Today there are fewer nations developing at such a fast pace as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A firm stalwart of the Arab nations, the Kingdom is steeped in Islamic history, culture and values. Yet despite its traditional persona, the Kingdom has always been a thriving hub for business, commerce and technology and over the past ten years has experienced huge growth due to its strong economy and low inflation rates.
One such sector that has developed rapidly is the printing industry, which is currently valued at almost SAR1.5billion.
Almost every Government department and institution in the Kingdom has its own printing press. And none more so than in the world of academia, where printed intellectual literature is an essential tool for knowledge, research and learning.
The largest academic printing press in Saudi Arabia is the King Saud University Press which began its life as the Academic Publishing Department of the University in 1971. Due to the growth of the Campus and its student faculty, it soon became imperative for the University to have a print shop of its own, and therefore the University press was established in 1973 at the institution’s former campus in Riyadh. In 1980 the press was moved to its new university campus located on the outskirts of the city, where a full press was established with state of the art printing machines. In 1997, the Academic Publishing Department of the University merged with the University Press under a single administration as The Academic Publishing and Press Directorate.
Dr. Ali M. Al-Turki of the Soil Science Department, College of Food and Agricultural Sciences at King Saud University, who was also appointed as the head of the Press eight years ago says “Our printing operations began with just a few letterpress machines and a binding section in the 1970’s and we then progressed to the latest Heidelberg 4 and 5-color printing machine in a matter of years.”
Developments at the Press took a new turn when Dr. Al-Turki, also a member of the faculty, joined the team in a Supervisory role in 2004. A Saudi national with a PhD in Soil Science from the U.S., Dr. Al-Turki has been credited with 50 scientific publications and scientific book translations, in addition to producing a number of reports, books, proceedings and publications, since he joined the University in 1986.
Dr. Al-Turki’s appointment symbolised some new enhancements in the printing technology used in the Press, as well as changes to organisational and quality assurance methods. He explained, “When I began my career, printing was still in its developing stage. Since then, the change has been dramatic, with the introduction of new printing technology and equipment.”
He then adds,” Playing a key role in our expansion in the last five years, has been the introduction of the latest Heidelberg Speedmaster 4 and 5 colour, GTO and automatic binding machines which have enhanced the production and quality of the books being printed,” Dr. Al-Turki said.
KSU’s fleet of 15 machines prints over 150 titles (authored, compiled, translated), including textbooks, dictionaries and atlases. Nine academic university journals and their disciplines also make up a major part of the work. The Press uses more than 40,000 reams of paper per year which gives some idea of the quantity of printing projects that this experienced, in-house team of professionals is handling on a daily basis.
“All of the books we publish are printed on Heidelberg Speedmaster machines including the paperback covers, as well as 40,000 copies of the University’s weekly newspaper which is usually between 32-48 pages,” says Dr. Al-Turki.
Plans are already in place to replace the existing two 2-colour (70×100) printing machines. In the not too distant future we will also be installing an 8-colour (70×100) and a 2-colour (50×70) presses to replace the old ones. “KSU Press is the only Government Printing press that has Prinect connectivity. All of our covers folders and files have a high quality coated finish and lamination which adds an element of luxury yet remains durable and long lasting,” explains Dr. Al-Turki.
“We have achieved a lot but want to achieve much, much more. We have already succeeded in providing superior publishing and printing services to the University and are in the process of establishing ourselves as the leading university publishing house in the country and across the Arab world. We are expecting a 15-20% growth in the number of books published year on year, so the only way to ensure this growth rate is manageable is by focusing on the continuous improvement of the quality of our production and service,” Dr. Al-Turki added.
Last but not least the Press has just finished implementing its strategic plan, consistent with the King Saud University Strategic Plan 2030.
The Academic Publishing & Press Directorate has devised its own plan for 2030 and held a number of workshops and symposia to educate its management and employees on the future strategy of the organisation. Under the title, ‘Strategic Plan 2010-2020’, the King Saud University Press has taken up the challenge to further improve the ranking of the University by publishing and printing many kinds of knowledge and information in a number of different formats.
The organization employs 144 people. Almost half of them work in the printing press. “Our team is proud to be part of such a progressive organisation, and one that provides a complete solution for all the printing needs of the University. We also understand that an investment in technology can actually improve efficiency and build a knowledgeable society.”
The University Press prides itself on the dedication and development of its employees. Senior employees of the press who are well qualified and experienced in print management are given a mentoring role in advising and guiding new employees on the technology and production guidelines of the Press. In addition, new employees regularly attend international workshops, while the senior management keeps abreast of the latest innovations and developments in the field of printing and management by attending advanced courses and training within the Kingdom and overseas.
“We hope to achieve ISO status pretty soon which will allow us to take that next step in our future growth plans. We will be looking forward to acquiring the latest 8-colour printing machine from Heidelberg in the near future too. Looking at what we have achieved in the last ten years, who knows what the next decade has in store for us,” Dr. Al-Turki concluded.