ipia news & comment

IPIA NEWS & COMMENT: Duplo tackles twin sector challenges


Successful print businesses across the UK are characterised by being able to continuously steer their way through a rapidly evolving market landscape – seizing new opportunities and overcoming the challenges thrown at them.

Duplo has made it a key mission to help with this endeavour by bringing to market technology that increases the ability for printers to adapt, while strengthening their operational resilience. Its range of digital booklet makers have been particularly important in this regard – as they help printers tackle two key challenges, so their potential can be realised.

Two of the most critical obstacles to growth over the last few years has been the need for printers to improve productivity – without having to grow the size of their team – while at the same time being able to diversify their product offering into growth markets.

It is this twin challenge where Duplo has been particularly effective, as Peter Dyson, Product Development Manager at Duplo International, explains: “Every time a person has to touch something, there is an opportunity for errors, and errors cost time and money to put right.  They may also damage a relationship with your client.

“Duplo systems typically involve multiple functions, avoiding wasted time for work being transferred between separate unconnected processes. A physical resource in the chain, such as a guillotine, may be unavailable for a period of time while it is dedicated to handling a separate job, causing enforced delays.  With the job being managed from a central console, the complete process is made in one pass in the one system by one operator, preventing errors at one stage impacting negatively upon another.”

This was certainly a driving factor for Print4UK to invest in a DBM-600, with Managing Director Chris Brady commenting: “With an increase in the number of jobs, we really needed the automation and faster turnaround that the DBM-600 gives us. What’s more, with the acquisition of an automatic booklet maker and the accompanying efficiency savings, we were able to retrain and redeploy our valued workforce into other areas of the business.”

Unlocking potential

Peter continues, highlighting how its booklet maker technology unlocks the potential pent up in print businesses such as Print4UK: “The automation features of our digital booklet makers allow a digital press operator to run multiple finishing devices at the same time – avoiding an operator being dedicated to a single finishing activity (such as guillotining).

“This was particularly beneficial during the pandemic – as it allowed more flexibility with whatever staff were available, even using the delivery driver I saw in one case.  Beyond Covid, a business continues to need that same flexibility to deal with staff holidays and absences, providing the confidence that work can be completed at a reliable and consistent level, regardless of whichever staff are on what shift.”

Ollie Renshaw, Business Systems Manager, Leeds University Print and Design Bureau was having to contend with the ‘twin challenges’ mentioned above – and as mentioned by Peter – being able to flexibly deploy his team was of critical importance to achieve growth.  Leeds University invested in a range of print finishing technology from Duplo, but the iSaddle 5.0 was fundamental to capitalising on a growth in demand for a diverse range of products from customers.

“Before we installed the Duplo equipment, we had a significant bottleneck in finishing. So, the printing was fine, but we regularly found that we had no dedicated finishing guys available. So, the choice that we took was actively investing in highly automated technology,” says Ollie.

He continues: “When you have longer run booklets, it can tend to slow production down if you are running inline. We have four print devices, and I didn’t want to have a booklet maker on each device, so by having the iSaddle, it allows the printers to run at their rated speed, and the saddle stitching is then done offline.

“A case in point is an annual job we have that took three days when we had an inline booklet maker, with the iSaddle it is done in a morning. That is the efficiency improvements that we have been able to make.”

A recipe for productivity

Peter explains how customers such as Leeds University are supported by its digital booklet maker technology, enabling managers such as Ollie to maximise the potential of his team: “It is always important to remember that the purpose of using technology is to replace boring and repetitive tasks, allowing valuable skilled staff to focus on more complex and fulfilling duties. 

“Starting with ease of use via an intuitive graphical user interface, where jobs can be programmed, edited and saved, then recalled by simply scanning a barcode. Options such as barcode kits for sheet feeders and collators, automate the control and management of production, reducing the need for teams of staff to perform manual checking.  

“At the same time, by reducing the training required to produce work quickly and accurately, it enables a wider range of staff to use a piece of equipment, allowing the experienced staff to perform a more supervisory role.” 

This was the exact deciding factor as to why direct mail and fulfilment specialist Latcham invested in not one, but two iSaddles – as Managing Director Mike Hughes explains: “We have a specialism in working with clients from the financial services and high-compliance sectors, which require a very high level of document integrity.

“As demand for this type of work has continued to increase, we identified that our incumbent finishing technology was a bottleneck and was not able to offer the level of high-volume accuracy and automation that was required to meet our productivity and product integrity goals.”

Adaptable solutions

Duplo systems are modular, permitting a user to configure a solution that meets their specific needs, without restricting the opportunity to swap and change modules as their business changes.  As Peter highlights: “After all, who can accurately predict what they will be doing in a few years when the world is changing so fast?”

Mike continues: “We also do a high-degree of pre-folding and collating of document packs before they move to our hand packing department – this was a particular challenge around jobs with variable numbers of components, and so we needed a fast, efficient and robust way to pre-collate.

“We started with one iSaddle and the benefits in both areas became apparent so quickly that we invested in a second. The reduction in manual touch points, and the mitigation for skilled staff to be tied up in this production sector, were key motivating factors for the investment.”

Peter adds: “A prospect may initially make a purchasing decision based on production speed and reliability, but they will later come to appreciate the flexibility of the DBM range, being adaptable to a wider range of media and finishing formats, allowing the user to take on new and different jobs that typically enjoy a better profit margin.

“If the feeding device does not perform consistently and adapt to changing media conditions such as curl and static, then even the simplest job can become a nightmare with constant stoppages and adjustments necessary.  Both conventional collators and sheet feeders specifically for sequentially printed digital jobs are possible, and in this area the Duplo systems excel.”

Diversify and thrive

Various features are integrated or available as options in the Duplo digital booklet maker range, which provide the means of making a variety of interesting formats, such as stepped pages and calendars.  Additional stitching heads can also typically be paired with five knife trimming to run 2-up booklets, instantly doubling productivity. 

If this is only an occasional requirement, then the DBM may have the feature of creating four stitches with only two stitch heads, thereby avoiding the extra investment cost, but not limiting the opportunity to take on such a job if so required.

Mike concludes: “Our iSaddles are very versatile, quick to setup and it is also easy to change over between different formats. They are extremely good machines and the Duplo Connect software, and PC control that runs the barcoding system, ensures there is no miss-collation of sheets.

“That type of closed loop system, which gives us full integrity and confidence in a job, really is a game changer. It frees up experienced members of the team to be deployed to different areas of the business – where we can use their skillset more effectively, and it increases the productivity of our packing team. This level of confidence then feeds into enabling wider strategic goals to be met, such as diversifying our product portfolio and innovating to deliver new value to customers.”


Find more about Duplo’s range of digital booklet makers and how they can help your business improve its productivity, adaptability and efficiency.

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