Established in 1986, Portsmouth based Bishops Printers has grown to become one of the most influential commercial printers in Southern England, handling the printing requirements of clients including Virgin, Butlins, Fulham FC and the BBC. Through a policy of growth by investment Bishops Printers has seen turnover rise steadily to a current standing of £8m. As part of a £3 million pounds investment plan, involving installing new high-tech printing equipment, Bishops took the decision to move its base to a new, more accessible 36,000 sq ft office and factory facility in Farlington, just outside Portsmouth after outgrowing their previous premises.
Bishops’ IT Manager, Graham Masters recognised the importance of investing in a structured cabling system that would meet the daily demands placed upon it and be able to cope with future growth. Bishops decided that they wanted to use a Molex Premise Networks solution because of the company’s reputation for producing high quality reliable products. The Category 6 system was installed by Molex Premise Networks Authorised Installer Charterhouse IT (recently acquired by Network Intelligence).
Recognising the Need
Bishops runs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, printing operation handling, on average, 1200 jobs every month. They have the procedures in place to plate jobs within twenty-four hours from receipt of file and have an average job turnaround of four working days. “At Bishops we aim to handle our customers’ printing needs as efficiently as possible. Therefore, it is important for us to have the technology infrastructure in place to make this possible,” comments Gareth Roberts, Managing Director, Bishops Printers.
“Our customers’ requirements for a fast & reliable service are mirrored by our own requirements from our processes and systems. In short, the speed and reliability of our company is dependent on the speed and reliability of the network.”
Printers can spend millions of pounds on quality printing presses to achieve optimum outputs. However, they also need to invest in good cabling infrastructure to support processes prior to printing because this can eat up vital time when working to strict deadlines. Efficient file transfers, minimal machine downtime and powerful presses are key to strong overall performance.
“The goal of our three million pounds investment programme is to engender a twenty-five to thirty percent improvement in efficiency, resulting from better workflow at the new premises. It is anticipated that this will help the company become a £10m turnover company by the end of 2003,” explains Roberts. “The new network is one of the major contributing factors to this efficiency improvement by allowing staff to be more productive.” Previously Bishops’ reprographic and production employees, who constantly work with data intensive files and applications, would regularly be forced to wait for the network before being able to do their work. The cumulative effect of this delay is quite significant. Through the new Molex Category 6 network, this non productive time has effectively been eliminated and staff are no longer forced to sit around waiting. Bishops estimate that through the new cabling infrastructure they have been able to reduce time wastage by twenty percent, the equivalent of employing one extra person.
The primary functions of Bishops’ network are to handle large graphics files and to run data-intensive Apple Macintosh and PC applications, as well as powering customer service and administration modules. The cabling solution connects the entire workflow process. It plays a vital role at the front end of the business, helping the smooth running of office processes, getting quotes for new business out quickly and running the mission critical Optimus print system which handles all the print jobs, quotes, account details and tracks jobs through the system. The network is also responsible for the reliable receipt and handling of files via ISDN or email which is critical for the smooth running of the job to deadline twenty four hours a day.
Typically, once a job is received on the ISDN server, or by email, it is transmitted to as many as ten destinations around the network before the job is actually sent to print. The print industry is notorious for its involvement with the transfer of large graphics files, ranging from anything between two to 250MB. This Category 6 solution offers at least twice the bandwidth of the Category 5e system installed at Bishops Printer’s former premises and thus permits a more efficient transfer of these large files.
In designing the system, Category 5e was considered and rejected on the grounds that although it is a common choice because of its’ lower relative cost, it would only have had two years life and would struggle to cope with the data intensive applications used in the printing industry. A Category 6 system will be sufficient to cope with all Bishop’s current and future requirements and is the most cost-effective long term solution. The network will not have to be revisited for between five and ten years.
Charterhouse IT began work on the installation just before Christmas so that Bishops could move into their new premises immediately in the new year. As Bishops run a twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week operation, even during the Christmas period demand for Bishops’ printing services is still high. As a result of the work Bishops undertake producing football programmes for Fulham FC finding a suitable time for the move was difficult as the client required programmes for their games over the festive period. This meant that the installation had to be coordinated effectively and completed on schedule in order for the move to be smooth with no disruption to Bishops’ clients.
Molex Premise Networks and Charterhouse IT spent a week designing a network infrastructure which would satisfy the Bishops’ main requirements for speed, reliability and cost. A team of four worked on the project from start to finish; a project manager, two cabling engineers and a telephone engineer oversaw the installation process. Only minimal alterations were required from the original plans due to structural irregularities. Difficulties were faced in some of the rooms in the office building which had very limited access to roof space for the cable runs to be installed, but otherwise it was a hassle free installation as there was no existing cabling to pull out or re-run.
The system consists of over 150 flood-wired points throughout the two separate office and factory buildings. Category 6 Ethernet was installed throughout the campus, wired into two small 17u cabinets in the office block and print factory area and one large 42u cabinet in the server room. A 30 metre fibre link cable backbone joins the separate factory / server room building to the office building via ducting under the car park. The entire project took ten days to install and was completed on schedule.
As well as handling Bishops’ data applications and office systems, the cabling system also serves the company’s voice requirements. Bishops’ voice systems run on an Erickson BP50 digital telephone system attached to a 24 channel ISDN 30, serving both the factory, the office building as well as providing network fax facilities too. “Molex and Charterhouse IT gave us a competitive costing and performed a professional high quality installation on budget and on schedule for unquestionable value. The disruption caused to our customers was almost non-existent and this is great credit to all involved,” Masters explains.
During the project, Molex played a prominent role as technical advisor. Molex worked closely with Bishops during the initial stages and worked closely with Charterhouse IT during the installation to ensure the project ran smoothly. The technical knowledge and support from Molex’s RCDD qualified personnel have ensured Bishops Printers’ new network has a life span of up to ten years, meaning the company is ready to exploit new emerging technologies and growth potential. Molex Premise Networks technical manager Simon Barnard commented: “We aim to provide our customers with the best and most affordable solution, one that is able to grow with their business and can handle the bandwidth hungry business communication needs of the modern world.”
“The faster network means data transfer is much quicker and we are able to operate more efficiently as a company. It is a simple fact that without the investment in our structured cabling infrastructure and the move to a new premises, we would not have been able to cope with the extra capacity and equipment which we now use. The new network has also exposed other deficits in other parts of our IT systems and Mac workstations which we have been able to address. The network has had a positive influence on our sales and has put us in good shape for the future,” concludes Roberts.
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