Joe Keenan has returned to Glasgow trade finisher ACA Press Cutters, not as a manager, but as part owner and managing director of the business. He returns after a few years with J Thomson Colour Printers just a few miles along the M8 with plans to shake up the business and most of all to professionalise it.
He has been joined in the venture by serial entrepreneur Dara Changizi, a well known Dragon’s Den type character in Glasgow. Changazi has the contacts in the business field which has enabled the £6.5 million buyout of the business.
The company is already the largest full service trade finishing company in Scotland, but has let its presence in Northern Ireland and the north of England lapse in recent years.
Keenan sees an immediate opportunity to restore these links, but more importantly the business can grow through applying management techniques, sharpening the efficiency of the business and expanding its presence in packaging. ACA is already working with Graphic Enterprise, the Scottish print employer’s organisation, to gain certification in all areas, including BRC which is essential for packaging work.
The transaction has attracted £2.95 million of funding from Royal Bank of Scotland made up of loan, invoice finance package and Lombard hire purchase agreement. Advice came from Theseus Ventures and solicitors Macdonald Henderson.
For that the new owners have gained 80 staff and a business that includes a die making operation and Palatine for embossing dies. It has seven MBO folders, two stitching lines, wire binding, thread sewing and perfect binding on the commercial print side. For packaging there are three flatbed platens, Heidelberg Cylinders and Crossland platen, eight foiling machines, two Sakurai screen machines and five folder gluers.
It has equal facility for making the dies for the platens and magnesium dies for foiling. It is a persuasive line up supported by the odds and sods that go along with trade finishing.
And it is little wonder that Keenan sees tremendous opportunity in the business. “When I worked there I saw how badly it was run. There was no accreditation, even though it was supposed to be working towards BS5750. There was no customer service to speak of and the turnover of staff was high. It is an easy fix.”
The deal took all of 18 months to negotiate, hence Keenan has been able to hit the ground running. There is a plan to shift the machinery to improve the efficiency of work flowing through the business. Uniform shirts are on order to help with morale and training to create a new culture is planned.
Likewise there will be shopfloor data collection feeding to an MIS. The legacy system is an old Shuttleworth unit which has not been upgraded. Exactly what will happen is to be decided in the next few months as the proposals are considered. And there is going to a new emphasis on customer service and sales.
“We want to have the right infrastructure,” says Keenan. “It is a professional company approach, creating a proper workflow and attitude. We are quite confident we can take the business to the next level.” There has been a rebranding exercise and the business is now officially ACA Print Finishing and Packaging Solutions, though the old name will be harder to shift than the perceptions that Keenan is already changing.
“The business had let its Northern Ireland and Newcastle business slip. We have made inroads into the Scottish market and have already started to go back into Newcastle,” he adds. There is adequate transport to move both small and large loads from the 6,000m2 factory on the edge of Glasgow airport.
“Our USP is that we are a fully enclosed operation. We have Laserforms for making cutting formes and Palatine producing foiling and embossing dies which means that we do not have to send out for these and involve more links and time in the process for customers. It means we can do the job faster and can take full responsibility for it.
My main concern used to be around customer service. There were too few people with too many hats which affected the company’s reputation. We are trying to change that and to build up strong partnerships.”
BRC certification which should come in the summer is vital for ACA to gain the confidence of printers who need to outsource some of their finishing requirements. “This is starting to open doors with people and others are starting to approach us,” he adds. This crosses into book printing and commercial work. “There is a wee resurgence in demand for print. They are getting books printed again and finance companies are finding that customers want to read through a hard copy of a proposal before signing, rather than signing up online.
We would like to think that we can grow the business, perhaps through acquisitions, to double turnover.”