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Aslita: Writing a new chapter in Digital

Aslita Sdn Bhd is a perfect example of Digital complementing Offset in Kuala Lumpur.

Aslita Sdn Bhd started as a small shop making stamps and visiting cards in the year 1977. Today Mr. Syed Ebrahim manages the business which serves the demands of the publishing industry in Kuala Lumpur along with other parts of the country and is fast expanding to other countries. The press which is now a state-of-the-art set-up was started by Ebrahim’s father as a small unit. Presently it provides all kinds of books with special expertise in Islamic reference books which are in huge demand in the country. “We also have the license to print Koran,” informs Ebrahim.

Printed on a wide range of substrates (of thickness from 45 to 350 gsm), their products feature diverse value additions by way of printing, binding, perfect binding, trimming, collating, stitching and other post-press jobs. The key printing machine is a Ryobi and there is a Muller Martini 3 Knife Trimmer that works along with a Collator and Centre Stitcher for the Perfect Binding exercise. “We run paper starting from 45 gsm to 350gsm on our Ryobi printing machine and we do it with ease,” says Ebrahim. Additionally, Aslita also outsources to a selected few reliable binding houses in the vicinity its specific demands for certain jobs like hard cover   binding. “As the volumes in the hard cover binding are not much, we send these job to a selected few binding houses that excel in their job,” says Ebrahim.

Printing runs in the blood

Syed Ebrahim

Ebrahim joined the organisation about 5 years back after his graduation and after a short stint in the banking industry. Today, he along with two of his relatives is looking after the day to day activities of the press. Ebrahim has gathered the knowledge of printing from the hands-on-approach while working at the press. Printing, however, ‘runs in his blood’ – he used to hear about printing from his father in his younger days.

Aslita has indeed benefitted from Ebrahim’s past stint in banking. “Everything in the banking industry is process driven and there is no chance of bypassing the small processes followed in the system. That is exactly what I have tried to follow in my organisation as well,” says Ebrahim. “The biggest challenge was to streamline the entire printing production process which I think I have been able to do justice to,” he adds.

He also expresses that most printing houses across Asia run by small families didn’t pay much importance to systems. He says that the present generation joining such businesses are bringing in technologies and modern methods to processes.

While introducing systems, the challenges Ebrahim faced included convincing shop floor guys to follow new patters. Jumping the queue of jobs due to pressure from clients was one of the issues which took a while for Ebrahim to actually change. “It’s always a tough job to change patterns that have been in place for quite some time at a workplace especially production environments. It wasn’t a cakewalk for us either. We had a tough time convincing the shop floor staff to follow the changes and even tougher to sustain the changes effectively in the organisation,” admits Ebrahim.

 

Later, Aslita saw runs per title started diminishing and consequently Ebrahim decided to explore the Digital printing space – a change from their existing Offset printing. One area where Aslita found its niche in Digital printing was producing smaller quantities for their clients. This was usually for testing the customer response and market demand for new releases and launches by their clients. “We started by helping clients by printing smaller quantities for them, say, initial run of a few hundred copies. When these products got positive response from the market, we would print them with either Digital or Offset process as per the requirement,” explains Ebrahim. Aslita is a perfect example of ‘Digital complementing Offset’. The Digital printing is taken care of by their Ricoh Digital printing machine.

Aslita does about 25-30 titles in a month for various publishing clients. Their offering excellent prices for providing Digitally printed titles has not only enhanced his bond with the publishing clients but also increased the throughput of their original Offset printing business.

Ebrahim expects to continue with a growth rate of over 8% in coming years. He and Aslita are well geared up to achieve this growth as they are equally prepared to face the market challenges like technological and other changes. Though the implementation of GST in 2016 threw in many challenges and there was a dip in market demand, yet, through constant exploration of newer avenues, Ebrahim has been able to expand Aslita’s operations including exports. The exports contributed 30% to their turnover in 2017. He sees more growth in the domestic market with the settling down of GST turbulence. A greater challenge is book printing going down due to the Digital onslaught. Ebrahim, however, expects to achieve his growth targets rather easily since their reference books are a good market and also growing at a constant pace.

Ricoh leads the Digital portfolio

K L Loh of Ricoh (centre) with Syed Ebrahim and En. Mohamed Ziauddin of Aslita

Digital is their key growth market and Ebrahim is very proud of his Ricoh machine leading his Digital portfolio. He explored various other machines before finally deciding in favour of Ricoh, which won for its quality as well as Ricoh’s after sales service and support. “When we were deciding to invest in Digital, we found that howsoever advanced a machine is, its sales service and support is of utmost importance. We found Ricoh leading in this aspect,” declares Ebrahim.

Aslita has a Pro C7100 for colour output and another Pro 8100 for black and white printing. “We use the black and white for the inner pages and the other one for the coloured output,” says Ebrahim. In fact the Ricoh colour machine has capabilities to run materials of heavy thickness – up to the tune of 400gsm. Aslita even uses the capability to cater to its packaging customers for their demands like Duplex box printing. The Ricoh Digital machine has also helped them in providing value added security features to the clients. The feature like Micro Text Printing is in addition to the Fifth Colour (white/clear) advantage for the customers. The Clear Fifth Colour especially has helped them in giving certain unique effects on the cover of the books which they print for their publishing clients.

Ebrahim is planning to invest in a Graphtec Digital Cutting machine for short run Packaging Finishing which is another promising market in the region.

Mr.K L Loh of Ricoh, speaking to Industrial Print Magazine, reveals that his client Aslita owns four machines in their Digital arsenal which includes Pro C7100 (5 station colour printer) and Pro 8100 cut sheet black and white printer. They also have MP CW2201SP, a Large Format colour printer and L4160 Wide Format Latex printer. “Aslita has been a really progressive printer with a long and focussed vision to excel in whatever they do and Ricoh will leave no stone unturned to support them in all their endeavours,” says Loh.

En. Mohamed Ziauddin

While speaking to Industrial Print Magazine, En. Mohamed Ziauddin, the man who started it all in 1977, commented, “Digital is the future and we intend to open two three outlets in Kuala Lumpur to cater to the increasing demand of Digital printing in the area. It’s been an interesting journey for us in the world of printing. We started by freelancing printing stationery for banks. We first owned a Multigraph machine and after some time added a Heidelberg GTO machine. Today, we are proud of our complete set-up which has a diverse machines’ line-up catering to various printing processes.”

Aslita indeed has come a long way from the day when Ziauddin used to get the job during the day and would rush to the press for production. The hardships of initial days from finding customers to funds are all talks of yesterday. He remembers that quality was low at that time – there were better margins, payments were on time and they were working with banking corporates. He today feels proud of his next generation, the way they adopted the latest technologies, especially the speed of adoption of Digital at Aslita and mostly of the smooth sail of their business on the waves of growth.

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