Xeikon Café North America was slated for May 12-14, 2020, in Itasca, IL, USA.
In addition to providing information on the latest Xeikon product launch – the CX300 – experts provided their vision for the future, and how the labels and packaging space might be affected following the pandemic.
Mark Hanley, president of IT Strategies, stated, “Labels are a good long-term bet.” Pressure sensitive labels occupy 42% of the market, with glue-applied accounting 40%. Other packaging formats include sleeves, in-mold, heat sensitive, among others. Currently, pressure sensitive label growth is estimated between 3-5%.
“Pressure sensitive has been so popular and is such an important sector because of its flexibility,” explained Hanley. “Labels, in some cases, have almost performed the function of packaging if you look at what people are doing today with plastics bottles, for example. It’s difficult to say whether the product is a true packaging product or a labels product. The labels sector has led the way for the development of digital print.”
According to Hanley, the North American label market represents 24% of the global revenue of pressure sensitive labels – $10.2 billion. Digital print has also emerged as a player in this market, often being found where labels have high value.
“We’ve done research in the last two years – both in Europe and North America – about why people use digital, and the overriding reason has to do with fast response,” said Hanley. “A lot of digital printing is used for short runs, but if you want a product tomorrow, you can respond very quickly to the market with digital.”
Short runs, inventory reduction, and the ability to print on-demand are also key drivers. Digital is applicable for a wide range of end uses, too. This diverse application range includes pharmaceuticals, food, health and beauty, wine and spirits, durables – many of which are essential businesses. For example, 50% of pressure sensitive labels support essential food supply chains.
Xeikon is striving to meet the demand for changing print environments. Local businesses and online delivery systems have a large share of current supply chains, which potentially favor digital printing. Markets might be expected to favor printing for local, low scale and on-demand supplies.
Xeikon is looking to answer potential market challenges with workflow solution, automation, and enhanced digital printing products. “At Xeikon, we can say that it’s not only about digital printing anymore; it’s about connecting the different processes internally into your company,” said Filip Weymans, Xeikon’s VP of marketing. “By that, we try to avoid human errors. From ink systems to platemaking to plates and the flexo press, or from workflow to your digital press, we believe there will be extreme value in having that connectivity. Having flexibility for quick changes, and many varieties and quantities, will be needed.”
This connectivity must create a link with the digital press and the workflow, along with consumables and embellishment and finishing capabilities. To solve this problem, Xeikon recently announced the launch of the CX300, which is a high-end digital label press. The press, which runs at 98 fpm (30 m/m), is cloud-connected and based on Cheetah 2.0 technology. Additionally, the CX300 answers industry demand for sustainability and lower waste.
“We have listened very carefully to our customers, and we have made a lot of improvements with the CX300,” noted Jan Vercammen, product manager at Xeikon. “The press is designed for label manufacturers requiring high volume, as well as productivity, uptime and press availability.”
Cheetah 2.0 technology has been designed with Xeikon’s dry toner expertise, printing at 1200 dpi and safe to use for food applications.
Nikkie Freeman, chief commercial officer at Stouse, detailed her company’s experience with Xeikon’s digital printing technology. Stouse is a Kansas City-based converter of labels, decals, magnets, folding cartons and more, and serves as a mainstay in the health care, automotive restaurant, brewery, and cannabis markets.
“In the last decade, we’ve noticed a demand for faster turnaround times, short runs, and lower inventories,” she said. “In that time, the digital technology was advancing and the price was coming down, so the time was right to get into digital. In the last several years, our digital output has actually exceeded our analog output.”
Freeman said Xeikon’s digital press has been easy and intuitive to run for someone who’s tech-savvy. In fact, Stouse trained a graphic production artist to function as the press operator. Digital has enabled Stouse to handle rapidly changing market demands, as COVID-19 has required a range of new products. Stouse has been tasked with labels for hygiene, food, and delivery, as well as takeout labels for restaurants.
Digital fits into the changing print landscape. According to Pat McGrew, managing director at McGrew Group, converters and suppliers must plan for life after COVID-19 – and what will entail.
“We need you to start thinking today about what life after COVID will be, because it’s likely going to require transformation and change,” said McGrew. “You’re going to want a strategy to make sure your company is ready for the future.”
Companies will need executive buy-in and support to go through change, as well as clear project management to prepare for “what’s next.” Nonstop communication must also occur throughout all levels of an organization. Organizations must develop detailed contingency and disaster recovery plans, as well as a well-executed SOP (standard operating procedure).