To answer this challenge, the entrepreneurial 26-year-old devised a novel business model, and put into practice his bright idea of importing used Heidelberg presses, restoring them to ‘as-new’ condition, and supplying them to South African printers at affordable prices.
Thus Printech Engineering was born and was soon providing refurbished Heidelberg presses that could perform as efficiently and produce the same quality print as their brand-new counterparts – but at a fraction of the purchase price.
Tommy had already acquired in-depth knowledge of Heidelberg presses, having previously worked for Press Supplies and later for EAC Graphics. His prime purpose in establishing Printech was to offer world-class quality and service levels; and the company has lived by these tenets ever since, resulting in this 30-year success story.
‘Our accent has always been on quality. Others try to emulate us, but invariably they fail,’ comments Tommy with a grin. ‘That’s what makes our company different. Although we may sometimes be more expensive than other suppliers, we always deliver on quality and service,’ he adds.
When Graham Townsend joined the company in 1994, Printech was 13 years old; and at the time Graham was employee number eight. Today that number has swelled to 67, giving a clear indication of the consistent growth that Printech has enjoyed.
Graham, an accountant by profession, was working at Nampak Corrugated in the early 1990s, and his first involvement with Printech occurred when ABC Press purchased a Heidelberg five-colour press with coater. ‘And then I just got sucked into this business,’ he recounts with a contented smile.
Clearly, neither has looked back; and 17 years later the partnership is still going strong, with Tommy and Graham marching side by side as the company’s major shareholders. Operating from impressive 3 000m2 headquarters in Cape Town, Printech also has fully-fledged branches in Johannesburg and Durban.
When Tommy built the Cape Town factory back in 1997, he eschewed the concept of being an ‘owner builder’ and called in the professionals. ‘We wanted to build our premises to mirror European quality standards, reflecting our choice of supplying globally-recognised printing equipment,’ he explains.
Branching out to postpress finishing
Now, three decades on, Printech Engineering operates in four distinct business areas, and boasts an impressive list of overseas principals.
Aside from the sale of Heidelberg presses, three other divisions add immeasurable value to the services provided to customers. One is the sale of new and second-hand bindery, cutting and finishing equipment; another is the servicing and repairs of equipment; and complementing these activities is the sale of consumables.
‘While our core activity remains the sale of refurbished Heidelberg presses, the last five years have seen tremendous growth in sales of postpress and finishing equipment,’ Tommy explains.
‘This is a very exciting aspect of our business – and a major strength,’ adds Graham. ‘Invariably, we supply one machine and then end up installing further complementary lines.’
These additional business activities depend heavily on Printech’s impressive list of overseas principals.
The latest coup is gaining the Wohlenberg agency for South Africa.
With origins dating back to 1872, Wohlenberg is known as a leader in the field of cutters, three-knife trimmers and book binding equipment.
Already offering globally-recognised equipment from a number of German principals, Tommy and Graham describe this partnership with Wohlenberg as ‘a natural choice’.
‘Having the Wohlenberg agency gives us improved flexibility to respond to our customers’ continuously changing demands – which are characterised by “cut throat” competition,’ explains Tommy. ‘Representing Wohlenberg allows us to supply value-added products, enabling our customers to stay at the forefront of technology and remain competitive in the marketplace,’ adds Graham.
In fact, to celebrate this new partnership, there are some launch ‘specials’ on offer – for pile turners, high-speed guillotines, binders and joggers.
Among other key German principals is Cito, a company specialising in printing and paper converting. Cito’s products fall into three areas: BoxLine for die-cutting folding cartons, corrugated packaging and point-of-purchase displays; PrintLine for inline finishing on offset presses; and FormLine for diemaking systems.
‘Perfection in postpress’ is the motto of Hohner, a supplier of saddle stitching and postpress finishing equipment. Hohner’s wire stitching machines, automated saddle stitching or stitching head systems offer Printech’s local customers complete solutions for brochure, booklet or magazine production. Hohner’s stitching head technology is regarded as a world leader in quality and reliability, including innovations such as loop stitching heads, digital stitching heads or narrow stitching heads.
At its German headquarters, Westland produces moulded rubber parts and rubber bondings, including graphic rollers for both the OEM and after-sales markets, and the company’s LotoTec surface technology.
Yet another German principal, Theisen & Bonitz, offers collators, stitcher-folder-trimmers, punching and numbering machines. Experienced designers
and precision construction using the latest CNC technology are hallmarks of Theisen & Bonitz’s high-quality output.
Beil Registersysteme, also in Germany, has a clear goal – to enhance efficiency and increase productivity in newspaper printing, and to shorten the time required between the release of data for exposure and printing. The company’s modular concept was developed for easy addition to almost all CtP systems.
Moving across the English Channel, British company Tech-ni-Fold supplies innovative finishing systems, and is regarded as a global leader in rotary creasing technology. Tech-ni-Fold’s CreaseStream range is just one example. The manually-fed table-top CreaseStreamJunior operates at 4 000 sheets/hour, while its big brother, the CreaseStreamPlus, turns out an impressive 18 000 sheets/hour. For trouble-free folding, Tech-ni-Fold’s latest Tri-Creaser technology gently manipulates, stretches and prepares the area of stock that’s prone to cracking.
Completing the round-up of products offered through Printech’s extensive overseas connections are Prolac’s aqueous and UV coatings, and Conti-Air’s compressible blankets for both sheet and web offset presses.
The proof of the pudding
There’s no end to the number of installation stories that bear testimony to Printech’s outstanding success.
One such story already featured in these pages – the installations at Unity Press in Cape Town (PPM Sept10, p92). Here are additional snapshots.
To remain competitive in a demanding market, the directors at Creda Press recently decided to update their Cape Town operation, for which project Printech supplied a Heidelberg SM 102 ten-colour perfector, a Heidelberg SM 102 eight-colour perfector, and a Kolbus 473A perfect binding line.
These investments have brought a new ‘vibe’ to the print shop, allowing Creda Press to transform its operation to a world-class operation.
‘Printech has supplied brilliant equipment and we’ve entered into a maintenance agreement to ensure we maximise production efficiencies,’ comments Eugene Brandt, Creda Press Managing director.
In Durban, Colour Labels operated in a niche market, printing self-adhesive sheet-fed labels. Deciding to expand into general print, MD, David Haslehurst, called on Printech to locate an A2 press to allow him to print high-quality commercial work. Printech sourced a Heidelberg five-colour MO press with in-line coating, and the press was rebuilt and installed at Colour Labels earlier this year. ‘Printech did an excellent job and the press is running well, producing high print quality that gives us a competitive edge,’ confirms David, another happy customer.
Recently, Printech fulfilled an urgent requirement for an additional guillotine at Paarl Media in Cape Town. As luck would have it, when the frantic enquiry was received a container from Germany had just been unloaded, and it included a Polar 115 E guillotine. Within an hour, three Paarl Media personnel arrived at Printech’s premises to inspect the machine; and three days later it was commissioned. ‘It was a case of being in the right place at the right time,’ Tommy admits, ‘but this episode allowed us to show off our capabilities and the type of equipment we supply.’
Printech also supplied the Tshwane University of Technology with a five-colour Heidelberg SM 74, a Müller Martini Presto saddle binder and a Stahl 52 4/4 RD with gate fold attachment. These investments not only meet the University’s in-house printing requirements, but also allow it to service the commercial market.
‘We have now upgraded our equipment to a point where we can excel in the work we produce,’ comments Arnold Herman, head of the University’s printing division. ‘Printech’s service and support is of such a high standard that we’re pleased to be partnering with them,’ he adds.
When Printech decided to enter the digital market last year, it partnered with Konica Minolta. ‘We identified the huge strides digital printing was making and found the correct partner in Konica Minolta,’ says Graham. ‘The timing of the launch of the new Konica Minolta C 8000 was crucial to make our mark in the digital market,’ he adds. ‘We were able to supply Africa’s first C 8000 to K Print in Krugersdorp, where it’s meeting the promised production capabilities, and starting to change the way traditional litho printers think and do business.’
Moving away from the hard news, to softer topics, both Tommy and Graham acknowledge that Printech’s rapid growth wouldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t appreciated the importance of thorough training.
‘We’ve invested heavily in training,’ says Tommy.
‘Our employees regularly travel to Germany to assist with repairs of the world’s finest presses. Given Germany’s exceptionally high standards, our engineers, technicians and apprentices return to South Africa empowered to raise standards in the local printing industry, helping our industry to keep abreast of ever-changing technology,’ he adds.
‘Quality, dedication and professionalism, pride in our work and a desire to satisfy our customers – these are Printech qualities,’ adds Graham.
With such aspirations it’s not surprising to learn that this 30-year-old company has grown beyond all expectations, and that they’re bursting at the seams at the 3 000m2 Cape Town premises.
‘Our factory is really too small; and we may have to expand soon,’ is Tommy’s parting shot.
But that’s a story for another day . . .