An interview with Steve Burry MD of Dennis Maps Ltd

Steve Burry, Dennis Maps by Mark Kempshall Photography & Wedding FilmDennis Maps Ltd is the largest map printer in the UK, producing more than 2.3million maps and charts each year from our facility in Frome, Somerset.

Steve Burry has been involved in printing all his working life, since starting his career in book printing at the age of 18. He’s been involved in map printing since 2010 and Managing Director of Dennis Maps Ltd since 2014. Here he describes the day-to day activity at the site:

What does a typical day look like at Dennis Maps, or is every day different?

We employ 28 people involved in various functions from admin to manufacturing.

Our highly skilled workforce have expertise in pre-press reproduction and design, printing (both traditional litho and digital) together with map finishing.

Map printing is a very specialised sector of printing, with very different requirements and expectations. For example, in terms of printing it is almost a case of ‘less is more’, where accuracy and clarity of extremely fine detail is more important than vibrant high intensity of colour and visual impact.

A typical day for Dennis Maps Ltd in terms of operations is very structured and follows a repeating and rhythmic pattern compared with the experience of many printers.

This is because the majority of our business is contractually based. So we know what demand will be and that we’ll have a certain amount of business every day, week, month and year.

This means that the factory operates to a constant beat, with several weekly orders in various stages of production at any one time. So we have a fairly continuous production flow, albeit punctuated between the individual orders.

What are the highlights in the calendar?

Ordnance SurveyThe business is perhaps surprisingly seasonal, with production levels rising through the first quarter of the year before reaching a peak from April through to September. I’m never happier than when we are in the midst of that production cycle!

Demand can reduce a bit in October, which allows us to draw breathe and prepare for the onslaught of the Christmas demand for the online Custom Made product that we produce for Ordnance Survey.

A monthly highlight is when we receive the monthly Key Performance Indicator (KPI) report from our largest contractual customer. Every aspect of our performance is analysed and measured against a set of extremely demanding KPIs. It’s always very satisfying to see that we are able to achieve and maintain such high standards of quality and service without deviation.

What’s the best part of the job?

My job is immensely satisfying, whether it’s maintaining the high levels of service to our existing clients, or meeting a new client and securing a first order from them. This always feels like a true moment of someone putting their trust in us.

Laminated and encapsulated maps

I enjoy seeing those new orders being produced, and take a real pleasure in looking at the intricacies of the different styles of cartographic design. Some of the maps that we print are almost works of art in their own right.

Of course, I also feel immensely proud to be leading this company and continuing the heritage of large format printing in Frome that stretches back 170 years.

What does the future hold, and what would be your dream achievement for Dennis Maps?

The future of printed maps is a very interesting question, with rumours of their death so far having been greatly exaggerated!

Undoubtedly the growth of digital delivery systems has reduced the demand for the printed product. But this does now seem to have stabilised and even increased slightly over the last few years.

Perhaps analogue paper and digital delivery have found a means of peaceful co-existence, at least for now. Nonetheless I do feel that demand pattern will change, as will the method by which the printed maps are produced and brought to market.

I personally believe that we will see an evolution towards a more on-demand, highly customised and digitally printed map product gather pace rapidly over the next few years. I intend for Dennis Maps to be at the forefront of that!

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