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Interview With

Mark Bristow

Brendan Perring speaks to Mark Bristow, managing director of Friedheim International, about the business and technology philosophies that have underpinned its success

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Mark Bristow, managing director at Friedheim International, became sole owner three years ago and is heading up major expansion of its converting and packaging division

134 years on and still going strong

What has been your journey through the print industry?

Having attained an arts degree from Nottingham University, my early work experience was via a fast-track appointment to the Department of Trade and Industry. This is where I had my first experience of managing a varied team being responsible for the UK company liquidations and bankruptcies division, before taking on a project to overhaul the Patent Office. 

At this time, I qualified as an accountant, and looking for greater challenges joined Friedheim in 1987 in a senior financial role. Since then, I have been involved in one form or another with all aspects of the company, including group operations for a period of time, before my current role.


“With the increased focus on makereadies, shorter runs, and in view of increased productivity, a number of successful customers have seen this value first hand and further progress will follow,” says Mark Bristow. Pictured: the MBO K8 ‘RS’ buckle folding machine



The varied challenges you face on a daily basis and working together with loyal and hard working staff is energising. We are able from our structure to move quickly and make decisions without dogma. Our continual strategy to review markets and their potential, while staying true to our roots, has also lead us in recent years to a growth in packaging, as well as converting, with a wide range of products that bring further financial benefits to our customers.

If there is one print finishing technology trend that UK printers need to get in front of it, what is it and why?

Over the years we have found a reluctance in customers to rely on automation, a reluctance on delegating responsibility of the finishing to machines, and utilising the workforce in a more efficient way. However, with the increased focus on makereadies, shorter runs, and in view of increased productivity a number of successful customers have seen this value first hand and further progress will follow.

One of the biggest changes to our industry in the near future will be that of environmentally-friendly and sustainable packaging. The move to packaging and digital packaging for printers, who have already made the transition, has proved very successful. The print vendors are now also focusing their machines more towards the packaging markets.


Hunkeler Innovationdays is a jewel in the crown of the international print industry exhibition circuit and Friedheim has been its key partner for more than 70 years



Since 2008 we’ve seen a significant reduction and consolidation of printers, not only in the UK, but throughout Europe. More recently the move has been towards highly bespoke and creative finishing—since there is so much competition for the same amount of work, we find higher quality substrates, real thought behind special effects and finishing, and really interesting uses of the printed media—you will see all of that and more at our Friedheim sponsored Printers’ Bazaar at this year’s Print Show. But this all means automating the process of bespoke or even one-off products.

What is your personal vision for Friedheim International, and how are you going about achieving it?

All of us who work in the industry are proud of what we do and who we represent. And the personalities and characters, together with the relationships that are forged, make the print sector a very rewarding place to be—despite the challenges we all face.

With the quality of products we represent and the experience and commitment of our after sales support, we aim to continue to support the industry for many more decades to come and aim for the name of Friedheim International to become synonymous in the converting and packaging industries, just like we are in the print industry. We are always reviewing opportunities for products and developments, which can offer value to our customers’ work flow and businesses.

We endeavour wherever we can to get our separate divisions working together to help our customers as a team. Our aim has always been to improve our customers’ businesses by supporting them to make investment decisions that will benefit them and to stand with them thereafter as required in a collaboration of technical knowledge and experience.

Can you give me a potted history of Friedheim International and the major points of its evolution?

Founded in 1884 by Oscar Friedheim just a few paces away from Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street, the company has been at the centre of print, publishing, and paper trade in an unbroken line from Blackfriars, to Water Lane in 1893 to Waterloo Road in 1963, until finally coming to its current home at Park House, Hemel Hempstead in 2005.

Founded in 1884 by Oscar Friedheim just a few paces away from Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street, the company has been at the centre of print, publishing, and paper trade in an unbroken line

The company has always represented the very best machines for the industry, starting with blocking and embossing presses, card punching machines, cornering machines, and a plethora of card and paper cutters, perforators, and die stampers, then moving onto folding machines, guillotines with patented radial movement along with rotary printers.

The company has always represented the very best machines for the industry

 
Fastforward across the decades of product development and expansion, and Friedheim has remained agile to the needs of the industry and diversified with it. 2005 saw Friedheim International take its current form, with a management buyout taking place—for the first time in over 90 years it was once more a private limited company. My experience combined with that of Pete Morris, with over 50 years between us, meant Friedheim survived the devastation that the 2008 financial crash caused the print industry and set about retaining its place as the market leader in print finishing. The introduction of separate divisions for packaging and converting equipment has also enabled the company to offer a greater range of solutions to its customers.
 
In September 2014 I became sole owner of the company. Over the last three years I have continued to drive Friedheim International to be perfectly poised to take advantage of its reputation as the premier print finishing supplier in the UK and Ireland and to help printers move into converting and packaging markets. With further additions to our portfolio: Duran, Shawpak, and IBIS, Friedheim provides a clear and steady direction leading the company from strength to strength. Agreements with Manroland Ireland to growing development in service contracts, new sales initiatives with most of our major manufacturers. This is not to mention the research and development improvement programmes where our customer feedback is instrumental for future generations of equipment.

Currently Friedheim are distributors for more than 25 manufacturers across our digital solutions, converting, packaging, and post-press divisions. We’re constantly piloting schemes on behalf of our manufacturers in view of the demands and reliability UK printers place on and require from their machines.




Key Company Stats

  • Year founded: 1884
  • Number of manufacturer brands represented:  25 with 4 divisions
  • Number of staff:  50+ staff
  • Fastest finishing device and speed: MBO K8 RS has a production speed of up to 275m/min


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