In Canada, a booming converter began with an acquisition, and it has followed that strategic development plan to fuel current expansion. Labelink has utilized multiple acquisitions to bring a wide range of products and services to North American customers.
In 2004, Stephen Bouchard, in concert with business partner Bill McDougall and a family investor, Parkview Capital, acquired the assets of a small printing company that would become Labelink. At the time, Labelink was a very small company with seven employees, three Mark Andy 7" presses and $2 million in revenue. That initial challenge set the stage for the company’s modern-day success.
“What they did at that time was apply their strength and knowledge to the industry,” explains Jean-Marc Borel, vice president of sales at Labelink. “The original facility size was just 2,500 square feet. It was like a small printing shop.”
Fourteen years and seven acquisitions later, Labelink has become a market leader in the province of Quebec and one of the top five narrow web flexographic printers in Canada.
The recent acquisition of Safety Seal improves the company’s shrink sleeve expertise and capabilities while providing firm footing in the US. ‘’Moreover, we discovered an expert in shrink sleeves with Safety Seal. That’s what will make the difference in this specific market segment,” says Bouchard. “This is the most strategic move we have ever made.’’
Safety Seal, based in Guelph and Fredericksburg, VA, USA, has been renamed Labelink Flexibles and will become the company’s Center of Excellence for Shrink Sleeves.
Today, Labelink operates with 170 employees across five facilities with revenues close to $50 million. These plants include 20 printing presses, which range from Bobst to the HP Indigo 6600 digital press. “We can offer a wide range of products, from labels and shrink sleeves to pouches, stand-up pouches and RFID labels,” says Borel.
“We strongly believe in the narrow web world,” explains Bouchard. “We have a versatile range of complementary presses. Today, anybody can go out there and buy the most recent technology. But what really differentiates ourselves from our competitors is our latest ERP systems, where development is aligned with the sales strategy and procurement intelligence approach. We want our customers to spend less time ordering labels and more time focusing on their business,” adds Bouchard. “It is all about the customer experience.”
Labelink has also centralized its prepress and artwork departments in Montreal, running Esko fully integrated with the ERP system. The company’s in-house platemaking features high definition flexo plates, and its CTP technology ensures new print jobs efficiently run through prepress, eliminating steps once used in traditional platemaking. “If customers follow our guidelines and prepress recommendations, they can get this proof in one hour,” states Bouchard.
According to Borel, the company’s goal is to establish a connected network of facilities that function as “Centers of Excellence.” These hubs will have the ability to relay work to local flexo printers and satellite plants to answer current market needs.
The acquisitions come with added benefits too. In addition to equipment and customers, Labelink gains access to knowledge and expertise within the printing industry. All of these factors help enhance their customer service abilities.
“We have people who are all coming from labels and packaging backgrounds, and we will live and die with this industry,” says Borel. “We have many, many years of experience. We don’t believe that technology will bring you the customer. We strongly believe in listening to your customer and providing them the solutions to adapt to their needs. That is central to our success.”