Established in 1975, The Answer Series is a Cape Town-based publishing company specialising in study guides for high schools. It’s a business in which flexible, reliable and cost-effective printing solutions are vitally important. At the beginning of 2015, the company elected to add a Riso ComColor 2150 digital printer at its in-house printing facility.
The Answer Series MD, David Eadie, says that while high-volume print runs use traditional offset litho printing, the company needs a robust print-on-demand solution to print guides for which there is less demand, to supplement out-of-stock items in case of sudden demand, and to accommodate last-minute orders.
“We already had three digital printers in service but our analysis showed that the downtime was excessive. Our print shop did some research and strongly motivated for the Riso product based on its reliability,” Eadie says. “Downtime is extremely problematic for us because late ordering is a feature of the business. Provincial budgeting is often delayed, so there’s often a very short lead time to get the guides to the schools that use them all over the country—and we pride ourselves on our ability to turn orders around very fast.”
From a business point of view, a solid print-on-demand capability also allows The Answer Series to avoid having to hold large stock inventories, thus reducing overheads and ultimately improving profitability.
Printing manager Chad Gowar emphasises the importance of reliability at the sharp end of the business, in the printing shop. To give an idea of the volumes involved, he points out that the Riso printer had run off 1 million pages within the first two months of service. “The first four months of the year are definitely our busiest times because that’s when the school year is getting underway,” he says.
Gowar praises the quality of Riso’s support, especially the focus on preventative maintenance. The Riso team’s ability to anticipate problems before they occur has already impressed him.
Energy—its unreliability and increasing cost—has become a major factor in South African business, and particularly affects businesses running manufacturing/ production processes involving large numbers of staff. Eadie points to the energy-efficiency of the unit thanks to its cold printing technology. Aside from the need for less power, Riso’s cold printing technology also improves reliability and enables ultra-fast printing (up to 150 pages per minute), making it most suitable for high-volume, quick-turnaround jobs.
David Fulton, Corporate Development Manager at Riso, comments that Riso’s pedigree in ink technology underlies its unique value proposition. The company’s founder began mixing inks at his kitchen sink after World War II, and ultimately developed an emulsion ink that does not require intense heat. “Our machines have always been noted for low energy consumption, making them attractive when power is constrained and ideal for use with green power,” he adds.
Riso also advised the installation of an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which means the unit can continue printing throughout the whole two-and-a-half hours of a typical Cape Town load shedding period.
“Printing on demand is my core function so even if we can’t bind for those two hours, it means load shedding does not make a huge impact on our productivity,” observes Gowar. “When the power comes back on, there is a good amount of material for the binding team to tackle. All in all, we find the machine really user-friendly, and so far it’s proved to be a real workhorse. In fact, I’d like to see some more of them on the floor in time!”