Continued export growth drives Mimaki expansion at Gate 7

With the recently created “Mimaki Digital Suite” sitting at the heart of its operation, Gateshead-based automotive component manufacturing specialists, Gate 7 continues to take great strides in delivering on its promise of providing innovative print solutions on a global scale.

With two offices in North Carolina and Pennsylvania as well as its worldwide headquarters in Newcastle upon Tyne, the company lists major clients including JCB, Caterpillar, Kuhn and Volvo for whom it produces high quality decals and liveries for new vehicles that are subjected to harsh and unforgiving working environments.

As such, Gate 7 has developed leading and innovative workflows that ensure the demands of its clients are consistently realised. “We take a unique approach to business,” says managing director, Kate Wickham. “We’ve worked hard to nurture our supply chain through product development, finding new ways of improving manufacturing and constantly innovating.”

Gate 7 underwent a rebranding exercise five years ago, to coincide with the appointment of Wickham as managing director and soon realised the importance of building relationships with its supplier base, ensuring they shared the same passions and innovative philosophies. As the digital revolution gained momentum it galvanised Gate 7’s plans to source the right equipment, enlisting the services of Mimaki reseller, Your Print Specialists as the company purchased its first Mimaki JV33.

Operations manager, George Heads explains, “When we look back at this decision it raises a wry smile on all our faces when we consider the Mimaki Digital Suite now boasts a further five state-of-the-art printers. These include the revolutionary Mimaki UJF-7151plus flatbed LED UV, the high speed, roll fed JV400 SUV and the flagship JV300 and CJV300 solvent printers.”

The group policy is to mirror its capital equipment throughout, offering the same quality products on a global scale. US-based Gate 7 LLC hosts an equally impressive line-up of Mimaki digital solutions with three Mimaki UJF-7151plus printers and eight JV300s. The latest Mimaki purchases have enabled Gate 7 to widen the scope of printable substrates to include polypropylene and membrane switch panels.

Heads explains some of the reasons behind why big brands opt for their solutions. “We rigorously test all of the components that go into manufacturing a decal or membrane switch panel,” he says. “We offer our own unique warranty system that ensures all the components meet and exceed an outdoor performance characteristic of not less than 5 years and all the Mimaki inks are tested using our own in-house UV weather, substance and environmental testing equipment. Our challenge is to meet and exceed our customers’ specifications.”

This ethos is echoed by Wickham, “Our customers have much higher expectations for decals,” she suggests. “Whilst screen printing still forms an important part of our business, our ongoing transition to digital is helping shape our customers and the way they present their products.”

A recent global rebrand for agricultural supplier, Kuhn, has seen Gate 7 deliver revolutionary new liveries for the company’s machinery that far exceed its previous identity. “Customers are looking for a global standard of quality and a global supplier, yet one that thinks and responds locally,” Heads continues. “Our understanding of the technical capabilities of the Mimaki printers has ensured our products are superior to anything offered elsewhere. The addition of the orange and light black inks for the JV300 and CJV300 solvent printers is a case in point; it enables us to include finer detail, more sophisticated tonal work and powerful corporate colours in the designs and it’s this sort of supplier-led innovation that’s helping drive our plans for significant digital expansion in 2018.”

A focus on delivering quality control and a desire from customers for reduced lead times is also influencing the company’s development. “We replicate our processes and pricing structures in the UK and the USA and our specialist approach makes us an obvious choice for global partnering,” states Wickham, who recently received an MBE for Services to Exports and Outward Investments from Princess Anne at Buckingham Palace. “Export business currently makes up 60% of Gate 7’s revenue and the award adds another level of credibility to what we strive to do.”

Garry Brown, managing director at Your Print Specialists, credits Gate 7 for its innovative methods. “It is refreshing to see how Gate 7 has approached the production of decals and branding solutions and something myself and the team at YPS are extremely proud to have been involved in. Their whole process is quality oriented and visionary – a philosophy which breeds success,” he remarks. “Seeing the operation in its entirety is inspiring – and being involved with the Mimaki Digital Suite installations has added a real sense of purpose.”

Future plans for the company include new finishing lines to be installed in the New Year in order to eliminate bottlenecks which develop as a result of the Mimaki expansion. “Innovative decal design helps brands stand out,” concludes Wickham, “Our graphics create visual impact for companies that compete in increasingly competitive markets and we’re therefore an increasingly important partner for them. Flexible systems, investment in R&D and strong supplier relationships ensure we’re unique in delivering this level of service and product.”