In the webinar, titled “Cracking the Digital Code: 3 Converters Share How They Leverage Hybrid Technology,” L&NW editor Steve Katz explained how digital printing is permeating the label industry. According to LPC, Inc., the digital label market is currently valued at $1.17 billion, as brands are driving this shift for shorter run sizes and faster lead times.
According to Katz, the retail packaging market has seen a SKU surge since 1975. The average number of SKUs in 2014 was 42,214 compared to 8,948 in 1975. Digital print volumes are playing a significant role in that figure, as well. In 2016, 50% of press sales were expected to be digital, and that number is projected to increase to 75% in 2020.
Digital hybrids are transforming flexo, which will co-exist with conventional flexo in the future. Traditional digital printing is being combined with inline decorating and converting as part of a hybrid workflow. According to the three converters, the digital hybrids from Mark Andy are driving productivity, flexibility and capability.
Adcraft Labels, based in Orange County, CA, USA, entered the digital market in 2016 with a Mark Andy Digital Series press. The customized, one-pass embellishment has been a huge driver for Keith Mottram, president and CEO of Adcraft Labels, and the thick whites produced on press are extremely opaque.
From the point of installation, Adcraft Labels did not have to wait long before seeing results. “We had actually run our first job several days after the press was turned on,” said Mottram. “Mark Andy was there to help us run those jobs. Within five days, we had sold several jobs from our initial press release. We were up and running and delivering products through the whole process.”
Adcraft enjoyed the benefits of hybrid printing on one specific job. Mottram referenced a 238 SKU job, which was calculated and estimated with Mark Andy. Adcraft Labels produced the job in half the time and far under budget, when taking into account raw materials and inks. Adcraft Labels did not require any training on the Digital Series, either.
“We’re extremely happy with the way that its opening doors,” said Mottram. “People are seeing the product that it’s producing, and we’re pushing the limits of what we can do with that press. That’s a very good result that we’re happy about.
“The need for differentiation is the reason we went with the Mark Andy Digital Series,” said Mottram. “There is a gap between the digital press market and that of flexographic printing. We worked closely with Mark Andy to make this press the perfect addition to our product offering. We now have the ability to help our clients bridge the gap between what they wish they could do from a branding standpoint and what was available or what they could afford.”
Blair Labeling, a Denver, CO-based converter, made its journey into digital with the Mark Andy Digital One. The company originally had six flexo presses, but it opted to remove one and replace it with a hybrid solution. According to Marco De La Vega, accounting and finance manager, Blair Labeling, sales are up and plate costs are down by 18%.
De La Vega said that Blair Labeling has chosen to move a lot of its flexo work to the Digital One. “We have moved a significant number of jobs to this press, which wasn’t our original plan, but we realized the capabilities it had,” he said. “It was a no-brainer.”
Keeping pace with new technology has been important to Blair Labeling, and Mark Andy has helped contribute to its growth. “We continue to grow in different aspects of the industry and try to have new forms of technology here so we can have the best capabilities we can for our customers,” said De La Vega. “We bought this to give us an edge in the marketplace. We started advertising that we had this and then started moving a lot of work over. I no longer have overtime for maintenance. It’s simple to move work over when it’s a 13” web.
“I honestly believe hybrid printing is going to be the future of this industry,” he added.
Meanwhile, DLS took advantage of Mark Andy’s partnership with Colordyne Technologies. The Digital +3600 Series retrofit has provided DLS with an option to run longer jobs digitally. Bob Hakman, president and owner of DLS, said shared the company started exploring a retrofit solution to take advantage of hybrid flexibility.
“The retrofit is a great fit for the larger digital products that we’re running,” said Hakman. “I thought it was a great solution to combine a digital printhead with a new Mark Andy flexo press to one of my locations that did not have digital at the time.”
The three converters agreed that while flexo is the driving print technology on the market today, the industry will continue to shift. “The marketplace is changing, and it’s going to continue to change in the coming years,” added Hakman. “Speeds will go up and costs will go down. Everybody needs to make a decision as to what the best digital platform is for their customers and their needs.”
To hear the webinar in its entirety, register here and view.