McGowans Print – The (Paper) Cutting Edge

We learn how McGowans Print is meeting the needs of the Irish market, and the rapidly evolving 21st-century print industry.

Whether you are looking to print a handful of business cards or a few thousand flyers, McGowans Print is there for you. This digital print company is ready to take on orders large and small alike, serving businesses of all sizes. It will print to any size as well, from compliment slips to building wraps. In fact, with the range of services and products McGowans Print can provide, it makes sense that Managing Director Mal McGowan sees his company as far more than just a print provider.

“We’re a digital print company but I’d call us a communications company,” he reflects. “We offer turnkey solutions to customers, taking them from the initial design to a finished product. We work in every facet of print, from business cards to a building wrap and everything in between.”

The assertion that McGowans is a communication company is supported by ju8st how much technology and innovation goes on within the company.

“We embrace the latest and best technology before most people in the market,” McGowan says. “We’re the first or second to market with the best in innovative technology across all our products.”

McGowans can do this thanks to the close collaborative relationships it has built with manufacturers.

“We work closely with a lot of the manufacturers, and we often decide to purchase a machine before it is fully manufactured, while it is still being developed. The Landa technology we just installed is the result of an agreement we made in 2010 that has just come to fruition.”

While this might seem like a risky approach, the trust McGowans and its suppliers have built makes this possible.

“We show an interest and get involved with the manufacturer,” McGowan says. “When you believe in technology and are involved on that level the decision to purchase is quite easy.”

Print for the Future

Part of that pressure to innovate comes from the fact that print is a business that comes under strong pricing pressures.

“Print is an unusual business insofar that it is the end of a long food chain and there’s a perception in the marketplace that it should commoditise and get cheaper every year,” McGowan points. “Price pressure can be alleviated somewhat by new technology and being able to do things quicker, smarter and better. However, of late there’s been a lot of pressure on raw materials such as paper and board. The demand for that has increased quite a lot in 2021.”

Part of the reason for the growth in demand is the rise in interest in sustainability across the board, leading to cardboard and fibre-based alternatives replacing plastics in a wide array of sectors. It is an area McGowan Print itself is active in.

“Sustainability is huge for us and a growing concern for customers. So, we are trying to substitute plastic with fibre-based raw materials,” McGowan says. “We also think online activity has created a high demand for corrugated board driven by Amazon and other major e-commerce players.”

Despite the important role the print industry plays in sustainability and communication, McGowan is the first to admit recruiting fresh young talent can be a challenge.

“In the print industry, the perception of young people is it’s an old industry. It can be hard to attract young people and young graduates, so it is up to companies like us to educate young people,” McGowan says. “We show them that print is a modern industry with cutting edge technology that can offer a good career path. We work closely with colleges here in Ireland, encouraging people to get involved in the print industry.”

Indeed, looking to the future McGowan foresees the industry having to evolve a great deal to serve a changing marketplace.

“The lines between online and print will blur somewhat, and I feel that print companies will become technology companies that happen to produce print,” McGowan says. “Innovation and technology are the key features. The print will always exist but the key for the future is technology and innovation and personalisation where the runs get shorter and shorter to serve more specific needs.”

It’s a future that McGowans Print is ideally suited for.

“We were never a traditional print company,” McGowan tells us. “Our company started with the introduction of the Apple Mac into design studios. We were always technology-led, with no traditional print experience, which was an advantage that let us embrace digital technology from day one. We’ve been printing digitally since 1995.”

During Covid, McGowans Print decided to purchase the Landa B1 digital press and a new laser cutter, an investment of over 5 million euros.

“The Landa, in conjunction with the laser cutter, will change print in Ireland forever,” McGowan assures us. “The Landa prints on substrates from 80 grams and up to 800 micrometres in resolution. It prints close to the speeds of traditional lithographic printing in B1 format, prints in seven colours, and gives us 96% of Pantone accuracy. It does away with the need for spot colour for packaging and commercial print applications.”

These tools aren’t just powerful, they are versatile, and as McGowan points out, McGowans Print will need that versatility to remain competitive.

“To get a feeling of the company, Ireland has a population of approximately five million people. It’s not like a larger economy like the UK or US where you can specialise in one product,” McGowan says. “We do point-of-sale, cardboard boxes, pharmaceutical packaging, and magazines. Digital technology allows us to be able to offer a turnkey solution for virtually every print application in Ireland, as well as exporting cardboard display units into the UK and Europe.”

With these capabilities, McGowans Print will continue to lead the industry, and help shape what it looks like in the future.

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