The largest gathering ever of HP Indigo digital press owners — at least 500 of them — took place in early February in Tampa, FL, USA at the 2007 meeting of DSCOOP (Digital Solutions Cooperative). The annual conference also drew 100 HP staff members and another hundred potential customers.
Often at these conferences the label and packaging people get treated as an afterthought. Not this time. Even though the majority of HP Indigo installed presses are at commercial print shops, at this conference there was a complete Label & Packaging track that featured 11 educational sessions.
HP put a great deal of effort into this year’s conference. The “Solutions Showcase” featured exhibits by about 50 vendors. Most impressive was that HP brought its two newest presses — the 5000 on the sheet fed side, and the ws4500 on the label side. The ws4500 was set up with inline finishing from ABG International and the Digicon semi-rotary diecutting press.
The light-hearted theme of the conference was American football — seeing that we were in Florida on Superbowl weekend. In keeping with that theme, Marv Levy, the former coach of the Buffalo Bills, kicked off the conference with an excellent talk on leadership and character.
He detailed how it was far more important to hire people with integrity and character who are self-motivated than someone with just talent. These are rules that apply equally well in football or business.
The educational sessions in the Label & Packaging track provided a variety of information. Steven Schnoll of Schnoll Media Consulting gave a presentation around the Tower of Power — the now famous day of production on an HP ws4050 with 23 jobs, 201,000 labels and only 11 minutes of downtime. Elisha Tropper of T3 Associates, and former president of Prestige Label, gave an excellent presentation on lean manufacturing. He demonstrated how digital label printing is inherently leaner than traditional flexographic printing, but for a company to be truly lean it needs to look at all steps in the production process from order entry through to receipt of payment. You need to ensure that each step adds value for your customers.
There was a presentation on sustainable packaging that described the new Wal-Mart requirements for its vendors, and many examples of sustainable packaging. Other presentations focused on finishing, the new ws4500 press, and sales and marketing, as well as security printing.
One of the highlights of the conference was the European panel discussion of global label and packaging trends. Christian Menegon from HP moderated the panel discussion and he challenged HP press owners to be proactive and propose new ideas to their customers. The panel consisted of two printers from the UK and one from the Netherlands, each with multiple HP digital label presses. The percentage of total revenue from digital presses ranged from 15 percent to 30 percent, but for each company digital was one of the fastest growing areas. In Europe short runs are becoming the norm and the customers want to be able to order their labels on demand. Each speaker stressed the importance of regular weekly press maintenance to get the most production from the machines. All three house their HP presses in a clean room environment, and they let run length determine whether they run a job on digital or flexo presses.
One of the most fascinating sessions, attended only by a couple of dozen people, was a production session on the new HP ws4500. Called Top Tips!, the session presented production ideas sent in by HP Indigo press operators. There was the revelation that the ws4050 and ws4500 could run at a three color speed of 75 feet a minute, even though all the documentation stated that there was only a two color speed (100 ft/min) and a four color speed (50 ft/min). There was a detailed description of how to achieve that. Another interesting idea was how to prevent adhesive buildup on rollers within the press: Just rub the side of the material roll with dishwashing liquid and water.
Most attendees in the Label & Packaging track left the conference feeling it was time and money well spent. The only criticism was that some of the sessions were obviously focused on HP’s prospects, touting the many advantages of digital printing over flexo. The owners of HP presses know that already. But overall HP and the DSCOOP board went out of their way to ensure that HP label press owners received information tailored specifically for their unique needs. They certainly achieved that aim.