Collaboration with web-to-print developer Infigo was the key to London digital printer Rapidity winning a big web-to-print contract with property agent Cluttons.
The order led to the adoption of the Infigo MegaEdit large-scale online ordering system last April, which went on to help win another respectable contract with the Institute of Advanced Motorists, with more customers soon to follow.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016, Rapidity is an all-digital printer located on Goswell Road in London’s Clerkenwell. “We’re a general commercial digital print company, not to make it sound too flashy,” says managing director Paul Manning. “We specialise in on-demand print from central London, but increasingly we’re doing national work. We pitch ourselves as a lean efficient automated company and we just happen to be in London EC1, which is getting unusual.”
“We started as a conventional printer, but we were an early adopter of Xerox black and white digital technology in the late 1980s,” says Manning. He took over as managing director in 2013 from his father Les, who had established the company as Printflow in 1986. His brother Ben is production director. Les Manning retired in April 2014.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s the company increasingly moved from offset into digital colour. “We’d been in colour litho but that went five or six years ago,” says Manning. “We concentrated on digital. We had Xerox iGens and Kodak NexPresses at the time, but we found our way to the Indigos and never looked back really. We’ve had the Indigo 7600 since April 2013. Our first Indigo was in 2012, just before we won the Olympics contracts. We still had two iGens at the time, but then we swapped everything for the Indigos.”
The Olympics work was certainly significant, he says: “I think we did £800,000 worth of work in three months and at the time we were turning over £4.5m.” The orders also included heavy-duty non-disclosure clauses, though Manning says “I’ll be able to tell you a lot more one day!”
Rapidity was most recently in PrintWeek’s news pages after Manning took on several key production staff from nearby digital print house 1st Byte, which went into administration in late October. Since then Rapidity has purchased 1st Byte’s brand and goodwill, as well as its separately owned business card company, Press4print.
With 1st Byte gone, Manning says that only Rapidity and Screaming Colour remain as general digital printers in London EC1, an area which until the 1990s was a major centre for typesetting, repro and print. “We have a 12-year lease so we’re not going anywhere, but really industry just isn’t wanted in central London any more,” Manning believes. “The rents are pushing people out. If you’re not Pret A Manger or Costa Coffee or a Chinese investor, you can’t afford central London.”
Rapidity got into web-to-print services years ago and has used several systems over the years. “We had things like XMPie, we’ve now got VPress and Infigo. They all suit different things for different customers, so we choose what suits the work best.”
The adoption of MegaEdit came out of a request from estate agent Cluttons for its offices to be able to edit and order their own print material, with a minimum of design or print knowledge needed. “Cluttons was looking for a very bespoke solution that we knew we couldn’t deliver,” says Manning. “So we teamed up with Infigo and said ‘we’ll bring them in with us to deliver it’. I said to Infigo’s MD Douglas Gibson ‘I want to go in together and provide a solution to an existing customer and get the print’. We got a four-year contract out of it.”
Cluttons is based in London, with offices in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia. It has customers in 50 countries and employs 600 staff. “The system hooks into their CRM and pulls their property information out and flows it into a MegaEdit template,” says Manning.
“They can order it, usually as property particulars – four-page A4 landscapes, window films, window graphics, anything that’s got a regular repeat. There are about 11 branches and they can order amends and authorise the production of their marketing materials and they’ll arrive the next day. It’s pretty cool!
“We are also now using it for the Institute of Advanced Motorists and their 200-strong volunteer network. They liked the idea that it can be skinned any way they want it. We have more customers planned for 2016.”
Infigo developed MegaEdit as a larger “enterprise” version of its existing Catfish web-to-print system. It was largely intended for B2C applications, especially photobooks and photo gifts. It runs in the cloud and is accessed through web browsers at Rapidity. Customers can call up and add data to pre-defined templates.
Manning says he doesn’t want to get into photobooks: “We’re not going to compete with the established photobook companies’ marketing spend, we wouldn’t have a chance. However, deploying a website for the Institute of Advanced Motoring volunteers and giving them the chance to make their own calendars and pay by credit card, that is viable. The B2B2C model has real growth potential. But B2C I’m not a big fan of to be honest. I haven’t seen any small successful photobook companies.”
Manning says he didn’t look at any alternative options. “I met the people from Infigo and liked them and I wanted to work with them. I didn’t go looking for software. I came across them, they came across me, I had an enquiry from a customer for exactly what they did, so it was a timing thing really.”
Implementation was fiddly rather than difficult, but MegaEdit’s cloud platform meant there was less requirement for hardware. “Like all these things it was a matter of trialling and testing,” says Manning. “All the major suppliers are in the cloud, it’s not like years ago when we had to put a server in and install it all. Really it was a matter of getting the login details and then getting someone internally to be our ‘go-to’ person for it, then making sure we got the support from the guys at Infigo.
“The installation was as smooth as it could have been. A good thing about Infigo is you’re not stuck with it as is, you can do what you want if you want to sit down with them and work it out. But from the point of view of getting a customer website up and running, it’s very good. With the Institute of Advanced Motoring, the bones were up and running in a few days.”
Any problems? No, says Manning: “We’ve learned our lesson from customers over the years not to go in and oversell technology. It sounds fairly obvious, but everyone does it. That just makes you look like a plonker in the long run. We’ve done that in the past ourselves, saying ‘yes I’m sure we can work that out, leave it with us,’ then our guy says ‘what? How’s that going to work?’ Infigo does a lot, so we don’t have that problem.
“We have staff internally who are trained web developers and can use this software fairly easily, so we didn’t need a great deal of hand holding. Whether it’s needed to use Infigo I’m not sure as we’ve got the skills anyway.”
Pluses and minuses?
“The best thing is the flexibility an MegaEdit Editor, which is fairly unique in the way it works, compared with the others I’ve seen. You can put something together and people go wow and they like it when they see it. Minuses? We haven’t really had any as long as we’ve been using it.”
Manning certainly has no qualms about giving MegaEdit his seal of approval: “Yes I would recommend it. I’d also recommend going in collaboratively with people like Infigo to existing customers.
“I think that’s something the trade is not doing enough of. I think we as a trade tend to buy software and then ask customers if they want it. But if people like Infigo are willing to go in with you as well, then yes, I would recommend doing that.”
The company was founded in 1986 by Les Manning as Printflow and began adopting digital print alongside offset in the late 1980s. The name change to Rapidity was made in 2012. It is today an all-digital print house with a turnover of £8m and employing 40 people. It serves London and an increasingly national customer base.
Its 1,300m2 site in Goswell Road, London, houses two HP Indigo 7600 digital colour presses, plus a Ricoh Pro C9110 colour toner press and and a mono Xerox Nuvera 288. It also has wide-format printers: an HP Latex 360 and Océ Arizona 480XT flatbed. Finishing capabilities including perfect binding, wire binding, saddle-stitching, square-back binding, folding and lamination. It also offers direct mail services.
Why it was bought...
The adoption of MegaEdit came as a result of a request from estate agent Cluttons for online print ordering by its offices that could link to its own customer data and flow it into templates, Rapidity and Infigo visited Cluttons together and adapted MegaEdit to the customer needs.
How it has performed...
“It helped us win the contract with Cluttons, a contract with the Institue of Advanced Motoring and we’ve got more contracts coming through in the new year,” says current managing director Paul Manning. “So yes, it’s brought a lot of work in. It’s also pushed us technically, to develop our skills still further. It’s been good.”