SOCIAL MEDIA & PRESS RELEASE CASE STUDIES
Mary Hare School
Mary Hare School benefits from Sagetech
Released: 11th April 2016
Published by: www.cwponline.co.uk
Sagetech has scored another success with the sale of one of its ZM vertical panel saws to the highly regarded Mary Hare School near Newbury, which specialises in the education of deaf children.
Now in its 70th anniversary year, Mary Hare School replaced an original school founded by the highly accomplished Mary Adelaide Hare in 1916 in Burgess Hill. In 1947 the school moved to its current premises at Arlington Manor near Newbury where it now occupies over 130 acres, providing some of the best facilities for deaf children in the country. The school, owned by Mary Hare Limited www.maryhare.org.uk, is part of a much larger operation which includes training of clinicians for a large high street chain offering audiology services, and Arlington Laboratories, the second biggest manufacturer of ear moulds in the UK. They even have their own hearing aid centre.
Maintenance and Construction
The team on the support side, led by the operations manager David Gibson, are strong on taking the initiative, so in addition to the normal general maintenance, they even undertake the construction of new buildings, which has recently included their own medical centre. As David explained: “This work involves cutting a lot of sheets of ply and MDF, which previously, when our very old table saw failed, we had to do on the bench using a hand-held portable saw, with never very accurate results, or having to man-handle sheets through classrooms to get to a fixed machine in the craft and design department. With very limited space in the workshop, we knew we wanted a vertical saw, and found details of the Sagetech machine on the web.” He went on to explain “Once the finance for the acquisition had been approved, the purchase was very quick and easy from Sagetech”.
“Since installation, the saw has been used extensively; recently we built a new boarding house, and when the fitted bedroom furniture arrived, the contractors’ parts were over size, and the saw was especially helpful in making the necessary precise adjustments. One of the biggest benefits is that it is saving our backs; it is so much easier to carry in a sheet and just drop it on to the saw than it ever was with a table saw and then having to move it through. We really like the fact that it cuts square and so accurately, which saves us considerable time on site when fitting the results. The optional vacuum unit has cut out the dust in the air and residual dust on the workpiece, making this process much cleaner.” David did jokingly remark that because they have been struggling for years, when they got the ZM saw in, they were not used to having such a facility and took time to get used to the idea of using it! Indeed he is clear that he wouldn’t be without it now.
Cost effective solutions
Mary Hare’s ZM12 is the smallest of the Zapkut ZM range of machines, which start as low as £2,495 for an 8’ x 4’ (2500 x 1250 mm) capacity unit. This is just one of the now four ranges of machines offered by British manufacturer Sagetech, who specialise in vertical panel saws for the smaller business. The Zapkut brand is for lighter duties, and in addition to the ZM range they also offer a unique ZK portable unit in two sizes, which when not in use can be folded up compactly and stored conveniently, say hanging on the wall.
The Koolkut brand is for those needing a heavier duty machine, where the KF and KK Koolkut units offer capacities up to 3.1 x 2.1m, so these are easily capable of handling the big 3 x 2m sheets. Sagetech thus provides a very comprehensive range of sizes and models, enabling their customers, whose needs range from intermittent cutting to the higher end users (with some even cutting an average of about 150 sheets a week), to select the most compact, space-saving solution appropriate to their business.
Classic Lines and Signs
Zapkut cuts signmaker's waste, speeds production
Released 11th July 2014
Have you ever lost a 'rush' order because you couldn't deliver quickly enough? It's a common enough experience. A key factor in meeting such deadlines is ready access to sheet materials: those relying on delivery of such materials cut to size often find that even a few hours' lead time from their supplier is enough to stop them delivering on tight deadline orders.
The ability to react swiftly, delivering against tight deadlines, depends on the ability to cut sheet materials in house. With a stock of standard sized sheets and a vertical panel saw, production can be accelerated dramatically with no loss of quality, mistakes corrected in minutes rather than hours and off cuts put to profitable use rather than going in the skip.
The challenge to signmakers has been the need for a vertical panel saw. Traditionally, these have been bulky and hugely expensive – impractical for smaller businesses. However, the Zapkut ZK range of portable vertical panel saws from British specialist Sagetech has done away with both of these issues.
Pete Coleman, owner of British signmaker Classic Lines and Signs, has been using a Zapkut ZK10 panel saw at the company's studio in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, UK, for the past four years. "We didn't want to commit to a large investment when buying the saw," he said, "So the price tag (the ZK range starts at just £945) was attractive straight away."
Pete isn't a man to buy on price alone, though. The Zapkut ZK range offers a wealth of capabilities normally associated with much more expensive machines, including plunge and bevel cutting, mid-height supports for smaller workpieces, built-in scales for rapid dimensioning and a robust frame for excellent sheet support and cutting precision.
While designed for light-to-medium workloads, Zapkut saws are not afraid of a bit of hard work. While at a recent Sign and Digital Show, demonstrating Roland products, Pete had the opportunity to chat to Sagetech Managing Director Keith Bunker about his Zapkut ZK10, which had been in operation at Classic Lines and Signs for about two years at that point.
Keith was delighted when Pete mentioned that his ZK10 had cut some 1,000 sheets of Dibond and other materials in the course of those two years.
Despite all this, ZK panel saws are completely portable, fully compatible with a wide range of corded and cordless sawheads, will fit in the back of a small van, and can be deployed or stowed by a single operator in seconds.
The right tool for the job
Classic Lines and Signs undertake a wide variety of work for a broad spectrum of customers, ranging from 'one man and his van' through to national franchises. As well as a comprehensive range of signeage products, including large format work for articulated trucks, they produce hotel key fobs, banners, flags, and other fabric products.
"Variety is the name of the game," Pete commented. "That's why we've built up a broad set of tools in the studio; the Zapkut ZK10 is an important part of that toolkit."
With that set of tools, Classic Lines and Signs have reduced their dependence on any individual supplier. "It's all about the right tool for the job," Pete added.
The Zapkut not only allows Classic Lines and Signs to operate in a slick, nimble fashion, responding promptly to customer requirements, it also allows them to, as Pete put it, "Turn off-cuts into money." Instead of throwing off-cuts away, Pete uses the Zapkut to trim them down to size for a wide range of smaller products – including those hotel key fobs. "That would be money straight in the bin otherwise," he observed.
Furthermore, with the Zapkut ZK10 on hand, should a sheet sizing error occur, it can be rectified straight away. Signmakers who rely on their suppliers to provide sheet materials cut-to-size often have to wait a significant period for any mistakes to be rectified, seriously impacting their ability to respond nimbly to customer demands.
The Zapkut's versatility shows itself not only in the types of cut it can make, but also the materials it can handle. "We're cutting Corian, composite board, recycled board, foam board and acrylic," Pete noted. "It's great for acrylics," he added.
For many signmakers, especially those using knife-based systems, cutting acrylics can be a challenge. Knife-based cutting systems require a 'score and snap' approach for acrylics – this can prove especially difficult with smaller or thicker workpieces and there is an ever-present risk of the sheet not snapping precisely along the scored line. Zapkut saws can prove something of a revelation to anyone used to such systems, as they cut acrylics quickly, cleanly and easily in a single pass, thanks to Sagetech's 'triple chip' blade.
Koolkut powers growth at Elite Signs
Released 21st May 2014
Growth, while a good thing and a key goal for many businesses, brings its challenges. For Elite Signs, based in Lincolnshire, in the UK, the issue of sheet material cutting loomed large among those challenges.
Established in 1998, the company originally cut Foamex and Dibond manually, with a blade and straight edge, buying other sheet materials in cut to size. This approach was fine while the business was small, but, as Nick Tinker, Elite's owner, explained, it fell short once the company began to grow. "We grew by about a third in the course of one year," he noted. "That revealed a number of issues demanding attention."
Flexibility and capacity
There were three main issues. Studio work-flow needed to be smoothed and accelerated, off-cuts needed to be used instead of being thrown away, and Elite's ability to respond to rush orders needed improving. "It all came down to the need for greater flexibility and capacity," Nick observed.
To achieve that flexibility and capacity, Elite Signs needed to be able to cut sheet materials in house. With standard-sized sheets of common materials on hand and the ability to cut them as required, the company would no longer need to wait for their suppliers to deliver materials for each incoming order. Additionally, Elite would be able to make use of off cuts, turning what was previously waste into saleable products.
A wall saw the best option
Nick was aware that a moving-column vertical panel saw would be the best option, requiring only a small operating footprint, being able to cut a wide variety of materials, facilitating one-man operation and repeat cuts, and entirely eliminating the need for horizontal handling – problematic with heavy sheets and vulnerable, flexible sheets such as acrylics.
On researching the market, though, he found most machines were exceptionally expensive, even when available second hand. It was at this point that he came across the Koolkut range from British panel saw specialist Sagetech (www.sagetech.co.uk) priced from £4,995.
"I was impressed," he recalled. "The Koolkuts were priced about the same, new, as many second hand machines, and it was immediately apparent that they're robust, solidly built saws. For the money, it was (and is) amazing."
Sagetech – open, approachable, helpful
Speaking to Sagetech to find out more about the Koolkut range, Nick found the company friendly and helpful. "There was plenty of detail on the saws: I was able to get all the information I needed to properly assess whether a Koolkut would be right for us," he noted. "As a company they're open, approachable and non-pushy; really nice to deal with."
Elite Signs' Koolkut KK21 is the largest saw in the Koolkut range, catering for sheet sizes of up to 3.1m by 2.1m. Its smaller siblings, the KK16 and KK12, cut sheets of up to 10' x 5' (3.1m x 1.6m) and 8' x 4' (2.5m x 1.25m) respectively. All Koolkuts offer plunge and bevel cutting, simple and compound angle cutting to the full length and breadth of the sheet, quick stops for easy precise and repeat dimensioning and mid-height supports for smaller workpieces.
The Koolkut range sits at the heavy-weight end of Sagetech's family of saws, capable of high-end intermediate industrial use. Some operators are using these saws to cut up to 150 sheets per week. At the other end of the spectrum, Sagetech's fully portable Zapkut ZK range offers a genuine vertical panel saw solution to entry-level operators, while the Zapkut ZM units are mid-range solutions, providing many of the benefits of heavier duty units (such as a moving column design) at a fraction of the cost.
Versatility, precision and safety
Able to cut a wide range of signmaking materials, including plywood, MDF, acrylics, Foamex, Dibond and solid aluminium, the Koolkut range offers greater versatility than guillotine and knife-blade cutting solutions.
With no exposed blade nor the need to move the workpiece during cutting, these saws are safer than common alternatives such as table saws. The exceptionally robust frame and high-precision, sealed-for-life bearings offer more precise cutting.
The vertical attitude removes the need for horizontal sheet handling, reducing the risk of injury and workpiece damage. Cutting even the heaviest sheets is a genuine one-man job.
Installed in early 2013 Elite Signs' Koolkut KK21 has become an indispensable part of Elite Signs' armoury. Running every day and on busy days, more or less continuously the Koolkut is used for dimensioning Foamex and Dibond, and trimming off-cuts to size for use in customer projects. The saw is also frequently used to trim off the bleed on finished signs. "The quality of the cut edge is that good," said Nick.
An absolute essential
The Koolkut's impact on the business has been substantial. It has markedly accelerated Elite's production process and improved flexibility in the studio. Nick's team can now cut materials when it's most convenient to do so, making productive use of what was previously down-time.
The Koolkut has made same-day orders entirely practical. This is especially important as, as Nick commented, "It's surprising how many customers place orders because they know we can deliver to a tight deadline."
Nick summarised: "The Koolkut has given us enhanced speed and flexibility, and contributed to stronger profits. It paid for itself within the first year. It's an absolute essential in the studio, and great value for money!"
For more information on Sagetech's vertical panel saw ranges, please call +44 (0) 118 970 1950 or visit www.sagetech.co.uk. The company is increasing its focus on export markets and is actively seeking dealers around the world.
The Sign Shop (Lincoln)
Sagetech's Koolkut is the sane option
Released 31st January 2014
When Gordon Speirs was looking for a wall saw for his Lincoln (UK) sign and graphics business, The Sign Shop, he found several cheap but poor quality machines, and many very expensive machines, but few options in between: high quality, capable vertical panel saws, at affordable prices.
It was British panel saw specialist Sagetech's Koolkut range that filled the gap. As Gordon noted, "The Koolkut KK12 wall saw was exactly what we needed – at the right price."
Established in 1996, The Sign Shop specialises in signeage, vehicle graphics, labels, printed promotional gifts, flat-bed printing and exhibition materials, serving a wide range of businesses in the Lincoln area.
Until mid-2013, Gordon had relied on buying Dibond, Foamex and other sheet materials cut to the sizes required for each job.
The approach was workable, but had its limitations, as he explained. "Particularly for smaller orders, having sheets cut before delivery was causing delays and that was a problem. I realised that it would be much quicker for us to buy standard sheets for these jobs and cut them in house as we needed them," he said.
Gordon already had two fixed-blade cutters, but neither was particularly versatile, struggling with aluminium composites. Since The Sign Shop was seeing an increase in the use of such materials, Gordon was keen to put in place a more capable system.
Flexibility was the key, though. "I wanted a quick and easy way of cutting sheets for smaller jobs – quick enough to make us a lot more flexible in responding to customer requirements," Gordon observed. For smaller 'rush' orders, waiting for the sheet material supplier to cut and deliver was no longer a viable option.
A wall saw would be the best tool for the job, Gordon knew, but when he went to the Internet to find out what models were available, he found an unexpected problem. "There seemed to be plenty of cheap saws of pretty poor quality," he recalled, "And at the other end of the scale, some frighteningly expensive machines which were way beyond the budget of smaller signmakers like us."
Quality, capability and value
Gordon found only one range of saws in that middle ground, offering excellent quality and capabilities at a price affordable to the smaller signmaker: Sagetech's Koolkut range.
The Koolkut range caters for various sizes of sheets, with the smallest model, the KK12, cutting up to 2.5m x 1.25m and the largest, the KK21, up to 3.1m x 2.1m. All Koolkuts feature an immensely strong steel frame, a moving column for easy, compact operation, innovative sealed bearings running on linear shafts (ideal for dusty environments) plunge and bevel cutting, and simple and compound angle cutting to the full length and breadth of the sheet.
Installed in the summer of 2013, The Sign Shop's Koolkut KK12 wall saw is already having a significant impact on the business. Cutting a mix of Dibond, various thicknesses of Foamex, acrylics, MDF and plywood, it has greatly improved workflow and the company's ability to respond nimbly to customer requirements. Gordon noted, "We aren't cutting huge amounts – a few sheets a day – but it's making a big difference. The ability to cut materials as we need them is great."
Koolkut wall saw shows its versatility
Released 28th January 2014
It's common knowledge that wall saws are the sheet-cutting tools of choice among woodworkers and signmakers, in particular larger ones. What's not so well known, though, is that some models, such as British manfacturer Sagetech's Koolkut range, are also ideally suited to work in sectors entirely unrelated to these.
Koolkuts are hard at work in diverse industries around the world. An excellent example is provided by HR Kilns & HR Fibreglass, based in Skelmersdale, Liverpool in the UK.
On the grid
Established in 1995, HR Kilns originally supplied spares and repair services to kiln operators. Having diversified into fibreglass fabrication some six years ago, extending its name accordingly, most of the company's work is now in this area. As well as bespoke and off-the-shelf Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) fabrication for various customers including the railways and water suppliers, HR Kilns & HR Fibreglass also sells fibreglass grids in various sizes.
These grids, ranging in thickness from 14mm to 55mm, are some four times lighter than steel yet almost as strong, and not prone to discolouration. They are used widely as non-slip walkways in various industrial and other environments.
A better way to cut
The grids must be cut to the correct size for each customer's needs. As Darren Weston, Managing Director, noted, this is where Sagetech's Koolkut KK21S wall saw comes in. "Until we got the Koolkut about five years ago, we were cutting the grids with jigsaws and grinders."
The process was messy and lacked precision. It was also slow. Before a grid could be cut, it had to be manhandled onto trestles and then marked up to the correct dimensions, all of which was time-consuming and labour-intensive: horizontal sheet handling is always more difficult than vertical.
With the company growing and customer demand increasing, a better approach to cutting was becoming essential. Darren set about searching the market for more suitable tools, and, finding Sagetech's website (www.sagetech.co.uk) was delighted to find the versatile Koolkut range.
"I called Sagetech to find out more about the saws," Darren recalled. "They were really helpful, and very genuine."
Reliable in heavy use
Five years on, HR Kilns & HR Fibreglass' Koolkut KK21S is really earning its keep. In use every day cutting fibreglass grids and trimming moulded fibreglass sheets to size, it has proved exceptionally reliable despite heavy use in an highly abrasive, dusty environment. This reliability is due in large part to the high quality power heads fitted to these saws, and the sealed ball bearings on which the moving column travels across the frame.
"The Koolkut is much faster than our old jigsaws, grinders and trestles method," said Darren. "It's allowed us to be more responsive to customer requirements, and it's improved productivity. It's a far more cost effective way of cutting. On top of that, having the right equipment helps customers see us as a professional, well-run, well-resourced company."
"I'm well happy: the Koolkut does a great job and I'd recommend it one hundred percent," he concluded.
Zapkut panel saw helps realise signmaker's aspirations
Released 30th October 2013
While buying sheet materials in cut-to-size can be a pragmatic solution that works well enough for predictable and limited volumes of work, its limitations quickly become apparent. Those limitations present the growing signmaker with a key decision: how to manage the cutting of sheet materials for maximum efficiency and flexibility, while minimising costs.
Swindon, UK based Aspire Signs found their answer in Sagetech Ltd's Zapkut ZM16 moving column vertical panel saw.
Established three years ago, Aspire Signs provides a wide range of interior, exterior and vehicular signage. The company has secured diverse clients, ranging from solo tradesmen through to multi-million pound businesses.
Restrictions to growth
As Aspire Signs grew, it quickly became clear to Director Ollie Stobbs that buying sheet materials in cut to the required sizes, while apparently the obvious approach, was restricting the company's ability to capitalise on many sales opportunities. It was also leading to the wasting of materials which if used, could contribute to the growing company's bottom-line profits.
"To respond to rush orders, we needed to be able to stock sheet materials and cut them on site," Ollie recalled. "Also, I wanted to be able to make use of off cuts: they were basically profit going in the bin."
Additionally, while 'free' cut-to-size services are currently widespread as a result of fierce competition among signmaking sheet material manufacturers, these offers are likely to dry up as the economy recovers and demand rises. As a result increasing numbers of signmakers are looking to bring cutting in house.
Knowing he needed a vertical panel saw, Ollie's challenge was one of prices. In common with many small businesses, he had limited budget to work with and, as he noted, most vertical panel saws fell into the "Stupid money" pigeon-hole.
The solution – at the right price
The breakthrough came when Ollie saw an article in the sign press telling the story of how a Zapkut ZM panel saw had enabled another signmaker to break through the growth ceiling imposed by buying materials in cut to size (here).
Having talked through the ZM's capabilities with Sagetech and seen a machine in action, Ollie was impressed. "Sagetech were really helpful, and it was obvious that the ZM would do everything we needed. On top of that, the price was excellent," he enthused.
A couple of years on, Ollie remains pleased with the ZM16. "It's absolutely superb – you can't beat it," he said. "It's really compact, sitting out of the way in the corner. It's hassle-free, produces very little dust and the cut finish is excellent. The variable speed control is really useful for different materials."
Versatile and easy
Aspire Signs' Zapkut ZM16 finds its primary use in cutting Dibond and Acrylic, as well as some MDF and Foamex – ZM saws will also cut Corex, solid aluminium sheet and plywood, among other materials.
The frustration arising from having sheet materials in stock but no viable way to cut them in order to respond to 'rush' orders has gone: "It's a two minute, one man job," Ollie commented. "Slide the sheet onto the machine – vertical sheet handling is a lot easier than horizontal – set the blade for the dimensions required, and cut. Done. It's so much easier and makes us so much more flexible."
How would Ollie sum up the Zapkut ZM16? "It's great! It was easy to set up and install, it's simple and quick to use, the measurement scales are accurate and it's very compact, especially taking into account the sheet sizes it will cut."
The Zapkut ZM16 moving column vertical panel saw is part of Sagetech's extensive range, including the Zapkut ZK portable panel saw family and the heavier-duty Koolkut machines. The range covers applications from occasional cutting through to mid/heavy industrial use, catering for all popular signmaking and woodworking sheet sizes from 8' x 4' (2.4m x 1.2m) to 3.1m x 2.1m. Unlike many 'guillotine' cutters, Sagetech's saws cut horizontally as well as vertically, so require no extra headroom to cut the full length of even those 3m x 2m sheets.
Koolkut powers growth at Elite Signs
Zapkut panel saw 'fantastic'
Released 26th February 2013
Smaller signmakers often find themselves in the unenviable position of, apparently, having to choose between highly expensive vertical panel saws and various second-best compromise solutions.
When Andy Roddie, owner of B3 Signs in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, explored this issue in 2012 he was delighted to find a third, much better option: the Zapkut ZM moving column panel saw, which, while robust, easy to use and accurate, is priced from just £2,495.
Established ten years ago, B3 Signs serves customers including various retail chains, Howdens Joinery, the NHS and other healthcare providers. Products and services include wraps, other large format digital printing, lamination and CNC work, much of it for other signmakers who lack the necessary equipment or skills.
In house – in control
"We do everything in house," said Andy. "Independence of outside providers gives us full control of our products and services, and the flexibility to respond well to our customers: excellent service in double-quick time."
Having followed a strategy of building B3 Signs' skills and installed plant, Andy turned in 2012 to the matter of sheet cutting. For many years the company bought pre-cut sheet materials and cut in house with craft knives – scoring and snapping. While workable, these approaches left room for improvement.
"Buying pre-cut materials was wasteful and costly: we had to pay for full sheets even if we only needed portions of them," Andy noted. "And scoring and snapping was imprecise and slow."
The price is right!
When Andy spotted the all-British made Zapkut ZM in a trade press advertisement early in 2012, his initial reaction was one of surprise. "The price brought me up short," he recalled. "A moving-column steel-framed vertical panel saw for under £2,500! I'd seen nothing comparable for under £5,500."
Calling Hampshire-based Zapkut Limit
ed and half expecting the price to be for a lesser model, Andy was delighted to find that the ZM shown in the advertisement was indeed available at the quoted price. "Honest advertising!" he chuckled. "Very refreshing!"
Low price, outstanding quality and features
As careful with his business decisions as he is with B3 Signs' products and services, Andy spent some time assessing the Zapkut ZM range.
He knew a vertical panel saw would be the best way to address to B3 Signs' sheet cutting needs, and that a moving-column model would be the best option – a compact operating footprint would enhance the company's ability to take on additional work by freeing up workshop space.
He wanted to be sure, though, that the Zapkut ZM would deliver the precision, ease of assembly and ease of use he needed. He discussed the machine with Zapkut's Managing Director, Keith Bunker, who explained how through advanced design and manufacturing techniques Zapkut had been able to drive cost out of the machine while maintaining a superlative specification and build quality.
When B3 Signs' Zapkut ZM was delivered in October 2012, Andy was immediately impressed. "It's absolutely fantastic!" He enthused. "The cuts are precise and smooth, just like a factory board-edge finish."
Precise and versatile
The Zapkut ZM – part of a much wider range of panel saws from Zapkut – is proving itself highly versatile, cutting Dibond, 2mm, 3mm and 5mm foam PVC, Corex and acrylics. "No other cutting method works well with acrylics," Andy commented, "but the Zapkut cuts them easily, with the same factory-quality finish that it gives on other materials."
Andy also highlighted the ZM's precision: "Neat, precise cuts are essential for the various parts of a sign to fit together correctly. When folding, accuracy is vital for the folds to work correctly, with everything properly aligned. The Zapkut takes it all in its stride."
The team's confidence in the saw is itself making a direct difference to the business. Previously, every cut had to be checked and double checked for accuracy, to avoid delays and the need to re-cut sheets later in the manufacturing process.
The Zapkut ZM has proved itself to such an extent that this checking has now become unnecessary, streamlining the process and building team enthusiasm and satisfaction in a job well done.
I liked the ZM so much...
"The Zapkut has made a huge difference for us," Andy summed up. "Those beautifully clean cuts mean no rough edges to trim, the ability to make rapid repeat cuts pays significant dividends, we can complete virtually any project with off-the-shelf sheet stock, and we can now use off-cuts, cutting wastage and adding profit straight to the bottom line."
Andy has been so impressed that he has taken on the dealership for the range across Scotland. "Zapkut is the sort of company I like to do business with. They share my enthusiasm for a properly done, quality job. They're honest, open and helpful, as well as well organised and robust. And the Zapkut ZM itself is fantastic – absolutely excellent value for money, and it's paid for itself several times over already."
Signtec Direct drives success with a Zapkut
Released 29th January 2013
Wise investment pays dividends in difficult economic times, opening up opportunities for cost savings, improved workflow and enhanced service levels, as well as demonstrating to customers, employees and investors that the business is intent on growth and success. Signtec Direct, based in Hainault, near Ilford, Essex, is reaping the rewards of such an investment, early in 2012, in a Zapkut ZK8 portable vertical panel saw.
Launched in 2005, Signtec Direct initially relied on craft knives to manually cut materials, supplementing this approach where appropriate with materials bought in cut to size. As Dan Deamer, Manager, explained, this 'keep it simple' strategy worked, but had its limitations. "Cutting with a craft knife takes time, and buying in cut-to-size gets expensive," he said.
Expansion and larger jobs
The company is growing steadily, and taking on larger, more prestigious clients, including household names such as Samsung, Panasonic, Harvey Nicholls, Tower Hamlets Council and the Birmingham NEC.
"We're actively seeking out larger jobs," Dan commented. "We're about to tackle a full wrap for a multi-storey car park; we love a challenge!" To support this planned expansion, a more robust sheet-cutting solution was necessary.
Joe Conway, Director at Signtec, was aware that a vertical panel saw would be the way to go, but his three key criteria – mobility, compact size and attractive price – presented something of a challenge. Most panel saws score poorly in all three areas.
Careful research of the market led him to Hampshire-based panel saw innovator Zapkut Limited. Zapkut specialises in compact, high quality saws, priced attractively for smaller businesses. Its fully portable ZK range, starting at just £945, was of particular interest to Joe.
The Zapkut ZK8 panel saw
Following a demonstration and some useful advice on cutting techniques from Zapkut, Signtec Direct took delivery of its Zapkut ZK8 portable panel saw in the spring of 2012.
As Dan explained, the new saw immediately began delivering significant benefits. "It's useful for us to be able to move the ZK8 around the workshop," he noted, "And its compact operating footprint is great when you're working in limited space."
Looking further afield, Dan can see the ZK8's portable nature being even more beneficial in the future: "As we take on larger jobs, the ability to cut materials on customers' sites is likely to be a real advantage," he observed.
The wider range
The ZK8 is part of Zapkut's ZK range of portable panel saws, which cater for sheet sizes ranging from 8' x 4' (2.44m x 1.22m) to 10' x 5' (3.25m x 1.625m). Also available is the ZM range of workshop units. Probably the most compact and competitively-priced European-style moving-column vertical panel saws on the market, ZM units are ideal for more substantial cutting requirements, catering for sheet sizes ranging from 8' x 4' (2.5m x 1.25m) to 10' x 7' (3.1m x 2.1m).
Profits up, service enhanced, wastage down
Cutting Melamine and Foamex as well as Dibond and acrylics (a capability with which Zapkut's saws score over guillotines and knife cutters) the Zapkut ZK8 has dramatically reduced Signtec Direct's reliance on cut-to-size materials, improving flexibility and reducing costs – "Which means better service and better profits," said Dan with a broad smile.
The ZK also pays dividends in terms of reduced wastage. Its ability to cut even very small pieces quickly and accurately makes it useful for turning off-cuts into usable material product. Such off-cuts would otherwise be thrown out, taking good profit with them.
"It's a good machine," Dan summed up. "There's been a lot of thought put into it: it does what it promises. I'd recommend it, especially for companies that would find its mobility a benefit."
Strong performance in trying times
Released 8th October 2012
Tougher economic circumstances deliver opportunities as well as challenges, and it's companies that recognise those opportunities and capitalise on them that thrive and prosper in such times. Visiting Signwise UK Ltd in Reading, Berkshire, UK, it quickly becomes apparent that here is one such company.
Gerry Poulton, founder and director of Signwise, explained: "There are sign makers across the country with limited capacity or facilities; they're a ready-made market for a well-equipped company like us." Over the last couple of years Signwise has focused increasingly on serving this market, rather than chasing after long sales-cycle business from end clients.
The shift in focus meant reduced margins, but has dramatically increased the amount of business coming in and slashed the sales effort necessary to secure it: Signwise has grown steadily throughout the recession. "We've been running 24 hours a day for the last month," Gerry noted.
That tell-tale phrase "well-equipped company" goes right to the heart of the success of Signwise's course change. The company's facility, a large, light and airy building, bristles with sophisticated technology, from CNC routers to large format printers, and for the past eight years or so, a Sagetech Koolkut vertical panel saw has been a key component in the company's extensive tool kit.
Initially selecting a Koolkut KK12, which cuts sheets of up to 2500mm x 1250mm (8' x 4') Signwise upgraded, in 2008, to a KK16, for sheets of up to 3100mm x 1600mm (10' x 5'). The larger saw supported the company's move towards larger format signeage.
Versatile, reliable and economical
"We use the Koolkut for cutting Foamex, Dibond, aluminium and perspex," said Gerry. "We've used and abused it for four years straight now, at workloads of over 100 sheets a month (Koolkuts will in fact cope happily with anything up to around 100 sheets a week) and it's never needed anything other than replacement blades."
The saw contributes considerably to a smooth and brisk work-flow, too: cutting large sheets is much easier and faster on a vertical panel saw than on a table saw, not to mention safer and more accurate.
The KK12 and KK16 form part of the larger family of Koolkut wall saws. Completing the line up are the KK21S and the KK21L, respectively catering for sheets of up to 3100mm x 2100mm and 4200mm x 2100mm.
All four models run on a standard single phase 13 amp supply and offer an extensive feature set including simple and compound angle cutting to the full length and breadth of the sheet, wall or floor mounting, and plunge and bevel cutting.
With prices starting at just £4,595, the Koolkut range offers probably the best value available among low-to-medium usage wall saws.
Value for money
Gerry was impressed with the price, too. "We've well and truly had our money back," he observed. "The Koolkuts offered far and away the best value for money – some of the other saws we looked at were just 'stupid money'. I'd definitely recommend it – especially for smaller businesses and start-ups."