63,000 signs for 147 stores: all in a month's work for Gardners and HP

Hp Scitex Fb7500


  • Produce 750 different signs for 147 stores (total 63,000 signs).
  • Ensure signs are delivered to the right stores, packed in order according to store aisles.
  • 24/7 productivity to handle huge capacity without impacting other customers.


  • HP SmartStream Designer solution for variable data printing (VDP).
  • 2 x HP Scitex FB7500 Printers, working around the clock for one month to print total of 12,600 sheets.
  • Also: HP Scitex LX800 Printer, HP Scitex XP2300 Printers, HP Scitex TJ8600 Printer, HP Scitex TJ8350 Printers, HP Scitex XP5100 Printers, HP Scitex FB6100 Printer, HP Designjet L25500 Printer, HP Designjet 9000s Printer, HP Designjet Z6100 Printer.


  • Massive job completed in record time due to VDP powered logistical capabilities, high print quality, colour matching.
  • Reduced studio time by 70 percent, simplified finishing and packing.
  • Established successful new production model and replicated it for other customers.

Producing highly complex signage jobs depends on more than just advanced printing hardware. As complexity rises, so too does the importance of advanced software.

Richard Gardner, Chairman of Gardners, one of the world's largest digital printing companies, knows this better than most and he has spent years working with leading technology companies to build the best hardware and software platform for his growing business.

Founded in 1976 primarily as a screen printer, Gardners is now a totally digital operation serving many different industries and applications. A significant part of Gardners' work is printed on HP large format digital printers - an impressive lineup that now numbers 24 HP printers based on HP Latex Inks and UV-curable, aqueous, and lowsolvent/ solvent inks.

VDP that does more than variable printing

As a printing innovator, Gardners recognised that variable data printing (VDP), which has been widely used in small-format printing for some years, could also bring value to wide-format printing. The company initially developed its own VDP software for a few specific printers. Then, Gardners adopted the HP SmartStream Designer solution for VDP, enabling it to expand its VDP capabilities.

"The proposition is to use VDP not just on jobs that have changing images, but also on other things that might be only internal, says Gardner. "For instance, we use it to print files in collated order for easy packing for different branches, which is essentially 'print to pack'.

Variably printed signage arrives in perfect order

Recently, Gardners was asked by De Wild, a Dutch printing company, to produce a full set of store signage for Gamma, a major DIY franchise chain in the Netherlands. De Wild provides Gamma with complete in-store signage, including textile and other banners, point of sale displays, and more. Given the requirement to produce 750 different versions for 147 store locations - a huge job totaling approximately 63,000 different signs - Richard Gardner knew that the logistical challenges would have to be solved by software. The obvious solution: HP SmartStream Designer.

Gardners set up the job as 63,000 individual panels so that each panel was printed with a tiny code indicating exactly to which region, which store and which aisle each sign would go. Going beyond "print to pack", it was a perfect example of "print to pack to place".

"It was exceptionally complicated because we had to prepare an enormous amount of information to go into huge spreadsheets," recalls Gardner. "But, once it got to HP SmartStream Designer, it became relatively straightforward."

De Wild sales accountant Marianne Harmsen, who worked closely with Gardners to be sure everything went perfectly for De Wild's customer, says: "It sure made our life easier. At first we were a bit concerned about getting every sign in the right order in the right boxes. Then Gardners told us about the HP system and it became clear that they could put it in the right order, so there was no worry for us anymore. In the end, it was all printed in a few weeks, and there were no issues. It went very well."

Time savings across the board

Virtually every department of Gardners benefitted from using HP's VDP solution for this massive job - as did the end customer. Studio time was reduced by an estimated 70 percent; the finishing department gained by having all pieces automatically produced in the right order; the packing department saved time and complication because all pieces were numbered in sequence, eliminating the need to search for panels or boxes.

Ultimately, the end customer gained by reducing the time need to fit out an entire store with the new signage by an estimated 75 percent compared with previous store refits.

The Gamma signage project has brought benefits to Gardners far beyond the single huge order, as Gardners will be able to apply the same business and production model to other customers.

HP printer vital to business win

For the actual production, Gardners depended on its two HP Scitex FB7500 Printers. The two digital flatbed printers ran around the clock for approximately a month producing the approximately 1,32 x 0,55 m (4.32 x 1.8 ft) panels on 2mm (0.08 in) Foamex.

"I believe that without these two semi-automatic machines, we would not have been able to do the job," says Gardner. "We provided samples and our print quality was accepted above everybody else's."

Making digital printing a one-time sell Gardner is certain that the combination of VDP with high-productivity digital printing is only going to become more important. "We are competing with screen, offset, and other analogue processes. So if we can say to a customer: 'You can personalise every banner or every outdoor graphic or every point of sale.' That's a huge sell against analogue. And we've found that whenever a customer has come from analogue to digital, they never go back. It's a one-time sell; they get used to the production and to the variable data possibilities, and they enjoy it."