The narrative of Online Reprographics so far can be defined by two words: foresight and courage. After breaking away from a large reprographic company in 2004, the ambitious British start-up enterprise wanted to become a prominent business in the architecture, design and construction markets.
Founder John Foy and his partners, having worked in the industry for all their professional lives, were confident that this was an achievable dream. Based across two sites in London, Online Reprographics has built on their experience to amass a loyal international client portfolio. In this time, it has developed a reputation for a fast and efficient service that is underpinned by digital technology and complemented by an intuitive understanding of its customers’ needs.
Not a business to rest on its laurels, the progressive digital reprographer has always recognised that evolution is key to success. Operating within the competitive colour CAD print market, Online Reprographics identified speed and capacity as two key USPs that could differentiate its service offering and allow it to stay ahead of the pack. “It was all about being able to handle larger volumes of colour CAD work quickly and cost-effectively,” explains Foy. “We required the capacity and power to aggressively attack the market.”
Online Reprographics spoke to Canon to discuss its business aspirations. “We have always had a fantastic relationship with Canon, originally through Océ,” comments Foy. “My partners and I have worked with the company since our apprenticeships. When we decided to set up Online Reprographics in 2004, they were very supportive. They didn’t see us a risky investment as they knew our track record and believed in us. And we knew what we were getting in terms of a business partner – a supplier of great large format technology and an expert in the CAD field and beyond. It was only natural to develop our new business plan with them.”
John and his partners first consulted numerous suppliers to ensure they were equipping themselves with the right technology and business support to execute their new strategy. The company’s two production sites in Angel and Tower Bridge in London feature a host of digital technology from different suppliers, so there was no shortage of partners to approach.
“We didn’t blindly jump in with Canon,” explains Foy. “We researched all available and upcoming technologies that would give us the edge in the higher volume market. However, we just couldn’t look past Canon’s ultra-productive ColorWave technology. Reassured by our existing previous relationship with Canon and the appeal of its brand, we knew were making the right decision. The after-service and support was also vital. You need to be able to trust your supplier and be confident that it has the infrastructure and expertise to maximise your investment.”
With production costs and turnaround times greatly improved following the investment in the ColorWave technology, Foy wanted even more speed and versatility. Following another market consultation in 2014, Canon once again stepped forward with a new proposition to meet Online Reprographics’ needs. Canon introduced the company to its latest digital colour concept product – its next generation, ultra-high-speed ColorWave 900 large format printer.
“We were keen to see one as soon as it became available,” comments Foy. “We wanted to see the model integrated with a folding machine, so Canon arranged for a demonstration at its global R&D and production facility in the Netherlands. They carefully explained how it would not only enhance our graphic plotting work in colour, but also support our ambitions to make the move into the promotional print market too.”
Online Reprographics became the first customer in the UK to invest in the latest ColorWave model. With the device’s market-leading speeds and the reprographer’s pioneering mindset, the investment was a fitting marriage. Online Reprographics has not only radically increased print volumes, but it has changed the way its customers view print applications in colour.
“Beyond the quality and precision of the Canon device, it’s the sheer speed of the technology,” Foy states. “That’s paramount in the fast-paced architecture, design and construction markets and can make all the difference when competing for jobs. A large CAD order would have previously taken up to twelve hours. Now it can be delivered in a fifth of that time – just one and half hours. That reliability and efficiency is our USP. If we receive an order before 15:00, we can usually offer same day delivery.”
Online Reprographics has successfully been able to promote their high speed, colour services to over 150 clients, many of whom were previously sceptical. “In the past, our customers didn’t see the benefit of colour,” elaborates Foy. “But with our new pricing plan and production speeds, over a third of the company’s colour work is now produced through the latest high volume ColorWave model.”
One customer who has benefited from Online Reprographics’ new proposition is HTA Architects. “We recently completed a major planning application and were on a tight deadline,” explains company partner, Lucy Smith. “We required over 600 drawings in colour but given the timeframe, thought the order would only be possible in black and white. Online Reprographics ensured we had our drawings back, in colour, within a couple of hours. The time we saved in printing was invaluable as it gave us back the best part of a day’s design time!”
In 2012, less than 20 per cent of Online Reprographics’ clients spent money on CAD colour, despite the specialist championing its cause. Now it stands at 50 per cent and growing. That has translated into year-on-year business growth in excess of 22 per cent through sales.
It’s early days, but with our production capacity and the continued support of Canon – who are always encouraging us and working with us to come up with new ideas – we have established a plan to grow our business a further 12 per cent over the next 12 months, with short-run promotional work in the retail sector hopefully contributing to that growth.
Foy concludes by underlining the importance of business relationships, maintaining that strong partnerships are the foundation of any business.
Canon showed faith in us from the beginning and we try to replicate that with the way we work with our customers. For instance, a small but important part of our business consists of architecture and design students. We give them the same level of service that we offer our larger clients, so that hopefully they remember us when they’re in their first jobs. A number of our current customers are previous students that we supported during their studies. That vindicates our approach.