12 Enterprise Avenue, Clifton Park, NY, USA 12065
In many ways, Info Label’s journey has mirrored that of the customers it serves. This label converter started small, and the company has blossomed into a full-service provider that has a solution for every market.
Info Label, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, opened its doors with one flexo press. Mark Dufort, president and owner, worked on the sales end of the label manufacturing business before making the decision to establish his own company.
According to Jordan Sherman, director of operations, and Rosemary Joralemon, director of sales and marketing, Dufort is a bit of an outlier in the labels and packaging industry. Most businesses have personnel who know the business and financial side, while others specialize in the technology side. Dufort prospers in both segments.
“Mark knows more about this industry than anybody I’ve ever met,” exclaims Joralemon. “Over the last 10 years of attending Dscoop and other industry meetings, he has forgotten more than most people will ever know. He knows every aspect of the industry, even if we’re not involved in it. In recent years, the more sophisticated the graphics are getting, the harder it is sometimes to produce the labels–but he finds a way, and it’s oftentimes very innovative what we do.”
Dufort decided to invest in HP, and he hasn’t looked back. Info Label recently installed a new HP Indigo 8000 digital press, which is designed to supplement the company’s HP Indigo WS6000 series press. The HP Indigo 8000 press runs at 262 fpm (80 m/m), which opens up greater run lengths to converters. The press can also operate alongside HP Indigo 6000 series presses to help streamline operations, saving on operator training, supplies management, and enabling load balancing of different-sized jobs. It comes with seven ink stations and a color gamut that reaches up to 97% of Pantone colors.
“Mark has always been an early adopter of technology, which I think has served us well,” says Joralemon. “This gives us an advantage, not only in this region but in the country.”
“There’s not much we can’t do here,” explains Sherman. “We try to have our hands in all markets, and we don’t like to fit ourselves into one specific area. We do a lot of labels for the health and beauty market, cosmetics, and we’re also in beverage, food, industrial and others. For us to now have the 8000 press is amazing. It complements flexo, the standard HP 6000 series, and it’s competing with our Gallus Labelfire from a speed standpoint.”
The HP Indigo 8000 will help Info Label continue to produce high-end cosmetic labels. Given the wide range of SKUs in the health and beauty market, Info Label found digital printing to be the most efficient option. A health and beauty job order might require 100,000 labels, but the labels are spread out across 20 or more SKUs. There are other markets that will suit the new HP press, including craft beers, wines, and beverages.
“In a lot of cases, it doesn’t really make sense to go flexo because of the plate costs,” says Joralemon. “The HP really fits the niche that we want, and it allows us to offer our customers short-run capabilities that say ‘Special Sale’ or ‘Christmas Flavors’ without having to change the plates and incur other costs. The changes are made on the fly, and the jobs all get RIPd directly to the press, and away we go.”
HP has allowed Info Label to branch out into other markets, as well. “We like to think of ourselves as an innovator, disruptor, brand partner, and a company that provides great speed to market–but speed for everything in our operations,” says Dufort. “We want to be involved with the brand from start to finish.”
The company’s success has translated to internal growth. In the last 10 years, Info Label has grown from 19 employees to 42, and it has doubled its press fleet from three to six. In addition to the new HP Indigo 8000, Info Label will be adding new equipment to supplement its presses with an AB Graphic Digicon Series 3. The growth also necessitated a move to Info Label’s current facility. When the company began 25 years ago, it operated out of a smaller setup in Mechanicville, NY. After about 12 years, Info Label outgrew that facility, moving to its current operations in Clifton Park, where the company continues to grow.
Info Label also prides itself on its ability to cross-train employees on multiple presses and finishing machines. Plus, employees will stick with their customers throughout the job’s life cycle. “We have a circular approach here that has served us really well, where the job manager stays with the project from beginning to end,” states Joralemon. “The way that we look at it is all the spokes move the wheel. We stay with the project and we work very closely with the customer. We also cross-train our employees, which helps with vacations and unexpected absences. We have a pressman who, just the other day, was working on three different machines, and I said to him, ‘You’re a real Renaissance Man.’”
Sticking with HP
In 2007, Dufort made the leap into digital printing. Info Label invested in an HP Indigo WS4500 press, and two years later added an HP Indigo WS6000. When Dufort decided to go digital, HP was–more or less–the only game in town.
More than a decade later, digital printers and full production presses are all the rage. There are also considerably more digital OEM’s on the playing field.
“We stayed with HP because of the vibrant colors and exacting registration,” says Joralemon. “HP provides offset quality. We’ve also had great support from them, both from our sales reps and from service. The presses are predictable. We didn’t just blindly continue to purchase from HP. We did look around to see what our other options were. For us, HP provides the look that we want, which keeps our customers happy and coming back.”
HP offered another big perk: white. Not every digital supplier offers white, and Info Label has made a name for itself by digitally printing white. “We push the envelope a lot further than a lot of other HP houses believe that you can,” adds Joralemon.
HP has enabled Info Label to acquire business with smaller companies, sticking with them as each grows. Recently, one of Info Label’s bigger customers was acquired, leaving some doubt as to whether the printer would be able to retain that business. However, the brand stated that Info Label needed to be considered the label printer for its business.
“That’s what HP has opened us up to,” says Sherman. “We’re able to work with smaller companies doing shorter runs, without breaking the bank for them. That allows them to grow their business, and as they get bigger you move the larger runs to flexo, increasing your profitability there as the jobs are on the right presses.
“One of the nicest things we get to see here is customers we started out with who are small, but they stay with us because we were there with them from the start,” he adds. “We’re part of their journey. Sometimes when you’re dealing with acquisitions and bids, you might not know if a customer is leaving because of the parent company that bought them. We’ve had customers say to their new parent companies that they’ve been doing business with us since the start, and this is where the business stays. These are some big companies, and they’ve been true to us.”
Need for speed
Info Label boasts a unique setup in its 25,000 square-foot facility: the company has digital, flexo and hybrid printing capabilities. Instead of trying to force a job onto one press, the converter has the ability to pick the right press for the job, enabling optimal efficiency. In addition to its two HP digital presses, Info Label has Gallus flexo presses and a Gallus Labelfire hybrid configuration.
Info Label installed the Labelfire three years ago, becoming the first US printer to invest in the Gallus hybrid solution. The press accommodates digital, flexo, cold foil, rotary screen and diecutting, from start to finish inline.
“You don’t have to cram a square peg into a round hole,” explains Sherman. “You’re going to throw a big run of a two-plated job on flexo, and you’re going to put a nice health and beauty cosmetic label on the HP. The presses are just different animals, but they both work. The profitability there just makes sense, and that’s what’s nice about the 8000. The HP is competing with flexo speed-wise, and it still has the registration and image quality of an HP.”
The new 8000 press and Gallus Labelfire will continue to push speed at Info Label. Greater speeds require faster complementary equipment, which necessitated another addition. During the AB Graphic Digital & Converting Summit, Sherman and the Info Label team committed to adding another machine from AB Graphic, this time a Digicon Series 3.
“The Series 3 is a nice machine,” says Sherman. “And with the speed of the 8000 press, we just needed newer finishing. The Digicon Series 1 has been with us for a long time and has been phenomenal, but it’s showing its age. The Series 3 has a Fast Track system, where it cuts twice in a rotation, which is pretty cool technology. The die unit stands out to me as something pretty unique. It has a new way of loading the die, where it’s all done with a camera. There are some nice bells and whistles on the Series 3 that are going to make our operators pretty happy.
“I’m just excited to get the speed in here,” adds Sherman.
The Digicon Series 3 will come equipped with a delam/relam station, the Fast Track die, two flexo stations, as well as chill rollers. The modular nature of the unit will also allow Info Label to add to it, and the company will consider JetFX in the future. JetFX, a digital embellishment module, is an off-line, fully digital system designed for varnish and foil effects.
The company also utilizes a host of other top industry suppliers, designed to service its customers in the quickest and most cost-efficient way possible. Info Label relies on Rotoflex to aid in finishing, Avery Dennison for a wide range of substrates, Esko for prepress and CERM for its MIS needs.
With CERM, Info Label receives real-time data, job costings, accounting, and reporting functions with several clicks of a mouse. According to Sherman, CERM has eliminated steps, freeing up employees to focus their time and energy in other areas of the business.
“We’re just trying to keep growing with our technology, finding what’s new in the market and staying on the forefront,” says Sherman. “We’ve been primarily Gallus and HP, and they’re the ones we think are on the cutting edge of the industry. It’s all about going faster for less and being able to do what the customer asks.”
Planning for shrink
While Info Label offers customers a wide range of solutions, it has yet to conquer shrink sleeves. That is about to change, however. Info Label is slated to install the AB Graphic Digicon Series 3 in October, which will help the converter as it expands into shrink sleeve labeling.
Along the way, Info Label will just need to add the requisite seaming and inspection equipment to complete its foray into shrink sleeves.
“Shrink is definitely our next go-to,” says Sherman. “We already have label customers in-house that do shrink, and we’d love to offer that for them. In the past couple of years, we’ve been doing a big push for craft beer, so we’d love to get into that market more.”
Shrink sleeves have become extremely popular in the craft beer segment. They join pressure sensitive labeling, as well as printing directly onto the can, as options for the growing number of craft beer brands entering the market.
“For us to be able to provide pressure sensitive labels and then shrink sleeves, we would cover a large part of the craft beer market,” adds Sherman. “The HP 8000 press, combined with our new ABG Digicon Series 3 finishing unit, will provide us the capability of shrink sleeve technology.”