Analysing the Print and Publishing Techniques


The aim of this report is to consider the business organisation and objectives of a printing/packaging company and review, analyse, and evaluate the effectiveness of the organisation in meeting the company's objectives. For the purposes of this report, I will be looking at MSO Cleland Ltd. MSO Cleland Ltd has been in operation since 1876, and is based on the Castlereagh Road in Belfast. The existing company was formed in 1984 with the acquirement and merger of two long-established Belfast packaging companies - McCaw Stevenson & Orr Ltd and R.R. Browne Ltd. In 2000, the company was renamed following the acquirement of the John Cleland Group. They currently employ 200 people and produce and supply printed cartons, shaped tubes, rigid boxes, and self-adhesive labels to all sectors of the economy including public authorities, financial services, publishers, distributive services, and manufacturing industry. Its clients range includes Moy Park, Diageo, Hewlett Packard, and Victoria's Secret. Their aim is to create innovative packaging by believing robustly in investment in technology and people.

Company Structure

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The significance of an organisational structure is ascertaining a clear set of operations so employees understand their r roles and responsibility in association with achieving company goals. In the case of MSO Cleland Packaging they use the Hierarchical Structure (see Figure 1), although there are several other methods of organising business structures e.g. Pyramidal, Centralised/Entrepreneurial, Collaborative, Circular/Flat and Matrix Structure.

Figure - Hierarchical Organisational Chart

A hierarchical structure uses a top down approach i.e. each department sits below the top in a descending order of subordinate; it is the dominant mode of organisation among businesses. Members of hierarchical organisational structures principally communicate with their immediate superior and with their immediate subordinate. Structuring organisations in this way is useful partly because it can reduce the communication overhead by limiting information flow; however, this is also its major limitation.

Other advantages of this type of structure are:

specialisation - departments focus on one area of work

answerability - there are obvious lines of management

simplicity - employees know their own and others' roles

Other disadvantages of this type of structure are:

closed communication - for example, the sales team may not interact much with other departments and therefore may not realise how their work affects or can be informed by the activities of these departments

co-ordination may become difficult

departments may become resistant to change

Department Roles

The different departments within MSO Cleland Packaging are Sales, Commercial, Operations and Design and Technical. The Managing Director has the key responsibility for running of the company, including creating company objectives and overlooking all departments.

The purpose of the sales department is to do market research, and create pricing, sales, and promotion strategies sell their services to new and existing clients and identify new markets and business opportunities.

The purpose of the commercial department is finance and human resources. Within the finance section cash flow, income/revenue and expenditure are all monitored. Human Resources is responsible for recruitment and retention, staff training and health and safety.

The purpose of the operations department is requiring resources, planning output and monitoring costs.

The design and technical department is responsible for planning, production, maintenance and pre-press.

All the departments work together to meet the business objectives of the company by having clear roles and responsibilities.

Business Objectives

Business objectives are the stated, measurable targets of how to achieve business aims. In the case of MSO Cleland, their objective is to boost capacity and competitiveness in the high-pressure packaging market. One way of achieving this objective is to look at their production methods.

Production Methods

There are three main stages in production: prepress, press (production/printing), and postpress (finishing). The choice of production methods depends on the nature of the product and costs. MSO Cleland print packaging for a lot of food, therefore when deciding on their production method they need to consider food packaging legislation


The Pre Press stage is where all the comprehensive preparation takes place such as typesetting, copy-editing, mark-up, proofing, screening, imposition, manufacturing of plates, manufacturing of high quality print and paper selection. This stage starts with skilled and practised designers (structural and graphic) who decipher clients' needs into products. Once this is agreed, production can begin. This stage is the fastest changing part of the printing graphics industries. Figure 2 shows the prepress workflow which MSO Cleland follow.

Figure - Prepress Workflow - from MSO Cleland

Press (Production or Printing Stage)

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MSO Cleland prints the majority of their cartons using offset lithography although flexography is also employed (more so for labels). It is also usual to apply varnishes e.g. matt, gloss, or both as well as ink to the cartonboard. A range of special effects and finishes are available to offer the widest possible choice to clients e.g. foil

Figure - Printing in MSO Cleland

Offset Lithography

Offset Lithography is a printing method that uses the repellent properties of oil and water to reproduce an image on a flat surface.

Advantages are:

extremely flexible and cost effective for most jobs,

wide range of presses from jobbing sheet-fed machines to large web-fed presses,

relatively short set up time,

prints effectively on a wide range of stock.

Disadvantages are

ink translucent and prone to more problems than in other processes.


Flexography is a method of printing using a rubber or polymer rotating printing plate, most commonly used for labels.

Advantages are


prints well on non-absorbent stock,

possibility of using water based ink,

prints well on cheap stock.

Disadvantages are

image spread,

poor halftones,

expensive to set up.

Postpress (Finishing)

Generally, cartons are printed several at a time on one sheet of cartonboard, therefore after printing they need to be cut out and separated. A cutting and creasing machine is used to do this; the machine can also be used to apply embossing to the cartons if required.

Ultimately, the cartons are glued as required, packed, and despatched to the client. Figure 4 shows an example of work printed by MSO Cleland.

Current Challenges

The printing sector, in Northern Ireland has a combined turnover of £73 million of which £23 million is generated outside Northern Ireland (Invest Northern Ireland, 2007). This sector is going through a particularly difficult stage in its development partly due to economic challenges, oversupply, strong price competition, increasing client demands and lack of differentiation.

In order to be successful in the future, companies must develop new markets or niche products and services, and must be in a position to invest in new technology to remain competitive and look at their workflow.

New Technology

New trends in the printing industry have been brought about by the appearance of internet and digital technologies. These trends are now geared towards full workflow computerisation with the improvement of computer-to-plate imaging technologies, which allow desktop publishing applications to output directly to a printing plate. Many printing presses are combining different reproduction processes since many print jobs are complex with specialised coating or printing requirements.

MSO Cleland has put a lot of investment into ensuring they have the most up to date equipment and have recently installed a new Rapida 106 with coater as part of the firm's ongoing strategy to increase capacity and competitiveness in the high-pressure packaging market (See Figure 5). As a result, MSO Cleland is enjoying a 40% increase in productivity.

Mr Walsh (Managing Director) stated: "Improved productivity and resulting increased capacity means we are well positioned for future growth, especially in the very demanding luxury packaging sector where the superior print quality achieved with the KBA is a real bonus." (KBA Print and People, 2010)

Figure The Rapida 106 at MSO Cleland significantly contributed to a 40% uplift in productivity

Workflow and Working Methods

MSO Cleland run most of their machines over three shifts, which can take its toll on the equipment over time, eventually this will affect performance. To help reduce the effects of the six big productivity killers (breakdowns, long set up times, minor stoppages, reduced running speeds, process defects and yield loss) the company embarked on a Performance Optimum Programme (POP). This programme involved surveying the conditions of the machines and creating action plans. After 3 months productivity was increased by 18%, nearly a 50-60% increase in running speeds and a cut of a third in make ready times.


MSO Cleland have structured their company by using the hierarchical organisational structure, this offers them the advantage of reducing communication overheads. Their business objective of boosting capacity and competitiveness is achieved in their production methods. By implementing new printing industry trends such as new technologies, workflow and working methods, have transformed MSO Cleland into a more efficient and effective business.

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