L&NW: You celebrated a double milestone last year – your 40th anniversary and the completion of your independence. In what remains a very competitive industry, how does Contiweb differentiate itself to keep customers and attract new ones?
Rutger Jansen (RJ): In my opinion, thinking outside the box is the key to success for any business and I believe that we live by this ethos. Our forty-year heritage provides us with fantastic experience, but we don’t fall into the trap of doing what we’ve always done. Our strategy is to equip print providers with business- and productivity-enhancing solutions that increase performance and reduce running costs – whatever those solutions may be. We’re not fixed on updating existing equipment if it doesn’t suit the needs of the market. For example, Contiweb was originally founded as a splicer manufacturer although, as the demand for auxiliary equipment for web offset grew, we applied our core knowledge of the market to expand our portfolio and provide industry-leading dryers in the 90s, chillers and remoistening systems in the 2000s, inline finishing in 2011, digital solutions in 2014 and our latest product, web offset for packaging, in 2016.
If we look at the Contiweb Thallo, this was developed in response to the growing demand for small print runs. It combines the inherent benefits of web offset technology to the packaging market. Fully compatible with all flexo and rotogravure systems, the modular Thallo platform means packaging print providers can combine the benefits of different technologies in one press line, depending on the needs of the business.
The Contiweb Fluid Applicator (CFA) is another example of out-of-the-box thinking combined with technical expertise to develop an answer to the soaring costs of silicone today. Designed as an all-in-one silicone applicator and remoistening system, the CFA combines both functions in one, allowing commercial print providers to significantly reduce their consumable costs and reduce storage requirements for both existing and new systems.
Another offering that sets us apart from the competition is our value-add support service. With 40 years’ experience in the market, we understand the language of print. With real-time diagnostic information, we can offer customers optimal support through our comprehensive, global 24-hour Technical Support department. This means that our customers have the peace of mind that expensive downtime will be kept to a minimum. In fact, all our systems come with a secure VPN connection as standard, providing remote machine communication.
Lastly, using our Pro-Active Remote Services (PARS), customers can rest assure that any irregularities are detected and resolved quickly, reducing their production downtime.
L&NW: Are there any particular challenges or demands that you foresee during the year ahead?
RJ: In terms of the packaging market, we believe that brand owners will demand more environmentally-friendly packaging. 2018 saw unprecedented consumer demand for companies to reduce or find alternatives to the use of plastics as public awareness of environmental impact soared. I anticipate that new, greener substrates that are more widely recyclable, will make in-roads into the market. In line with this, our focus will be to ensure that our solutions maintain premium output on these substrates while keeping carbon footprints to a minimum.
We are championing sustainable solutions. Indeed, many of our heatset web offset dryers are designed with integrated pollution control which continue to set the industry standards for quality, efficiency and reliability. These offer significant advantages over conventional systems. For example, our dryers reuse the heat generated by the afterburner to maintain temperatures. They also recycle excess solvent vapor as fuel. These capabilities have seen the gas consumption of our heatset offset dryers halve compared to traditional systems, with almost all the energy supply coming from the ink solvents. For print providers, this means a reduction in gas consumption while providing an excellent sustainable solution.
L&NW: Are there any trends that you are witnessing? How do your solutions meet these demands?
The trend for short print runs continues, particularly in flexible packaging due to the demand for product line extensions. This sees a growing SKU count and a massive variety in the shape, size and design of products. This is where solutions, such as the Thallo, come into their own as print providers can reduce the costly time associated with set-up changes for each variation. With offset, a plate can be on the machine ready to print within minutes of a new image file being received, compared to hours, days or even weeks with other processes. This makes this technology the ideal solution for international products that require the ingredients, instructions and sell by date, in local languages.
Another reason why offset technology is a great solution for smaller jobs is the ability to produce different colors densities alongside each other. This is possible as there is no anilox roller and ensures that print providers can increase their throughput for small runs.
One thing that I think we’ll see more of is stringent regulations on food labels. Right now, there is huge pressure on brands to list each ingredient on food labels no matter how small the quantity. This comes following the backlash of a teenager suffering from a fatal allergic reaction after consuming a baguette that didn’t list sesame seed on its label. For brands, this means they need to consider the content on the label and ensure that the inks comply with rigorous food regulations. Naturally, this is an area in which we can meet such demand as the Thallo uses solvent-free inks that meet international standards. It also comprises coating and curing solutions without VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound). This means that print houses that employ the Thallo can expand their product offering and enter the food, beverage and pharmaceutical markets.
L&NW: Finally, now that were in 2019, do you have any business advice for print providers?
As with any industry, differentiating your business offering and identifying opportunities within the market will put you in good stead against the competition. In terms of the print sector, with further consolidation in commercial printing, it’s a good time to be in packaging. The market is experiencing continuous growth, rising at a steady 2.9% year-on-year. This segment holds huge business potential for print providers, particularly within the flexible packaging sector which has an annual forecast of 4.3% growth. The labels and packaging segments are set to grow, and we expect that offset will increase its market share due to its flexibility for short runs.
As a business, we will continue to develop innovative solutions including digital systems as well as support commercial printers. For me personally, this year is a huge milestone as the newly appointed CEO. I thank Bert Schoonderbeek for his passionate leadership and innovative thinking which has been integral in firmly establishing our position as leaders in heat-set web offset solutions and paved the route into digital and packaging markets.