Label Print Technologies
3380 Gilchrist Rd, Mogadore, OH 44260 USA
Outside of work, Jodi Westphal is a runner. Her company, Label Print Technologies, embodies her fast-moving competitive spirit, and is sprinting into its next phase of growth.
At only four years old, Label Print Technologies is a “teenager,” describes Westphal. She says, “We’re a fairly young company, but we’re aggressive and have a future with endless possibilities – and we like to have fun.”
The company may be young, however its ownership group and several of its employees have decades of label industry experience. Headquartered in Mogadore, OH, USA, Label Print Technologies’ roots trace back to the now-defunct US Label, a converter that shut down its operations in February 2011 and went into liquidation.
Westphal was US Label’s general manager, and when the company closed its doors, she acted fast. “It was an interesting time,” she recalls. “The same day US Label closed, I opened up my distributorship – Midwest Print Supply. Myself, along with six others who were also with US Label, went to work selling labels. I still had customers to serve – some were mad, some fled, but a lot of them believed in us. We were fortunate. It was a crazy time, but we didn’t miss a beat.”
With three decades worth of experience, Westphal had established strong relationships with label printing companies, who offered their services to run labels for Midwest Print Supply. Westphal, along with her handful of employees, brokered labels for 90 days. “On day 60, the liquidators called me with questions about US Label’s machinery,” she recalls. “We started talking, and I made them an offer. Sure enough, they accepted, and we took possession of all the equipment. Ninety days after US Label shut down, the operation came back up live, but now known as Label Print Technologies.”
Westphal, who runs the company as president, is one of six on Label Print Technologies’ ownership team. Apart from her, the other owners hail from a small, boutique private equity firm – and they all share the same vision. “I have some terrific investment partners,” Westphal says. “They’re smart, diverse and have great bank relationships. And they’re also entrepreneurs, which is excellent because they have an understanding of what it takes to succeed.”
Label Print Technologies emerged from the remnants of US Label in May 2011 with 11 full time employees – the six that stayed with Westphal and then an additional five more. In its 50,000 square foot manufacturing space, equipment-wise, the new company started with the assets from US Label – five flexo presses (1990s era Aquaflex and Webtron machines), plate making equipment, an AB Graphic Omega finishing unit, and a large inventory of solid dies.
In addition to the prepress, printing and converting equipment, Label Print Technologies retained US Label’s two labelstock-making lines. The company is one of the few label converters in the US that has the ability to custom-make labelstock for its customers, helping to not only keep costs down, but also provide clients with one-of-a-kind solutions.
With an aggressive approach to sales strategy, the young company has leveraged its conventional printing assets to reach annual sales growth of more than $1 million. Label Print Technologies focuses primarily on food and beverage markets, serving customers mostly local to Ohio and the greater Midwest.
Today there are 31 employees at Label Print Technologies, and about one third work in the sales department.
Westphal has a distinct sales philosophy that she instills in her sales team – and it’s driving the company forward. “We’re hunters,” she says. “We hunt. When you look at label companies, you’re either a hunter or a nurturer. Nurturers are great, but they’re not fixated on a lot of growth. They’re happy, they service their customers well, and their customers have been with them forever. These are our toughest competitors because they have such great relationships with their customers that can go back generations.
“Those are the nurturers, but we’re the hunters. We’re making calls every day, putting in hours upon hours of phone time. We’re always on the hunt. Each of our sales people is tasked with closing four new accounts per month. We say, ‘one a day,’ just like a vitamin,” she says, adding, “We’re getting a lot of young people to come work for us – recent college graduates – and we’re teaching them how to sell. We incentivize our sales people and recognize the new account winners. And as we’re building our sales team, we’re mixing in technical experts with aggressive, young go-getters.”
Label Print Technologies is service oriented and prides itself in its ability to help customers grow their businesses. In addition to growing its sales department, the company is also actively adding graphic arts specialists. There are a number of full- and part-time label designers on staff. Explains Westphal, “Part of what we’re doing is redesigning labels for our customers, and not only is it profitable, it’s also something fun. We run a promotion where we offer two free hours of design, where we can help customers rebrand their products.
“A lot of our clients are small food manufacturers,” she explains. “And being able to assist them with the design aspect of their labels is really important to them, because they often don’t have anyone in-house to do it. So that’s part of our go-to-market strategy. We have very talented designers and graphic artists here, and with our new presses, we can easily share with customers samples and press proofs of new designs.”
Digital Double Team
Label Print Technologies has two new presses, making the transition from flexo to digital, while ushering in its next phase of growth. The company is not just dipping its toes in the digital waters, they’re jumping right in, installing two different digital presses from different vendors in only eight months time. Both presses are based on inkjet technology, yet they each have distinct, complementary benefits they provide.
In January 2015, the company installed its first digital asset, opting for an Epson SurePress L-4033AW digital label press. Westphal emphasizes that in addition to customer demands for higher quality labels, the SurePress’ ease of use was also a key factor in it being selected.
“We got to a point where we were uncovering opportunities we couldn’t produce on our flexographic presses, so we went looking and found the SurePress,” says Westphal. “The SurePress is easy to use, accurate, can spot color match, and allows us to utilize our in-house manufactured pressure sensitive material. The wide color gamut and additional White ink have allowed us to produce complicated labels and designs that meet customer demands. We love the exactness of the print, the crispness of the image, and the color gamut on the SurePress is stunning – we’ve had the ability to spec in a very wide range of colors for our customers.”
After being in business for two years and experiencing such a rapid growth trajectory, Westphal knew a press acquisition was imminent. “We looked at both digital and flexo and we studied our options for over a year. We went to Labelexpo in 2014 in Chicago, and after looking at a few different technologies, we took a step back and examined not only the skillset required for each printing process, but also the workforce. It’s not easy finding a great flexo press operator. And when a company does find one, they never let them go,” she says.
Tasked with operating the new SurePress is Label Print Technologies’ maintenance technician, who has since been trained by Epson. Westphal notes that when they first installed the press, having longtime flexo press operators running it presented a challenge. “We had a lot to learn. One of the first things we learned was that any sort of color-matching has to take place in the graphics – not on-press as is the case with flexo. An operator moving from flexo to digital is really an interesting transition – it’s complicated. Flexo is an art. With digital, there’s still art, but it’s in the background of the process, with the artistry happening on the prepress end. And the beauty of the Epson is that it is absolutely reproducible. Once a job is in, it’s in – and a job looks exactly the same every time it’s recalled.”
While Label Print Technologies got its start and grew as a flexo label shop, Westphal sees the company’s future being driven by inkjet technology. She says, “I truly believe that in five years time, the pressure sensitive label industry will be an inkjet marketplace.”
The SurePress excels at producing high-quality labels on a wide range of different substrates, qualities that made it an attractive first digital investment. However, in looking for a second digital inkjet press, Westphal had speed in mind, and set out looking for a machine that could print high quality labels at speeds that rival her flexo presses. So in August 2015 Label Print Technologies added its second inkjet asset, becoming the fifth converter in North America to install a Screen Truepress Jet L350UV press. The press accommodates a maximum printing width of 12.6" and prints at a top speed of 164 feet per minute resulting in productivity of 173.2 square feet of labels per minute.
“Overall, in comparison, the speed of the Screen Truepress is equal to, if not better than flexo, especially when you take into account that there’s no setup times like there is with flexo,” Westphal says.
The shift to digital is already paying off. “I recently had a new customer tell me that they’re buying from us because they change their labels so often and they don’t want to pay for plates,” she says. “And for customers that have labels that run flexo, if they have a new design, concept or specialty product and want to see one of their containers with a finished label, we can give them the actual label, and with no waste.”
In order to accommodate the move from flexo to digital, a CEI rewinder is currently on order to help with finishing. The company is also looking into adding a laser diecutter.
There are a lot of changes taking place at Label Print Technologies. Between two new presses and the dramatic change in its manufacturing mindset, it’s anything but dull at the plant. The company is also in the process of installing a Label Traxx MIS system.
Westphal says that a move into a new facility is imminent in order to fulfill the need for more climate-controlled manufacturing space. After that, she says, it’ll be time to look at adding another digital press.
Label Print Technologies, backed by Westphal’s leadership, fosters a culture of winning through hard work. The company itself is young, and she encourages her employees to seize opportunity. “If you do the work and put in the time, there is a ton of opportunity here. And we have some great, hard-working people. Because we’re a teenager and we’re growing so fast, there are times when we slip. But we try really hard and work really hard for our customers. And it’s also fun to watch our customers grow – it’s a nice partnership.”
The new machinery and the improved quality labels the company can now offer customers plays perfectly into Westphal’s approach to sales, which is to keep on calling.
“It’s really pretty simple,” she says. “You need labels, I make labels. Our job is to continue to call until you say yes. Sometimes I tell them, ‘you might as well say yes now, because I’m going to keep calling.’ I could understand a ‘no’ if we didn’t have the capabilities, but now we do."