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Print and so much more at Sisonke Group

The marketing industry often looks on print as a necessary evil. You would rather concentrate on digital or mobile but, your clients still insist on using the old-fashioned way of communicating. Have you ever considered the real impact of print on your daily life? Glance at your desk as you read this, unless you are a complete neat freak, you have paper on your desk and at least half of will be printed, even if it just has lines for you to be able to write on the next time you receive a brief from your client or boss.


Give print a thought, you see it everywhere and not just on paper. On your way to work you will see billboards, banners, vehicle signage and so much more. All of that has been printed in one way or another. Usually, you would expect that all of these different things are printed by different printers using all different types of equipment. And, for the most part, you would be right. There are, however, a few printers who have the size, critical mass and capability of handling a wide range of print types. One such company is the Sisonke Group. This is a multi-faceted company capable of meeting most of your printing requirements from brochures and magazines through to banners and business cards.


Founded 16 years ago as Sisonke Printers, the group now incorporates a number of companies serving a broad spectrum of clients with a range of services. At the centre of the Sisonke Group is still Sisonke Printers. The company now employs 148 people and is solely focused on the print activities of the company including full litho, digital and large-format printing offerings. Its production capacity across all sectors gives it the ability to meet the requirements of a wide range of customers.


Printing capacity at Sisonke is handled by a ten-colour A1 press, a five-colour A1 press, a five-colour A1 press capable of printing onto board and a two-colour A1 press. The company prints a wide range of products for its customers including corporate communications and B2B publications. It has also branched into packaging printing allowing it to meet all of its customers’ needs. On the digital side, Sisonke Printers has a Xerox iGen 3, an iGen 4 and two Xerox x1000 digital production presses for full-colour digital printing. The addition of a digital printing department was initially made in 2004.


In the large-format arena for point-of-sale printing and banner printing Sisonke Printers has the first Xerox IJP2000 printer in South Africa. This high-speed, full-colour, large-format printer allows Sisonke to produce banners and posters on demand. The latest addition to the large-format offering is the Agfa Anapurna M2050 printer capable of printing large-format and super-wide format prints onto flexible and rigid substrates up to 45mm thick. This machine is widely regarded as the Rolls Royce of wide-format printers. These devices are complemented by large-format Mimaki roll-to-roll printers.


Said Delano Slack, director of the Sisonke Group, ‘We incorporated digital printing into our product portfolio a long time ago because of the extra production capacity and flexibility it offered us. Many other printers waited to make the move into digital and they have found the learning curve to be very steep. We took the move in the early days which has made it a lot easier for us because we now have the learning process behind us and we have all the processes in place.’


He added, ‘It has also allowed us to have a full web-to-print offering where we can assist customers with their digital publishing requirements as well as, offer them the ability to place their print orders via the web. When we opted to add digital production to our portfolio, we entered into an agreement with Sommer Corporation in Germany for skills transfers and assistance with the process. This made the entire process much easier and smoother.’


Print is not, however, the only string to the Sisonke Group’s bow. Staying true to the company slogan of ‘More than just Print’ the Sisonke Group offers a number of other services, all related and connected to its print offering. A little over a year ago, the print finishing department was separated from printing because of its ability to offer a range of services to other printers, as well as handling all the finishing for Sisonke Printers. Outer Limits, as the finishing company is called, also offers a wide range of service including folding, perfect binding for square back books and magazines, saddle-stitching for stapled products, laminating and varnishing. Another of the services Outer Limits offers is the manufacture of packaging material. A large-format Brausse die-cutter allows for fast cutting and stripping of packaging material.


Delano commented, ‘We have installed state-of-the-art equipment to meet all of our requirements. However, the production capabilities of our equipment means that we have excess capacity and we can offer a finishing service to other printers. Therefore, it makes sense to have Outer Limits as a separate operating company to Sisonke Printers.’


Such has the success of this multi-pronged approach been, that Sisonke Group became aware of the need to assist customers with design and concept creation. The solution was the formation, a year ago, of a full service advertising agency called adam8eve. This provides conceptualisation, design and production services for above-the-line and below-the-line clients. The advertising agency works hand-in-hand with the other companies in the group to offer a full concept to campaign service.


This is not the end of the developments at Sisonke. Earlier this year, a new company named Sisonke Dataprint and Mail was formed to handle the fulfilment of clients transactional printing and mailing. With full accreditation and certification from the Post Office and implementation of the PAMS system, this latest addition to the Sisonke Group is able to meet all the fulfilment requirements of its customers.


A major aspect of fulfilment is data handling and security. According to Delano, every effort has been taken to ensure data security. He added, ‘We have third-party people who take responsibility for the security of the data. Not only are our servers locked in a vault, but we have multiple back-ups, some stored onsite and others stored offsite. Only one person is able to access the data at any given time and one person is responsible for verifying, cleaning and manipulating the customer data. We have written and created our own data software which has been inspected by the Post Office and is actually better than any of the mainstream systems available on the market.’


Sisonke Group and its subsidiary companies are experiencing on-going growth in the print sector despite the pressures which print finds itself under. In recent years the volumes of printed material have been reducing with a steady shift toward electronic and digital communication methods. Sisonke is taking full advantage of the growth in electronic with its various offerings. Delano commented, ‘We are not backing down from the challenges presented by e-commerce, in fact we have aligned our offerings with the E services but we believe strongly in the future of print. All that is required is an integrated approach. Our clients still need print and will continue to use print. We have adopted a holistic approach to our customers’ communications. We also make sure that we keep up-to-date with the latest developments taking place so that we can ensure we offer our clients the very best levels of service.’


In order to ensure that customers receive the best service and top quality products, the Sisonke Group has been ISO:9001 certified and has started the process of implementing ISO:22001 health and safety standards with the aim of being certified.


The Sisonke Group is striving to offer its clients a one-stop service using print as the focal point but with much more included.

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