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Ahead of the Curve


With 172 years in the industry, Dornans is one of the oldest print businesses in the country. Genevieve Lewis speaks to Ian Bryan, managing director, on the history and how to stay relevant

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Dornans offers numerous finishing solutions, including wiro binding

A testament to time

There are not many businesses within the print and sign industries that can boast 170 years of history and still live to tell the tale.

But Dornans, which was founded by Thomas Dornans all the way back in the 1800s, is just one such company. Based in Oldham, Dornans used to be a print shop before adding newspaper printing to its portfolio and is now a full print-service-provider offering a multitude of services to its customers.

[L to R] Andrea Smith, Gary Broadhead, Annette Steele and Ian Bryan

Ian Bryan, managing director of the firm now, explains how all came to be: “Dornans was founded way back in September 1848 by Thomas Dornans. He set up originally as a print shop in Oldham, moving into printing newspapers in the 1860s. We’ve expanded our product offering throughout the years trying to keep on top of emerging markets and customer demands. Today our offering and expertise lies in digital, litho, large-format print, direct mail services and bespoke presentation print.”

Dornans has grown from a digital and litho business, with finishing, to include large-format production

It is this determination to change and adapt to the ever-mutating industry that has kept Dornans at the top of its game. “To make any company successful takes a lot of hard work, skill and determination,” says Bryan. “To keep a company going for as many years as Dornans has required a highly skilled and quality conscious team of people with a strong work ethic. If you want your company to grow, and in some ways outgrow just you, you need to have people you can trust.”

These little pieces of equipment are very understated in the press room but can contribute significantly to efficient production

Investing in new technology allows print providers the chance to grow and add more services – Dornans originally specialised in just litho and digital but moved into the large-format arena with a new flatbed printer. This means that it can now offer services in anything from floor graphics through to point-of-sale and point-of-purchase. Dornans also offers a direct mail and CNC Cad cutting service for its customers, as well as working with the education and hospitality sectors to provide all their printing needs.

Customers have turned to Dornans for over 170 years

“As you can imagine, technology has changed a lot over 100 years and the printing industry has benefitted a lot from that,” explains Bryan. “We’ve had to adapt to these changes to keep up with the industry and market demand and we will continue to do so. We invested in a flatbed large-format UV press and paper over board mounting around five years ago to compliment the digital and litho offerings of the company. Most recently, we invested in two fulfilment lines.”

Light bulb moment

Finishing is a further area that Dornans is proud of, with the ability to offer its customer base foil blocking, embossing, debossing, saddle stitching, PUR binding, wiro binding, layflat binding and case binding.

With being ISO 14001 accredited, Dornans also has the environment at heart and uses sustainable substrates, such as part or fully recycled paper. On top of this, Dornans only uses vegetable-based inks to print with.

Other areas that Dornans specialise in include direct mail services

There is a quote on Dornans’ website that reads: ‘We have been around longer than the light bulb, the automobile and the telephone.’ So, how does a business continue to make an impact after 170 years of service? Bryan says that this is due to the goals and mantras of the company and those that represent it. “The vision and values of Thomas Dornans has stayed with the company and its staff for over 100 years. We aim for perfection on every job and maintain the highest standards of quality. By doing this, we exceed our customers’ expectations ensuring they are delighted with every job we do for them. This is for every job we have, large or small; we aim for perfection.”

The vision and values of Thomas Dornans has stayed with the company and its staff for over 100 years

Bryan adds that maintaining a high standard of work is a way to keep customers happy, and therefore securing a long and prosperous business. He also mentions the need to incorporate younger people into the fold, as well as going on to mention that having trust and a common goal is also key.He says: “[We need to] ensure we keep delivering the highest quality of work for our customers. To do this we will focus on investing in our staff and supporting the team as best we can. Nurturing young talent will be important for us as well. Overall, just making sure we move with the times and continually monitor the changes in the market.”

A word of advice

Bryan concludes with a few words of advice for smaller businesses that also want to secure a long history to match that of Dornans. “As mentioned before, you need a strong team around you that you can trust, and it is important to value everyone’s input and empower your staff as much as you can,” offers Bryan. “Be savvy with your investments, make sure you buy the right machinery that will allow you to grow your business and deliver better results for clients.”

It is not often that many print companies can argue they have been around longer than the light bulb and the telephone, but Dornans has a proud 172-year history, and hopes that it will be able to boast another 170 more.

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