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  • It might be the endless clear blue skies energising the vibrant outback colours and turquoise waters; or perhaps the largest flower show on Earth, as the annual chroma-fest of brilliant wildflowers gravitates from the north to the south of the state, in bloom from July to December. Whatever the reason, people in the mighty western state of Australia have exceptional appreciation for colours; none more so than Advance Press. We visited them to see how they do it.

    Ian Smith

    Ian Smith, General Manager of Advance Press

    Whether it is environmental happenstance or sheer dedication to the craft of printing, Western Australia is leading the way in the uptake of the ISO 12647-2:2013 colour standard for offset lithography. Local competition may have something to do with it; as with most businesses in Perth, printing is hyper-competitive as companies vie for their share of a pie limited by population and isolation - Perth is closer to Jakarta than any other Australian capital city.

    Celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2018 is one of WA's pioneering colour printers - Advance Press. The years have seen inevitable changes, including a brief encounter with private-equity ownership under Gresham's Geon brand; only to be re-acquired in an MBO by a quartet of managers, led by current Managing Director Ian Smith when Geon imploded.

    Since the 2013 MBO, Advance Press, its forty-seven employees and customers have not looked back, and the much-awarded printer is enjoying growth that includes the assimilation of Pilpel Print's customers, equipment and some staff in 2017 when those companies made a planned exit from the industry.

    Awards have flooded into Advance Press on both state and national levels. The WA PICAs have featured them in Best of Category multiple times and the National Print Awards have delivered many gold and silver awards including for calendars in 2017.

    Outside Advance Press entrance Building

    Advance Press entrance, WA

    Upgrading of ISO Colour

    The latest achievement for Advance Press is the upgrading of its ISO colour certification to the latest 12647-2:2013 standard - something only a handful of printers nationally have achieved. Implemented and audited by David Crowther of Colour Graphics Services and using Mellow Colour PrintSpec software and Techkon measuring instruments, the 2013 ISO standard takes into consideration optical brighteners that are found in many of today's print substrates, revised viewing conditions and what is known as 'M1 mode measurement.'

    Optical brightening agents (OBAs) absorb UV and reflect light that tends towards the blue-end of the spectrum, 400nm to 450nm. This gives the appearance of a brighter and 'whiter' stock, when in fact it is more 'bluish'. "However, in order to control colours under these new circumstances, the spectral measurement must take into account the OBAs and their 'fluorescing' effect," says David Crowther. "It's also tied to the viewing conditions, which in themselves are an ISO standard known as 3664:2009. It all sounds complicated but Advance Press has achieved total control over its colour by closing the colour loop and complying at every point."

    Advance Press was already ISO 12647:2:2007 certified and audited so, the attainment of 2013 certification is really an upgrade. Why was this necessary?

    "We had little choice, we had to upgrade for our customers' satisfaction," says Managing Director Ian Smith. "We had to do it right so, once again, we called in David Crowther of Colour Graphic Services who has a very consultative approach to colour and passionately wants us to succeed in improving our processes in this regard."

    Massive 'Green' Print Power

    Located in the Perth suburb of Bassendean, Advance Press is a true 'printer's printer' with a mixture of mainly offset presses from Heidelberg in A1, A2 and A3 formats plus an increasingly busy digital department comprising two HP Indigo colour presses and a Xerox Nuvera 144EA monochromatic device - the only one of its kind in Western Australia. The EA refers to 'emulsion aggregation' whereby the toners are chemically 'grown' rather than milled down and pulverised into particles of plasticized material. This results in a more eco-friendly toner that also uses less energy in fusing.

    Environmental considerations are a priority at Advance Press; when Print21 visited, the entire roof was in the process of being covered with solar panels, The company recently achieved ISO14001:2015 status is also Green Stamp level 2 accredited and the work it produces can carry the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) logo as it has been audited for chain of custody and responsible sourcing of pulp, paper and logistic handling. For quality assurance Advance is ISO 9001:2015 accredited by SGS to worldwide standards.

    The vanguard to the press fleet is a Heidelberg Speedmaster 102 eight-colour 4/4 press partnered with a Heidelberg Speedmaster 105XL five-colour. A3 jobs are produced through another Heidelberg, a SM52 two-colour. This yields a daily 24-hour shift capability of 500,000 A1 impressions and 240,000 in A2, all in full colour. Expressing this in A4 equivalent impressions means 5 million full colour A4 impressions in a day; before the digital output is even counted.

    Such capability requires a substantial finishing department and Advance's does not disappoint - it's huge with multiple Heidelberg/Stahl folders, die-cutters and stitchers plus a variety of drilling, stapling, cutting, folding and booklet making equipment. The perfect binding received a huge boost last year with the addition of a Wohlenberg city e 6000, 20-station machine from the acquisition of Print Finishing Line (part of the Pilpel business).

    "We like to perform everything in-house so we do not have to rely on outside contractors," says Smith. "It saves time and money plus reduces our environmental footprint. We also make sure we have significant back-up facilities."

    Fortune 500 Clients

    With such capacity, quality and capabilities, it is little wonder that Advance Press' client list includes such major companies and brands such as Crown Perth, RAC WA, Curtin University plus several other Government departments and local authorities.

    "To maintain our reputation for quality and reliability, it is essential to keep colour under control," says Smith. "Colour excellence is a marketing tool for us but also a productivity booster – our printers get to match proofs much faster and there is little waste. In servicing international brands, we have to be internationally-compliant and Mellow Colour ISO 12647-2:2013 gets us there. The PrintSpec software pinpoints any issues with colour and clearly sets the parameters for in or out-of-spec colour, there's no subjective assessment or guesswork anymore, which is very reassuring for our clients."

    Crowther describes the process: "First, Advance Press's two Epson Spectroproofer 9900s needed to be upgraded with the ILS30 spectroproofer to enable M1 mode and new proofing media optimised with OBAs. The proofing software – ORIS ColorTuner – also required an upgrade. The prepress personnel John Austin and Vuk Svarog are very competent and quick to learn all about the new 2013 standard; how to implement it and keep it that way."

    John Austin (L) and Vuk Svarog

    John Austin (L) and Vuk Svarog inspect proofs from the Epson Spectroproofer

    Staying Top of the Game

    He continues: "We supplied a new Techkon SpectroDens measuring instrument which includes M1 mode. They now have colour completely under control across their two A1 presses and I am proud to say they are a Mellow Colour '100 Club' member meaning that they have recently achieved a 100% score of compliance within the tight parameters for Mellow Colour Quality Management Systems."

    Ian Smith adds: "Once upon a time, colour control was a major issue; matching proofs and matching between presses. Today at Advance Press, colour is no longer a recurring issue thanks to David's training and ISO implementation, Mellow Colour PrintSpec software, Techkon spectrophotometers, the Epson Spectroproofers and our fantastic staff who have embraced the culture of measured, scientific colour control passionately, from design to print.

    "It's a very competitive print communications landscape out there, we have to be at the top of our game" he adds.

    Ian Smith, John Austin (c) and Glen Morrisey

    Ian Smith (L) John Austin (c) and printer Glen Morrisey with the Heidelberg 105XL-5, fingerprinted to the latest ISO 12647-2:2013 standard