Collaborating is the key to success for industrial print growth

GEW has recently confirmed their participation at InPrint and become one of our select group of strategic sponsors and representing GEW, David Lyus, Sales Manager for industrial printing has become one of the InPrint Ambassadors.

Located in southern England, not too far from InPrint HQ, so it was a quick 20 minute drive down to Crawley to meet up with Managing Director and owner, Malcolm Rae, Sales Manager Digital and Industrial, David Lyus and Sales and Marketing Support, Martin Kugler.

There I discovered an inspiring story of engineering entrepreneurialism which began in my home town of Reigate in Surrey, just 30 miles south of London at the foot of the North Downs. Some will know that before FM Brooks came into existence in 2011, Frazer Chesterman and I ran FESPA and their current base of Bancroft road in Reigate is literally 50 yards from where GEW began their business story.

GEW are a family-owned, British manufacturer of UV curing systems for printing, coating and industrial applications. The company has taken a world-leading position in both UV curing technology and the label printing market, with thousands of installations across the globe.

Firstly, to clarify, what is UV Curing? It is a drying process that literally utilises ultra violet light to dry the ink on the substrate and has grown in significance over the past 20 years.

GEW itself was formed in March 1991 by Gillian and Malcolm Rae to provide the narrow web label market with compact, air-cooled UV curing systems and has since grown considerably to employ over 100 people.

Malcolm explains, “The early years were based in Reigate in Surrey and then in a small factory unit in nearby Redhill. Products were developed for a range of label printing machines enabling the company to grow, becoming identified with narrow web printing machines. This in itself has provided the business with plenty of scope for development and growth as the label printing sector has grown consistently during this period. Over time we have continually improved and enhanced our products and service. What we are particularly proud of over the past few years is that our customers tell us we have moved from a number 2 position in the market to number 1. This has been achieved through constant improvement not just of the technology itself but of the entire business from manufacturing, accounts through to our sales and marketing. We know our customer service is excellent as we still retain the first customer we ever had!

Our focus on long term support and customer care ensures a GEW UV system runs efficiently throughout the life of the machine to which it is fitted. All staff at GEW is committed to supplying effective UV curing solutions which allow our customers to print faster for longer, with less energy and very little downtime. With our recent move to a state of the art centre in Crawley, located close to London’s Gatwick Airport, we have improved further as the environment is now more conducive to improved performance and we are thriving as a result.”

Printing presses reproduce graphical images in very high volume, so naturally the process starts with a blank substrate and is fed through the press and the image is applied one colour on top of the other to form a complete image. Typically, after one colour is printed, the ink needs to be cured before the next colour is applied, otherwise the image will be ruined, so the level of precision and speed for industrial output is highly valued by both print machinery manufacturers and the end users of the technology itself.

Evolutionary Innovation

But whilst the original focus has been on UV technology for narrow format web printing for labels, GEW has over the past few years widened to reflect the evolution of technology. This sound basis of development for label printing has undoubtedly helped GEW to continue to grow whilst they have also had some real successes in relation to new products that provide their customer base with significant advantages, whilst developing into wide format as well.

David Lyus explains, “As narrow web widens, GEW has developed curing technologies for the wide format sector and now we are pointing their attention to the industrial markets. Now having this state of the art facility close to Gatwick enhances our innovation process considerably. Since we have been here our pace of development has increased and we have created our product ‘Rhino’ which has been incredibly successful. With an improved layout of the factory, a better recruitment area and access to talent, being close to airport means we have been able to develop more quickly. We feel we are now confidently leading the markets we operate in.”

You mention ‘Rhino’, David, explain more about this to me, what is it and how did it come about?

RHINO is GEW’s electronic power supply for its range of UV LED and arc lamp systems. The RHINO, together with the lamphead and the touchscreen control panel, make a complete UV system. Each lamphead has its own power supply, and up to 16 lampheads can be operated from the same control.  RHINO based UV systems are unique in that they can run either UV LEDs or arc lamps interchangeably as a hybrid curing system.  They also achieve substantial energy savings compared to conventional systems and because they come with embedded service technology which monitors the system’s performance over the internet and proactively avoids downtime.  All RHINO powered UV systems are covered by a 5-year warranty as standard.

It is clear that from a modest beginning in a small Surrey town, GEW is a success story, I ask Malcolm what has been the key to the success?

Malcolm Rae answers, “What I think matters most are how your customers view you and their commitment to GEW products has been the key to our success. When Swiss, German and Danish customers who have been buying with you since 1995 still remain loyal customers and you rarely lose a customer to competitor businesses, means you can build a very solid business. Let us make no mistake, the customer is the most important person for any business so retaining their business and effectively collaborating with them to solve problems is absolutely essential.”

So what about the future? How is LED technology playing a role?

David Lyus answers, “It was 10 years ago that GEW began working and developing their LED product range and we see this as a significant addition to our product portfolio. Rob Rae (Malcolm’s son) is busy developing the product and has achieved some significant breakthroughs and we have passed some significant trials and GEW’s product has come out top of the pile for performance in recent tests with some of the world’s biggest ink manufacturers which is very exciting. One of the key advantages is both speed and the fact that the system uses a lot less energy than traditional UV curing techniques.

As with any new technology, the performance must be just as good, if not better, than the previous process. So to some extent, the introduction of LED UV curing has had to wait for the correct development of the ink. But now we have the technology that is truly going to provide a considerable performance advantage for GEW and our customers. LED is easy to integrate and it is an on demand process which really suits short run production. For a traditional arc lamp short runs could be unwieldy. So economically it makes sense as the economic advantages are obvious. LED is monochromatic, so the narrow beam of energy is extremely precise and efficient. You get a very good cure particularly on a white layer on a very specific area. For example the base layer of white ink uses a fraction of the energy with maximum press speed achieving a full cure. If you compare LED with UV, the difference is like looking a long distance with a telescope for accuracy (LED), compared with looking through standard glasses. The glasses give you great general coverage, but the telescope gives you a precise application. That’s not to say UV is bad, and LED is better for everything as it depends entirely on the application and process being used but this gives you a good idea.”

Malcolm concludes, “We see a positive and healthy future for GEW and in particular industrial printing which is why we have decided to become a key sponsor for the InPrint Show. As with any growth initiative, it does require that the company moves outside of our comfort zone. Therefore what is vital is that we collaborate with ink manufacturers, with system integrators, with industrial print production companies, and with end manufacturers to develop products that enhance manufacturing output.”

GEW exhibit at InPrint 2015 visit them in Hall A6 on booth F43.

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