Labelexpo Americas will have come and gone by the time this appears in print, but it’s a sure bet that the industry’s major press manufacturers will have pulled out all the stops to put on a good show. The problem is, the reality of these displays does not always match the hype. Most of the developed global markets — especially in Europe — have suffered from excessive press capacity for years, which has steadily impacted on press sales. While not exceptional in bucking trends, two quite different press manufacturers in terms of size report some encouraging news, namely UK-based Edale Ltd., of Romsey in Hampshire, and Nilpeter, which has facilities in Denmark and the USA.
According to Bernhard Grob, Edale’s managing director, there are too many press manufacturers, including too many new ones. Of course, as one of them he would say that, wouldn’t he? But he has a point when questioning how long some will survive in these uncertain times and what happens to future technical support. “It takes years to establish a range of presses and back them with long term support. There is no quick fix, as some manufacturers claim in their marketing campaigns. Too many of them —old and new — focus on price marketing to keep their heads above water. In the long term this does not help the converter, least of all the manufacturer. Only sound companies will survive and position themselves to offer long term customer support.”
Grob says several press manufacturers have been put up for sale (both voluntarily and involuntarily). This trend will continue, he adds, suggesting that what the industry needs is far fewer, but better, manufacturers. “Too many so-called new presses are shown at exhibitions, but in reality they are built to the same old designs. Manufacturers must focus on customers’ needs and not just develop and push what they themselves believe is right.”
To place these comments in context, Edale’s roots go back 50 years. Since 2000 it has sold over 50 Beta 250/330 combination presses worldwide, including customized versions for leaflet-labels and peel-and-read products. It has installed over 100 compact Alpha presses in more than 25 countries, while eight orders for the flagship servo-driven Sigma line, launched last year, have come from the USA, Europe and Middle East. Models with added-value press facilities account for over 50 percent of Edale’s turnover and this trend is growing. During the past three years the company has added a new factory to reduce product lead times and enlarged its payroll, especially in R&D and production. Within this time it claims to have sold more presses in the UK then any other press manufacturer.
Nilpeter hardly needs any introduction. It is one of the world’s leading narrow web press manufacturers with local offices and subsidiaries located in more than 65 countries. It has invested approximately €3.5 million ($4.2 million) over the past 12 months in expanding and modernizing production facilities at its headquarters in Slagelse, Denmark. “We are planning ahead by modernizing production and our sales and marketing strategies,” says Lars Eriksen, CEO and owner. Interestingly, Nilpeter looked at the option to outsource production, but it was decided to retain both the Danish and US facilities and not move production overseas.
With respect to Denmark, Eriksen recognizes the country’s high level of technical expertise and industry knowledge: “It is equally competitive when compared to many less developed countries. Production equipment costs in Denmark are comparable to those in the Far East. The hourly wages are certainly lower in less developed countries, but this is more than offset by the extremely high level of expertise available in Denmark. Our highly qualified employees are irreplaceable and form the foundation of the Nilpeter brand.” While altruism sits uneasily in the corporate structure, it’s good to hear that Nilpeter acknowledges its employees’ loyalty.
The latest extension includes a new machining center, and what it calls a “Flexible Manufacturing System.” The system operates unmanned outside normal business hours and allows Nilpeter to adjust production output according to the actual demand. The US subsidiary in Cincinnati has also been comprehensively expanded. A new machine production facility was opened earlier this year. Since acquiring the former Roto Press company in 2001, Nilpeter says it has doubled its output to the American market and increased the number of its US employees by 50 percent.
“This production growth in Denmark and the US means that our strong international position is more firmly established. And with production on both sides of the Atlantic, we have developed a truly global product portfolio. There are also likely to be further developments to our production capabilities in other locations internationally, which will allow us to approach customers around the world more effectively,” says Eriksen.
• Nilpeter was one of three suppliers — the others were Esko-Graphics and Avery Dennison — nominated for the “Label Industry Award for Continuous Innovation” held at Labelexpo Americas 2004 in Chicago. The award was given to Avery Dennison.