InfoTrends estimates that in 2010, converters worldwide spent $166 million on color digital presses used to print labels and packaging, a number that is project to grow at a 10.3 percent annual rate through 2015. When it comes to digital package printing, graphic providers are no longer thinking...
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InfoTrends estimates that in 2010, converters worldwide spent $166 million on color digital presses used to print labels and packaging, a number that is project to grow at a 10.3 percent annual rate through 2015.
When it comes to digital package printing, graphic providers are no longer thinking solely in terms of short runs, but instead are seeing the technology as a means to meet or exceed customer requirements, whether it be for highly intricate designs or complicated variable data projects.
Alliance Graphics|Printing in Houston, a customer-focused company that provides label solutions as well as commercial work, is a good example.
In 2006 it purchased an HP Indigo press for its commercial work; the success with that digital printer led to the November 2011 purchase of the EFI Jetrion 4830 for label printing. Alliance is the only commercial digital label printer in the state of Texas.
“We saw what happened with the Indigo, and how digital printing over the six year period was adopted within the commercial sector,” says Jeff Birmingham, majority owner of the $10 million shop. “We knew the same would be happening in the label market.”
Similar to what happened in the commercial arena, says Gary Astle, VP of sales and marketing, “we saw the print runs getting smaller and our customers were requiring more versioning.”
However, the “sweet spot” for using the Jetrion keeps moving on up, as the quality is surpassing what Alliance can achieve with its flexo presses. “Flexo can’t capture the intricate designs that the Jetrion can,” says Astle. “Initially the plan was to use it for runs up to 10,000; but now we’ll go up to 25,000. It just prints such a better-looking label. “
The Jetrion also allows Alliance to take on versioning that flexo can’t touch. A recent job for a home building retail giant required Alliance to rebrand 180 different product versions spread out over 2,041 stores. “They gave us a matrix, showing, for example, that store number 1 needed 80 versions; store number two needed 50,” explains Astle. “We turned that job around in 23 hours of print time; we packed it out in six days. If we had used a traditional flexo press, it would have taken at least a week just to make the plates. Flexo printers were coming back with six-to-eight weeks of turnaround time. “
Currently, label printing accounts for nearly a third of revenue, however, says Birmingham. “We anticipate that within 12 months, that number will grow an additional half million.”
Several months before Alliance installed the Jetrion, Birmingham purchased EFI’s Pace web-to-print software, streamlining the ordering process. That one piece made all the difference between profitability and not.
“The sales cycle is much shorter in digital arena; two years ago we were processing 1,000 monthly; now it’s 3,000,” notes Birmingham. “You have to quicken the pace of the order entry process, from how you receive to how you ship. You have to streamline; if there are too many touch points you are losing money.”
Nosco, a 106 year-old company, focuses on the pharmaceutical market, supplying labels, cartons and inserts for its 300 worldwide customer base. “Our brand promise,” says R. Craig Curran, Vice President—Sales, “is to deliver complete packaging programs with individual solutions—our solutions are customized for each customer’s individual needs.
The company, which has a full slate of flexographic, letterpress, and offset machinery, migrated into digital in 2004 with the purchase of an HP Indigo 4000, answering customers’ needs for short-run, quick turnaround labels and cartons. “We saw our customers going to shorter runs and needing quicker turn times, so we developed an on-demand solutions model, with a guaranteed turn time of 5-10 days,” explains Curran. “We also offer turnarounds of 3-2-1 days.”