From the serendipitous day in 1964 when Ernest and Doreen Roberts snapped up the print division of the then Allen Hanburys, now Glaxo Smithkline, to passing on the reins to son Barry and then the baton going to third generation Yvette, Barry’s daughter, the name Roberts has remained on the office door and in the minds of the many loyal customers who have relied on the company for many years for their high-quality pharmaceutical and cosmetic packaging and general printing needs.
Kicking off with three Heidelberg Platens, two hand-fed croppers, a Heidelberg cylinder, a Ludlow typograph, a guillotine and a staff of 12, Pro-Print in 2023 is nearly 200 people strong with top-notch technology primed to keep it at the forefront of the KwaZulu-Natal printing community, with growing countrywide reach.
Now, Yvette has again taken the Komori plunge with a just-out-of-the-box Lithrone G637 sporting inline coater. It’s familiar territory for her as this is the company’s 21st Komori purchase since 1986. The impressive new attraction on the factory floor offers six-colour UV sheetfed printing to a maximum sheet size of 640mm x 940mm. It meets Pro-Print’s needs for more affordable finishing that adds a unique touch to customers’ cartons while addressing the essentials of rapid turnarounds, short runs and low cost.
This compact OffsetOnDemand press, with capability extending to A1 size, prints sheets up to
37 inches in width at maximum speeds of 15 000 sheets/hr and with a sheet thickness range of 0.04mm to 0.45mm during both single- and double-sided printing to fulfil the full gamut of needs for the publishing and commercial printing segments. A CMS colour bar on sheets with eight-up A4 or American letter size impositions enables the production of high page count products with superior print quality.
The Lithrone boasts the latest iteration of the KHS-AI productivity enhancement system that integrates control of the entire press. The fully automatic plate changer powers the press to change four plates in three minutes and complete job changeover in eight minutes. Preset data is optimised with changes in materials and printing environment markedly reducing paper waste.
The H-UV curing system uses just two UV lamps mounted in the delivery and high-sensitivity ink to produce excellent print quality and reliability with cost-effective and eco-friendly performance. The machine’s drip-off technology opens up opportunities for new finishing techniques.
Komori UK commandeered the commissioning of the Lithrone in a process described by Yvette as seamless. ‘The installation was a breeze thanks to Komori’s amazing team, which impressed with their expertise and knowledge.’
Pro-Print works manager Mark O’Brien stresses that planning was the key. ‘As with the commissioning of any new equipment at Pro-Print, proper preparation is the foundation for success,’ he explains. ‘With a dozen machines in the downstairs press hall, space is at a premium, thus an addition was built onto the factory to house the dryer and press auxiliary equipment. Local Komori technician Alex Skinner was brought in to move our existing Komori 537 to accommodate the new investment, a process that was completed in only eight days. Alex then set up the new press ahead of the arrival of the Komori UK team of three technicians to oversee final arrangements and commissioning. The group’s print specialist, John Newton, stayed on with us, providing the press crew with extensive training, which included refresher sessions on some of our older presses.’
The newcomer is already proving itself. ‘The press accommodates heavy stocks, and special substrates and inks that are features of premium work, providing a product suitable for diverse post-press processes,’ Yvette states.
Also on the shopping list were two Herzog+Heymann KL112.1 folding machines that allow Pro-Print to do various size outserts with either glue or tape application closure, a trend that is growing steadily in the pharmaceutical market. The pair takes the company’s folding machine tally to 12, giving clients a wide spectrum of folding options on leaflets, outserts and booklets. ‘The KL112.1 is designed specifically for small products using commercial or pharma-grade stocks associated with the insert/outsert markets,’ Yvette adds.
A combination of 26mm-diameter folding rollers and from two- to 16-fold plates makes the model capable of minimum fold lengths as low as 18mm and large input sheet sizes. With its modular design, it can be matched to glue units, knife fold units, various deliveries and pressing units to make a versatile, tailored folding solution. Other features include working widths of 35cm, 45cm and 52cm, and 20mm-diameter slitter shafts for crease/score/slit tooling. Tooling includes pharma-creasing, centrebleed device, head or tail slitting and tear-off perforation.
The machines were commissioned using in-house expertise, the team putting to good effect the skills learnt from Heinz Schweiger during the many preceding installations. ‘Heinz, the owner of Norkim Engineering, was the driving force countrywide behind Herzog+Heymann equipment sales, parts and service until the brand was taken over by Komori. He has, through the years, shared his considerable expertise with our operators, passing on his skills and knowledge to the benefit of our business.’
Completing the latest round of investments was an Eterna 1050 die-cutter, which combines several features designed for optimal productivity, durability and safety. Among these are a double sheet detector, precision worm gear crank toggle driving system, lost-sheet control throughout the entire machine, double cam-driven gripper opener and front lay swing frame, high-quality gripper bar and pre-stretched gripper chain, gripper bar safety lock device, torque limit safety clutch and photo sensor safety barrier at pallet table.
These buying decisions follow another bold technology move under Yvette’s watch, when Pro-Print installed Africa’s first Scodix Ultra 202 in 2020, redirecting the team’s mind from Covid-19 to the tremendous embossing, varnishing, foiling and glittering possibilities that this opened up. ‘The decision enabled us to offer a new level of detail in foiling and UV, particularly for cosmetics and perfume,’ she confirms. ‘These finishes were not achievable with the traditional equipment on the market. The machine also allowed us to expand our labelling capability for high-end alcohol products.’
The last three years have brought a definite surge in demand for shorter runs to contain expensive inventories, Yvette states. ‘This means many job changeovers, but with our 18 presses in various configurations and printing between four to six colours and our two-colour leaflet presses, we are more than able to process smaller, more frequent orders.’
All businesses, she continues, have faced immense challenges in recent years. ‘We always kept in mind that we were not alone, while doing our utmost to continue to provide quality and service to customers in the same boat. This commitment enabled us to retain long-held business during some very difficult times. An important part of that was our resolve to continue our technology investments.’
The next generation, in the words of Dr Carlock, sustains the family legacy, but also acts as a change agent with new perspectives on business and family. That gels perfectly with Yvette’s modus operandi. And as the company eagerly plans its 60-year anniversary milestone happening next year, it remains as determined as ever to uphold the values on which Doreen and Ernest built their print baby. ‘My dad, following my grandparents’ lead, was always involved in every aspect of the business,’ Yvette recalls. ‘He constantly reminded me to be prepared to do anything I ask our team to do. This has remained with me and really brings home that Pro-Print has always owed its success to its people, without whom we would not exist. The quality and service they give our customers are widely acknowledged and greatly appreciated. No ‘one’ person is a business – each is an essential link in the chain.’
‘Our staff’s skill, experience, craftsmanship and dedication have always been and will remain our guiding principles, underlined by technology that works for us and our customers.’