Printing the Green
Vega Press has been in operation since 1960, and last year it celebrated its 50th anniversary. Vega works in one of the toughest industries today: one that strives to make its production as cost effective as possible while at the same time maintaining the high quality they have built their reputation on. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Vega has received many awards for their work in reducing their environmental impact. Indeed, since 2005/2006, after starting with certifications for ISO 14001 and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain of Custody they have been constantly recognised for their environmental policies.
The continuation of print
Rob Nugent, Commercial Manager for Vega Press, says that this focus on environmental friendliness has made them extremely efficient in their processes – their being highly regarded as a result is just a happy coincidence. Their 50th year represents a major milestone for the business, but Nugent says the industry itself has faced some difficult times. “There’s all these different avenues that people can use to advertise now, including 15 new television stations, and a lot more online advertising,” he says. Even apps on mobile devices can represent a loss of advertising dollars.
It is not all bad news, however, according to Nugent. “There will always be print, but there has been a much greater emphasis on sustainable printing. The issues for the industry have become about providing communication solutions,” he says. It is no longer about printing a copious amount of material – it is about printing effective and highly targeted products.
Meeting the needs of its clients, and being gentle on the environment
To this end, Vega Press is able to meet a number of printing needs – from small runs, to long runs, they can do it all.
“We do light board boxes, such as gift boxes, right through to business cards and letterheads,” says Nugent. “Most of our work is high-quality colour work, and that includes a lot of point of sale material, but we can also do short run magazines and posters and the like. Pretty much anything that goes through a sheet fed press.” The largest press size they handle is 720 x 1050mm, and the smallest is 320 x 450mm – but they can do almost any size in between.
Doing it cleaner and making it profitable
With their new sustainable methods, they only use vegetable based inks in their printing process, and Nugent says that you can tell that the ink is more environmentally friendly just by the smell. “It doesn’t have that high resin smell to it because it is a natural product,” he says. “It is all non-toxic now. We have pretty minimal flammable materials in the place – if we have any at all.” This safety aspect is yet another advantage to going green. In fact, two of their printing presses are equipped to print Aqueous, a fast drying, water-based protective coating that negates the need to use a varnish when a client is looking for a way to protect their printed product. “It also makes the paper much easier to recycle, as it works with the process a lot better. We try and recommend to our clients that they use an aqueous sealant rather than a varnish,” he says. Aqueous is also an alternative to lamination. This is because the lamination process requires much more treatment at the recycling level, and Vega Press would rather avoid the extra cost to recyclers.
Vega Press has an accreditation from the Carbon Reduction Institute as a low CO2 producer. They see this as a point of difference from other printing companies, as well as something that allows them to be part of the solution, since they have the opportunity to produce carbon neutral products and receive the same accreditation from the CRI. “It’s something that we can offer that is verifiable, and we were the first printer in Australia certified to ISO 14064, and we report the full details of our carbon footprint,” says Nugent. “We provide people the opportunity to become comfortable with that fact. At the same time they are getting a high quality job at a competitive price.”
When dealing with their own recycling materials, Vega Press makes the effort at the shop floor level to separate the different types of paper, and even sort laminated product into its own pile. They also make sure that the plastics that they recycle are divided into three or more types. “What we have tried to do with our recycling partners is help by doing a lot of the separation work that they would have needed to do internally. This makes it more efficient for them when they take it away, and the money they return to us tends to be higher. This increases the value of it to us,” says Nugent. They have worked closely with their partners in order to maximise the profitability of the arrangement for both Vega Press and the recyclers. When companies do not make this effort, they are often paying for the removal of their recyclable materials, whereas Vega has taken the initiative and turned this into another positive revenue stream.
“It is an opportunity to earn some reward for doing some work internally. One of the things for us, with our environmental program is that by trying to make us more efficient, we often get something back,” says Nugent. “It actually makes good business sense – you can become more water efficient, energy efficient, and recycling savvy. That is part of what we do with an association called “Grow Me the Money.” Grow Me the Money helps small businesses become more sustainable, and at the same time they can save money on resource usage by following a specialised program. The program is supported by VECCI (Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry) The Victorian EPA and the Victorian Government Department of Sustainability. With programs like these, as well as their own initiatives, Vega Press has been able to reduce their waste to landfill by more than 50 per cent. “We have also been able to reduce our waste to prescribed landfill – which is even worse – by more than 75 per cent,” says Nugent. They have also been able to limit their water usage to 35 per cent of what they had been using previously, and with the use of power saving devices, they save about 20 per cent of their energy costs.
24 hour service
With the services that they provide, Vega Press runs both an efficient business and one that runs from 5 a.m. Monday to 6 p.m. Saturday. Each person running a press works a 36-hour week, and is rotated throughout the week to maximise the time the printing presses can be in use. The bindery operators, or finishing department, work on a three shift rotation. “About 30 per cent of our work force is involved in the bindery, and that is probably the most labour intensive part of our operations. “Automation of processes in the bindery continues to be a challenge and provides the greatest operational opportunity for efficiencies in the future.” he says. The automation of the presses over the last decade has been comparatively more impressive, with digitisation and automation making the process less labour intensive. Standardisation in the industry has also led to easier job changeovers and task deployment. With Vega Press’s ISO 12647 colour reproduction standard they can assure their clients that they can deliver to the industry’s highest standards.
- Marketing and promotional material
- Annual reports
- Corporate profiles
- Newspaper inserts
- Letterbox leaflets
- Point-of-sale items