Thirty Years in the (Plate) Making

For many within the industry, one of the most exciting facets of the print sector is how quickly it moves. Enormous shifts in technology and operations mean that the packaging industry as we know it today is poles apart from how it appeared when Contact Originators was formed 30 years ago.

By the same token, it will almost certainly continue to evolve and change, mirroring the ever-changing needs of the consumer – and Contact Originators will remain to support its packaging printing customers.

As the business celebrates its 30th anniversary, Contact Originators is one of the most established names in the field of prepress and has seen a great deal of change from its supply chain perspective. Now, the business is reflecting on its growth after three decades, to consider its journey so far, and what it sees in the future of packaging prepress.

The Past

In 1992, as the Contact Originators business was established, the flexographic print industry was in its infancy; but showing a great deal of promise for packaging manufacturers and converters. The most common type of print at the time was lithography, which could not provide the level of agility and job changeover speed that would become crucial to market success.

Without the level of digitalisation and automation seen in today’s pre-press supply chain, the majority of tasks were carried out with manual tools, which made reprographic support highly resource intensive.

Nick Mitchell, Operations Director, Contact Originators, (pictured left) shares his perspective. “Even as we were embracing the digital age, we had nowhere near the level of digitalisation that we have now. Areas such as print setting and colour management were all manual tasks and a lot of the knowledge was ‘legacy knowledge’, passed down through generations.”

He continues, “The upshot of the digital revolution is that we’re now much more efficient, not just at Contact, but in pre-press as a whole. This also speaks to another area that we’re extremely proud, our resilience. During the dawn of repro, we saw most businesses specialise in one particular form of packaging or one print discipline. Becoming too focused on one specific niche is something you can’t afford to do today; you need to have a diverse range of services that reflects the broad spectrum of technologies available to today’s printers. We have never been a ‘me too business’.”

The Present

Contact Originators was established in Bredbury, Stockport and has grown to employ over 70 full time employees today. One of the biggest single challenges to the business occurred in January 2020, where a fire decimated its facilities and cut its capacity in half overnight.

Although a devastating blow for the business, the company set on the path to rebuild and become a bigger and better than ever business with a multi-million pound ‘supersite’ investment in nearby Dukinfield.

With the business fully recovered and in full swing, the state-of-the-art 32,000 sq ft facility comprises three high-tech production halls, offices and a design studio. The site also houses the largest platemaking-dedicated distillation still in Europe, nicknamed ‘Goliath’. At a capacity of 24,000 litres, it houses triple the volume of solvent provided at the previous Bredbury site.

Continually developing its range of products and services for the corrugated, flexible packaging and label markets, Contact Originators now provides one of the most complete pre-press services to
the market, including workflow digitalisation and colour management. With one of the most comprehensive ranges of flexo plates on the market, Contact offers solutions for every packaging printing scenario.

The Future

With 30 years of successful operation under its belt, Contact Originators has built a strong reputation for expertise in the corrugated and flexible packaging markets. Part of that expertise demands a good understanding of market conditions not just currently, but into the future.

Steve Mulcahy, CEO, Contact Originators, (pictured left) explains, “While we no doubt feel very lucky to be celebrating a landmark 30th anniversary, the truth is that it’s not down to luck – we’ve been able to develop a range and service that is truly world class, and that’s down to our team. From the production floor, creating the exceptional quality products that have made our name so renowned, to the senior leadership team that help brings our vision to life, our people are the ‘x-factor’ of our business.”

He continues, “We press on and look forward to the next thirty years of supporting our customers. To do that effectively, we need to anticipate the needs of the market and make sure we’re always offering something innovative that our competition doesn’t, which more often than not comes from our combination of experience and technology.

“The business is very much a product of the market; what we offer today mirrors the needs of today’s brands and their packaging supply chains. As we move forward, we look to reprographics in a more ‘protective’ role, particularly in the reduction of waste and associated carbon emissions to support the industry’s sustainability drive.”

He concludes, “With a high level of automation in the back pocket, Contact is absolutely one of the most agile, innovation-driven businesses of its kind. Where the market demands quality, we deliver. When sustainability is top priority, we are there with high-performance solutions. When it becomes a question of resource and consumables management, we have a top-tier team in place. As we look to what the next thirty years of corrugated and flexible packaging prepress looks like, one thing is for certain – that Contact Originators will be there, still raising the bar.”


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