Just two weeks after announcing his decision to leave ESP Colour, Anthony Thirlby has over 50 approaches from companies interested in his next project.
Thirlby has set up AHT Consulting as the vehicle to work on a handful of projects that are outside the immediate market that ESP works in. “I’ve done what I set out to with ESP. It’s not the same challenge it was previously,” he says. Thirlby, 38, says that becoming bored was a risk. “I decided that the best thing was to create a few new challenges.”
At ESP Colour, he became known for driving down makeready time and extracting the best possible performance from Heidelberg’s presses, firstly with XL75s and latterly with an XL105 and now the XL106. However, he stresses that production efficiency is only one strand of what has been built in Swindon. “People may think that it’s all efficiency driven, but you have to have the right commercial platform and the sales pipeline to maximise the production platform,” he explains. “Print has become fascinated by efficiency at all costs, but you still have to have a sales mechanism. You have to forge real strategic partnerships with customers and suppliers.”
As well as deep relationships with Heidelberg and ink supplier Huber to maximise the performance of the presses, the company's work with MIS provider Tharstern and Kodak on colour management and production workflow have been crucial to what has been created over the last nine years that Thirlby has been with the company. Thirlby himself has experience in finance as well as production, sales and commercial operations.
He plans to work across four or so different activities, both in terms of industry sector and region. “I have built quite a good network and have had 52 direct offers of work from the US, Japan, Australia and Scandinavia as well as here. And I’m going to research different sectors and work with some different people with different mindsets towards creating print related products,” he explains.
Digital print is an area of fascination. ESP runs Kodak Nexpresses and not surprisingly these became the best performing machines of their type in the UK. Despite this Thirlby reckons that he has not scratched the potential of digital, while sales can also become more effective.
“Conventional offset litho still has a huge part to play, but it’s a service element for a business with two of three output capabilities which can be different technologies. Because my background is from outside the industry, I have been able to take the emotion out of decisions and look at the facts. Sometimes the manufacturers do not understand that themselves because they will focus on production when it’s about commercial benefit.”
In short he explains it’s about finding the best way to minimise operating costs to achieve the highest return. And that will be different across different businesses and different sectors. “It’s about how a business positions itself,” he continues. “I believe that the trade is going to get stronger because the people that are left after recession are more business oriented. The requirements of a printed product are still what they were.
“Leaving the people at ESP was very difficult because there are some great, great people there and it has been a long journey.”
“Conventional offset litho still has a huge part to play," says Anthony Thirlby, "but it’s a service element for a business with two of three output capabilities which can be different technologies.
"Because my background is from outside the industry, I have been able to take the emotion out of decisions and look at the facts.
"Sometimes the manufacturers do not understand that themselves because they will focus on production when it’s about commercial benefit.”