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Narrow Web Europe

September 27, 2007

Revamped Labelsco elevates MSO’s position in UK labeling

Narrow Web Europe

Revamped Labelsco elevates MSO’s position in UK labeling

By Barry Hunt

Labelsco Ltd., a major independent label converter, was recently acquired by the MSO Group. Soon afterward the Belfast based packaging company merged Labelsco with its Hannibal Labels division, acquired only last year. Most of Hannibal’s equipment and work force were transferred to Labelsco’s nearby modern 75,350 square foot facility in Barwell, near Leicester.

According to Dominic Walsh, CEO of MSO Group, the enlarged company, which trades under the Labelsco name, has resulted in one of the UK’s largest privately owned label companies.

John Woods, formerly Hannibal’s managing director, now heads up the revamped company, replacing Bob Robinson, the former long-serving MD who has since retired. The combined turnover is expected to be around £16.5 million ($33.22 million) with a workforce of 170 employees. Overall group turnover, which includes MSO Cartonmaster and Storey Evans, is around £55 million ($110.75 million), of which labels contribute around £23 million ($46.31 million).

Founded in 1976, Labelsco is a highly successful recipient of print quality awards. It has received over 40 of them from FINAT and TLMI since 1992 alone and in 2006 gained two World Label Awards. Products include security items, leaflet labels, foil and laminate sachets, and Braille-printed labels. The main business is servicing accounts in the pharmaceutical, food, household and DIY, horticulture, health and beauty, and automotive sectors.

Production is centered on eight- and six-color Nilpeter FA 2400 and FA3300 UV flexo combination presses, backed by in-house design and full prepress facilities. The original Labelsco employed 125 people who contributed to a pre-tax profit of £335,000 from sales worth £9.5 million in the year to March 31, 2006.

British label converters finish last in profitability

As in other countries, British label converters face strong competition, with overcapacity prevalent throughout the industry. However, it is still surprising to learn that they have the lowest profit margins among printers in the United Kingdom. That, at any rate, is one of the findings in a new report called Printing for Profit 2007. Published by the British Printing Industries Federation and sponsored by Canon, it analyzed 17 different productivity and profitability ratios before concluding that operating profit as a percentage of sales ratio for label converters was 6.7 percent. The carton and flexible packaging sectors achieved a ratio of 9.63 percent, close to the national average.

Proving that size is not everything, small general printers reported the highest operating profit with a ratio of 14.47 percent. According to Ben Millford, head of professional marketing, Canon UK, this sector has the highest uptake of digital printing: “…It clearly demonstrates the opportunity for printers to earn profitable revenue streams through the use of this technology.”

Freeloaders hurt Germany’s Green Dot recycling scheme

Germany’s pioneering Green Dot packaging recycling scheme is on the brink of collapse, says recycling firm Interseroh. Unscrupulous firms are apparently counterfeiting labels carrying the ubiquitious Green Dot — or Der Grüne Punkt — symbol. Only companies that pay a licence fee are legally allowed to display the symbol. This means unpunished freeloaders who sidestep the legal requirement to take back and recycle packaging gain an unfair commercial advantage.

In an article in Handelsblatt, a business magazine, Interseroh said that garbage cans will remain standing in the street as early as next year, unless the government changes the German Packaging Ordinance (GPO). This became law in 1991 to give responsibility for packaging to the whole supply chain, from material manufacturer through to the retailer.

Duales System Deutschland, the former recycling monopoly that owns the Green Dot licence, warned last May of the need to take action against illegal usage of the symbol. It feels the ratio between the collection of packaging and revenue had become seriously unbalanced.

Going green can actually save costs

It seems there is no escaping the environmental zeitgeist, especially in cases which show that altruistic concerns and economic expediency are not necessarily mutually exclusive. That is one way of looking at the new waste disposal project implemented by Skanem Liverpool. “With the increasing focus on the environment in our day-to-day life and the spiralling costs for disposal of waste materials through landfill, it was critical that we reviewed our processes in this area,” says Steve Dunne, site managing director. “This is a problem we all face in our daily lives and it is becoming key in any manufacturing business.”

The outcome was a new baling system, backed by a scheme involving the return and re-use of all ink, varnish and chemistry containers both internally and with supply partners. Skanem Liverpool produces around 1,000 tons of disposable waste every year, most of which is PSA laminate. Previously it was compacted and taken off to a landfill site.

The new system directly removes all matrix waste from the presses for baling. It is then loaded onto a transport sledge and removed free of cost from the site by an independent recycling company. This waste is then converted into plastic formed end-user items for the building and agricultural industries. “The success of this project can now be clearly seen in the reduction of compactor collections to one per week from the previous three,” says Dunne. “It has now become a real blueprint for the rest of the group to follow in going green for ours and our children’s future.”

Raflatac RFID tags in healthcare distribution

MBA Grupo, a European healthcare distributor headquartered in Spain, has adopted UPM Raflatac’s UHF EPC Generation 2 tags. This type of RFID technology is expected to improve stock management, allowing product tracking throughout the entire supply chain, from production in Spain to private and public hospitals in Spain, Italy and Portugal. An initial project test confirmed that the system could be used with a wide variety of materials and packaging within 48 product groups, amounting to 5,700 different references and more than 300,000 items.

MBA’s main warehouse is being equipped with two RFID reader gates to enable order and shipping control. UPM Raflatac RFID tags will be applied to products in stock and replace conventional bar coded labels. The aim is to improve the efficiency of receipt and shipping of goods, with automatic reading in place for the serial numbers and expiration dates on all dispatched products. The third phase of the project will cover the warehouses of MBA’s 23 subsidiaries in Spain, Italy and Portugal. The hospitals it supplies will be equipped with mobile RFID readers, allowing MBA to control its product stock levels, as well as the expiration dates of sterile products.

Threefold boost for HP Indigo

HP Indigo has notched up some noteworthy orders in the UK for its seven-color ws4500 digital press. Baker Self-Adhesive Labels in London recently installed a ws4500 following a successful move into digital label printing and only 18 months after installing a ws4050 press. Increased demand for variable data labels in the security market, and customers’ needs for short-run, on-demand labels were cited as reasons.

Meanwhile, westwards in North Wales, Field Boxmore installed a ws4500 press at its plant in Wrexham. As part of the Chesapeake Corporation, the company specializes in supplying labels and packaging to European and other international pharmaceutical companies. The digital press will complement existing press capacity and is intended to meet a growing demand for label runs in the 5,250 to 6,500 linear feet range.

New linerless labelstock from Italy

The latest development in linerless labeling technology comes from Gruppo Irplast, an Italian labeling technology firm. Besides cost savings, a major impetus has been the EU Packaging Waste Directive introduced in 1997. Unlike previous linerless attempts, this system appears end-user friendly and does not require huge investments in application machinery. Instead, Irplast’s method uses a compact dispenser adaptable to handle a choice of three different labeling systems as alternatives to conventional PSAs, shrink sleeves or wraparounds. The UK distributor, Advanced Dynamics of Bradford in West Yorkshire, claims the new product can save up to 30 percent of the cost of traditional PSA labels in the packaging and promotion of food, drink and household products.

The labels use biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP) film coated with a solventless adhesive. It provides adequate adhesion, but does not stick on contact with itself, eliminating the need for a release liner. Advanced Dynamics says this doubles the linear amount per roll of labels to reduce label changeover times on dispensers by 50 percent. The risk of substrate dust or adhesive ticks is also eliminated. It adds that the dispensing method can be adapted to suit most packaging lines and customized to accommodate different product shapes. The system offers various applications, including primary labeling, multipack labeling and re-seal features where appropriate.

New approach to UV-based brand protection  

The ultimate aim of all anti-counterfeiting processes is to protect brands with high levels of security that are simple to handle in terms of production technology. Jura JSP in Vienna and the German firm Weilburger Graphics think they have cracked it with the TWIN-ICI system. It is said to require only minor process modifications and can be produced inline “at favorable cost” by standard packaging and label printing methods in almost all applications. Both companies are members of PrintCity, a strategic alliance that connects worldwide expertise from over 40 independent companies within the graphic arts industry.

The security element combines ICI (Invisible Constant Information) technology and UV-curable coatings and printing inks supplied by Weilburger. It is said to be completely invisible under normal light conditions, and can be used on nonprinted areas, solid colors and halftones.

The system does not inhibit the design process because the security elements are incorporated only after designs are completed. Verification of TWIN-ICI elements is by a decoding lens of a particular frequency developed by Jura. The lens is used in UV light of a certain wavelength to access the various pieces of information at different angles of the decoder, so making them visible to the human eye. At a higher security level, the TWIN-D-ICI variant also uses digitally-encoded information requiring a special reading device for evaluation, but additionally uses cryptographic cipher algorithms.