On the outskirts of Paris, in an area covered by the English workers' Slough of Paris & # 39; The 40,000-square-meter Photobox plant is hidden in the corner of an industrial estate.
A huge operation is under way within this Sartrouville hub. It is currently in the middle of its & # 39; peak period & # 39; and prepares Christmas gifts that are sent all over the world.
During this busy period, which includes November and December, the plant works at 100 percent capacity, compared with only 20 percent for the remainder of the year.
It's because the generation of smartphones – young and old – uploads photos to be printed as a thoughtful yet simple gift for Christmas, with personalized albums as an important seller for Photobox.
In the run up to Christmas, a large number of 18,000 – 21,000 photo albums are made every day
To meet this increased demand, the factory, which usually has 100 employees, has to recruit 250 extra people for the peak period.
This is Money went in December in the middle of the rush to Paris to see exactly how Photobox handles the extraordinary increase in sales …
The sale of photo books quadruples this time of the year
Photobox, founded in 2000 as delivery service for the next day for photo prints, is Europe's largest digital company for personalized printing.
The company has five different factories in North London, Spain, Jersey, Munich and Paris. It also owns the popular website for personalized Moonpig greeting cards.
It opened the doors to its Paris factory in 2005, after a merger with its French counterpart, Photoways.
The company offers a range of products, including personalized calendars, cloths and mugs, but the star of the show is their photo books, a photo album made by the customer.
The Photobox factory, based on the outskirts of Paris, has to hire 250 extra staff for Christmas
This is where the Parisian factory specializes and to support the huge demand for these albums in the run up to Christmas, the factory is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
During the peak period, as many as 18,000-21,000 photo albums are produced every day – four times more than what is made daily throughout the rest of the year.
The extra 250 employees are hired in October to have enough time left so that they can be professionally trained for the Christmas rush.
Close-up: Our reporter, Grace, looks at the photo books before they are covered
Claude Hanocq, the production director of France and Spain, who is leading the factory tour, said that this not only means that there is more staff to take care of, but that the logistics of the entire factory must be adjusted.
He said: & # 39; The cafeteria must be moved from where it usually is to a larger room, so that there is enough space for everyone.
& # 39; We also need to ensure that everyone is in the right place at the right time. It is a big operation. & # 39;
Prior to the tour, Claude proudly shows a mug that has the record for most of the photo albums printed on his side one day.
The record was put in December 2016 when an impressive 27 715 books were made. Claude said self-assuredly: "I think we will be defeating this year." & # 39;
How the photo book process works
The huge factory floor is busy with hundreds of employees who are hard at work and who serve large machines.
Print space: looking at the printers that can print approximately 100-200 images per minute
In the printing office they produce about 100-200 photos per minute.
It is the home of the largest amount of HP Indigo roll-to-roll printing machines in every room in Europe – no small feat considering each of the big machines costs about £ 1 million.
According to Claude, the printers are the best on the market and print four colors, which is more expensive, but does mean that they come out much clearer.
It is no surprise that the factory has decided to crack down on expensive printers, because the company's demand is high with a total of 1.7 million photo books printed each year.
After the images have been printed, the covers of the photo books are created.
The inside and the covers of the photo books are printed separately, so during the whole process the two must be placed next to each other on a trolley to prevent them from being separated.
There are a total of 800 different combinations of photo books that customers can create, including soft and hard back options that can be personalized.
It has the largest number of HP Indigo roll-to-roll printing machines in every room in Europe
A maximum of 40 orders are processed every minute during the peak period, as 11 million photos are uploaded to the site every day.
After the images have been printed, they go through a cruel cutting machine and cut them to size. Claude tells us to take a step back – it's powerful and it easily the leg of a man can break.
The images are then bound together in a book before they go through another machine that will cover the cover.
A barcode is then placed on the book, which is passed on to an employee who carries out a strict quality check.
The employee scans the barcode, which tells exactly what should be in the photobook and checks that there are no flagrant errors and that the cover is in good condition.
A huge 4.5 million packages are sent in the peak period, which runs until November and December
Each book with the least scuffmarkering is rapidly discarded and sent to be printed again.
Once the quality check is complete, all you have to do is send the product.
What is the output for the Photobox factories?
The plant in Sartrouville (Paris) produces:
– 1.7 million photo books per year
– 20 k photo books per day during the peak period
– 68 million prints per year
The Willen Field Road (London) plant produces:
– 800k canvas & # 39;
– 600k mugs
– 550,000 posters
– printing of 63 meters
A huge 4.5 million packages are sent in the peak period from the large shipping area at the back of the plant.
Claude acknowledges that the recent protests in Paris about the increase in fuel tax by the government have affected the shipment from Photobox, but quickly reassures that there has only been a slight disruption.
Packages are fed through a machine that can then see if photos are missing by scanning the barcode and weighing it before being split up and collected by the courier.
Claude tells us that he is proud of the work they accomplish, especially during the Christmas period – although I am sure he will be happy with the rest after working seven days a week in these two hectic months.
Photobox admits that it had a period in which it's lazy in its approach & # 39; and did not deliver the fast effect it does now.
That is the opinion of Rory Scott, head of communications, who admitted: "After 15 years of double digits, the company grew somewhat a few years ago and lost a bit of visibility of what was really important to customers.
& # 39; The online photo printing market is saturated and so we had to re-evaluate what we were doing. & # 39;
Jody Ford took over the leadership of the Photobox in 2016 and left his previous position of vice president of global global marketing on eBay and Rory said his arrival revived the brand.
Rory said: "Jody was great for the company. We try a softer approach and focus on creating more premium products to our customers.
& # 39; The care we have for customers is what sets us apart from the rest of our competitors.
& # 39; We have been around for years and we are determined to make high-quality products that our customers will enjoy for years to come. & # 39;
This renewed energy in the company was helped by the release of 95 new products this year, including an artists' collection, their first series of prints with gallery quality.
It does not appear that the company is slowing down now that Photobox Group has now been expanded with five independent brands, including Photobox, Hofmann, Moonpig, posterXXl and Greetz – the Dutch equivalent of Moonpig.
The group acquired Moonpig, which in 2007 was responsible for 90 percent of the online greeting card market in the United Kingdom, in July 2011 for £ 120 million in a cash and equity transaction.
Looking ahead to the future, the group hopes to grow further and to keep breaking its own records.