to begin with, so the skills are already in place.

Louise Hodge and her husband Simon, co-owners of self-styled ‘single-source marketing agency’ Fidelity Solutions, are in a fortunate position. While printers across the country are rushing out to buy in design skills to increase margins with some added-value service, the Hodges have the advantage of coming from a design background to begin with, so the skills are already in place.

"We set up in 2001 and offered design and website design for SMEs," says Hodge, who is managing director at the company, while Simon is operations director (her mother and sister also work at the company making it very much a family business). "It wasn’t until 2005 that we added the print capability. We decided to add digital printing and invested in a Xerox 5252 and then very quickly upgraded to a Xerox DocuColor 6060."

The company serves SMEs, print management companies and corporate clients, while also providing a trade service to design and marketing agencies and printers. It aims to provide high-quality, colour accurate digital print and so only uses top-end Xerox papers because "it really does give a superior finish that no other digital paper has ever come close to", according to Hodge. She adds that fast turnaround is equally important, as the company regularly receives files for jobs at noon that have to be on out the same day.

Challenging market
With a strong SME presence on its client books, the past few years have understandably seen a more challenging market, but Hodge says that a clear head and a strict adherence to the above principals have helped the company remain successful.

"Although 2008 onwards has been harder for us due to loss of clients (mostly in the creative sector), we haven’t changed our pricing and we just kept calm and carried on," she says. "We are a very lean company, highly skilled and multi-disciplinary, and that has helped us through."

That does not mean the company stood still throughout this period, however. Mindful of the rising costs of running the DocuColor 6060 it was using to produce the print work, and the increasing quality of the latest technologies on the market, Hodge was eyeing an upgrade for some time before eventually deciding to become the UK’s first installation of the Xerox 770 in November last year, which was supplied by Xerox reseller First Copy.

"We always had it mind that we had to upgrade," says Hodge. "The 6060 is a great machine, but it was getting expensive to run, so we had an eye on what else was on offer on the market. We are a long-time Xerox customer, but the 700 didn’t really fit for us, as we are definitely in the production bracket not the copyshop bracket. Other alternatives included the DocuColor 8080, which we also felt did not quite fit what we wanted. The 770, however, was a perfect fit and it was brand new technology, which was a really appealing factor."

The 770 is a colour digital production machine capable of 70ppm at 2,400dpi.

"The Xerox 770 has the ability to automatically duplex up to 300gsm and with the wide selection of finishing options, it enables customers to accept more jobs, such as face-trimmed saddle stitched booklets, catalogues, punched documents, square-folded and trimmed manuals, tri-fold brochures and variable print postcards, direct mail and more," says Xerox UK product and solutions marketing manager lan Clarke. "The product is positioned in the Xerox range between the Xerox 700i and the Xerox 8080."

Key to its colour quality is the Automated Color Quality Suite (ACQS). The main features of ACQS are automated calibration and automatic destination profiling, which reduce time-consuming manual colour maintenance tasks and ensure the press is optimised for colour consistency and accuracy. Xerox says this makes it ideal for high-value jobs that need a fast turnaround, such as photo applications and high-quality brochures. It comes as standard on Xerox 770, Xerox 8080, Xerox Colour 1000 presses and the Xerox iGen4.

Persuasive factor
For Hodge, the greater output quality of the 770 compared to the 6060 was the most persuasive factor in deciding to purchase, but the running costs were also crucial in the decision to buy. She reveals that the click charge on the 770 is substantially less than on the DocuColor 6060, which the company still retains.

"The lower running costs are a real benefit, so economically the sums add up," says Hodge. "The click charge has gone down dramatically. We do, on balance, like the click charge system, as it suits our business and makes life simpler. It takes quite a lot of the hassle away. We have looked before at alternative sources for engineering and supply, but we decided it was not worthwhile. There just weren’t the same service guarantees available."

Installation of the machine went smoothly, despite the machine being as new to the UK engineers of supplier First Copy as it was to Fidelity. The only hiccup Hodge does pinpoint is that milk supplies dried up, and so the supply of coffee necessary to fuel the engineers was disrupted. "And they do like to drink a lot of coffee," laughs Hodge.

Training was equally impressive, she says: "The Xerox analyst from First Copy was excellent. First Copy also arranged training with a Fiery specialist for the new Command Workstation 5 with its new system 10 software and the specialist Graphic Arts package, the latter of which contributes greatly to the colour accuracy of the 770 print engine."

Since installation, Hodge reveals that other than a few teething problems expected of any new machine boasting new technology, the press has been extremely reliable.

"With all machinery, there are always glitches and being the first install, we have been a test case for most problems. But it is performing well," she says.

Added bonuses
She adds that the reduced click charge, combined with the higher quality, has meant some of the work the company once outsourced to litho printers can now be done inhouse, as longer run lengths are more affordable and the finished product is comparable to a litho-printed product.

The other added bonus of the higher quality, she says, is the retention of clients that may have gone elsewhere if the investment had not been made.

"The increase in quality has definitely been noticed by those people you would expect to know," she explains. "One of our print management clients commented that the quality would be indistinguishable from litho to their clients and so they were obviously very pleased with the purchase. The advantage the 770 gives us is that customers that may not have hung around if we had stuck just with the 6060. Though that quality was good, we are now better-equipped to retain customers."

With work retained and expanded, and with new clients brought onboard via the new machine, print volumes at the firm doubled in the first three months after installation. And the company is looking to expand this further with a move into new markets facilitated by the 770’s photoprint capabilities.

"The printing of photographs is a lot better than on the 6060 and the skin tones are fantastic," she reveals. "That opens up the photographic market, and we have looked at it, but it’s complex to get into. You also have to consider the potential bottleneck in terms of finishing those products. We’re still exploring how to do this efficiently."

Overall, the company has been very pleased with its purchase and has recommended it to other printers – a move that seems to have paid off, as First Copy has sold six more of the 770s since November’s install. Hodge adds that she would happily purchase another one if the demand dictated it, too. With new markets on the horizon, that demand looks a real possibility.

(source: printweek.com)

Elizabeth Budd