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Lebone Litho Printers: Innovators in print

Equipped with a fax machine and an “adapt or die” attitude, Lebone Litho Printers has come a long way, since being founded twenty one years ago by Keith Michael and his wife.

The company has evolved from being a print broker operating from a garage, to becoming one of the major players in the industry, with Lebone Litho and Lebone Media located in Johannesburg, along with Lebone Paarl Labels, its pharmaceutical packaging division, situated in Cape Town.

Boasting an arsenal of cutting-edge technology, a staff complement of over 155 onsite employees along with an additional 60 staff based at offsite locations, and driven by a deliberate ethos that revolves around the value of technology, processes and human capital.

The company’s digital printing department, which is suitable for small to medium print runs has two big full colour presses and four black and white presses. Its litho printing department is equipped with four 8-colour presses as well as a fully-fledged web printing department to attend to any orders that involve large print runs. These departments are supplemented with bindery and finishing departments.

In order to differentiate the business within the print market, it has been of the utmost importance to Keith that Lebone Litho continues to invest in print equipment and thus expand its offerings to its customers. ‘We recently purchased security printing equipment and subsequently opened up a security printing department, where we are able to print items like election ballot papers, while being able to include digitisation into that department,’ Keith announced.

‘This R40 million investment in equipment was initially purchased for the conventional printing of ballot papers, but I then decided to instruct our research & development department to investigate the possibility of being able to install digital heads onto our presses so that we can offer a hybrid of conventional print as well as the digitisation thereof to our customers,’ he continued.

Aside from utilising this equipment for election printing, it also has the capacity to assist banks and municipalities with their statements in both printed as well as electronic formats. ‘Our equipment allows us to print, while being able to build repositories that can send digital statements to the phone via SMS and MMS and via email to phone, PC and tablet. However, we are able to utilise this technology on anything that we print on our presses, including exam printing as well as pharmaceutical and cosmetic packaging,’ he added.

The company has also transitioned into the packaging space, with a core focus on pharmaceutical, cosmetic, perfume and food packaging solutions. In the instance of the latter, it is able to meet all of the ISO requirements including the use of vegetable inks, with all of the requisite systems, processes and products being incorporated into the business.

‘Packaging is a well thought-out industry with a high barrier to entry because of the risk of contamination,’ Keith stated. ‘As a result, we have invested heavily in quality control so that these departments are fully on board,’ he continued. ‘With Lebone Paarl Labels operating predominantly in the pharmaceutical packaging space, we took all of their standards that they have in place and implemented them in our Johannesburg plant.

Lebone Litho receives a number of enquiries from print brokers as well as other printers that are unable to fulfil a particular order in-house. When an order comes in, it looks at the specific job with a view of what it entails in order to produce it. ‘We need to identify if an order can potentially contaminate our production line or if it is necessary for us to set up a different line to run the job,’ explained Keith. ‘Fortunately, our complement of print equipment enables us to move jobs around in order to accommodate an order.’ While it has received and been able to fulfil orders for work that haven’t fallen within the norm, it is stringent about only doing legitimate work due to the steep increase in counterfeit products that has been taking place globally.

Experience has shown that there is great value in being able to understand the data and the artwork supplied by their clients, which Keith has put into practice. Under his leadership as Group Chief Executive, this approach has enabled the company to identify what its customers are looking to achieve from their print orders and thus offer solutions that will meet their expectations, whilst taking any budgetary constraints into account.

In line with Lebone’s investment in human capital, the company invests just as heavily in technology. ‘I believe that Lebone is ahead of itself because we are constantly investing in technology, constantly looking to upgrade and we have daily self-assessments in order to identify where we have gone wrong and what we need to do to improve,’ he concluded.

The facet of looking at and developing the human person, coupled with staying abreast with the latest cutting-edge technologies continues to be the driving force behind Lebone’s growth and success, as it innovates and forges a way for itself into the future.

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