UAE: Al Ghurair Invests In Middle’s East’s first Dicoweb
Al Ghurair General Manager sheds some more light on the deal
One of the largest print companies in the Middle East, Dubai’s Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing is known for producing a wide range of printed matter. With a large proportion of the production going out to the export market of Europe and Africa and being the largest textbook publisher in the region, Al Ghurair made a timely decision to go digital by acquiring Man Roland’s Dicoweb. Kishor Gohil, general manager of Al Ghurair Printing & Publishing speaks about the scope of digital printing in the region while elaborating on the deal.
Please tell us as to when Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing was established?
Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing was established in 1979 and initially was involved in producing text books for schools. After a review of the situation a decision was taken to expand the business in 1998. I joined the company during this year. The managing director Khalid Abdulla Al Ghurair is quite a visionary. We agreed on certain strategic goals and decisions and haven’t looked back since then. Our core strength lies in magazine, book and newspaper production. Package printing is also part of our business and at the moment we are expanding. We cater to some niche markets and are very selective in taking up jobs.
Do you think there has been a great deal of development in digital technology?
Computerisation of printing industry has effected automation, control and quality of output. Computer technology is now applied on all the printing machines. If you were in printing as long as I have been, you will realise how it is was done earlier and what is the potential now.
Do you think there is scope for digital printing?
It depends on which market you are catering to. Dubai especially is developed and is not less than any other developed countries when it comes to printing and skill levels are comparable if not better. Even production levels and quality achieved is high. In printing press technology as in any other production process, elimination of offline processes means added efficiency. Those who are working with offset printing are not actually attacking the digital market. In the UAE, very few people understand the market and many are frightened of it. In the digital print market, there is short run volume document production and then there is variable data printing. Eventually these technologies are merging. Hence we decided to buy the Dicoweb. It involves digital imaging on a cylinder, which cuts down process and hence adds efficiency and bridges sheet fed and commercial web operations.
In this market, there is place for variable digital data production, digital document production in small runs, digital imaging and printing and offset printing. I think people shouldn’t be afraid of digital printing - they should take it on board and go with it. Volume of business using digital technology is five percent or even less. But globally, the business is growing and it is getting better.
Why did you choose the Dicoweb?
We chose the Dicoweb because we felt that it is a new technology and there is a sizable market here. In the international print market, print runs are going down and the variety is increasing. It is perfect for this market since it easier to change jobs on the Dicoweb. Job changes are expensive for other printers.
When will it be installed?
We are moving to IMPZ and the Dicoweb will be installed at the new premises. I think it will be done by the end of 2005.
Will it be used for printing brochures and catalogues?
It has image limitations of up to 30,000 impressions. We have done an analysis on the optimum number of runs. Ideally, it does 500 to 30000 print runs. The optimum value is however between 500 to 9000 impressions. Nevertheless you can still push the job up to 30,000 impressions.
Buying the Dicoweb was a bold move, considering that there are only two machines installed until now.
We haven’t made this decision lightly. We have been following this machine for some years. Last Drupa we were disappointed by where it was, at IPEX, we were encouraged by it. We made several visits to the MAN Roland factory and held meetings before deciding upon it. It is a machine that will be current for a long time because of its modular design.
What is the scope for variable data printing in this market?
The market for variable data printing is still not that big. In the UK, 12 years back, we used to do direct mail shots of up to 10 million and we used to get responses of up to 4 percent. With computer technology and data analysis getting better the response also became better. The runs began to come down and the mails became highly targeted to a market segment of 50,000 to 100,000. Dubai has a population of around 2.5 million. In the UK, it was nearly 60 million. The variable data market in UK was half a million – that too if it was a big campaign. Dubai is still smaller.
Do you think Direct Imaging machines can be classified as digital or are they offset machines?
Direct Imaging means that it images directly on the machine. They can be digital machines with consumables like inks to emulate litho quality. What we have gone for is litho quality identical in every way with conventional inks and not special inks. The Indigo machines for instance have a slightly different process – there is something similar to litho and others which are exactly like that. You need to understand the variations.
Did you make any other investment other than the Dicoweb?
Yes before Drupa - a Basys Print CTcP. In terms of thermal, silver halide and other CTP, it is being decided by the market. There are lot of thermal units running. The reason why we took this step is that commercially it made sense and it satisfied our quality requirements. The way we structured our deal was that if we have to switch to thermal - if thermal started picking up - we won’t have any commercial losses. The savings are fantastic on a CTcP. It is working well for us.
How many equipment do you have?
In prepress, we have several workstations, back up devices, a drum scanner, a flatbed scanner and a copy dot. We also have two imagesetters and a CTcP. We have several communication devices to deal with overseas customers and FTP sites - that is at the front end. We have equipment for remote communications and also have digital proofing devices. In print production, we have a range of sheet fed presses – a 10 color 1/70 8 color, 5 color and 4 color 50/70s GTOs, a commercial web press and two newspaper web presses. We also have a 1/70 UV with double air bag and a refrigeration unit. In finishing, we have two perfect binding lines and a saddle stitching machine.
What about workflow?
We are in the final stages of installation of our Shuttleworths MIS print management system for live data capture production management, planning, estimating, and invoicing and customer relations management. For print processes we will have to see how equipment needs to be integrated and then we will assess the direction that we should take.
How many employees do you have? Do you provide training especially on the Dicoweb?
We have 724 employees. Training is an ongoing process. We understand the machine, identify the skills required and then work on it with suppliers.