Q: How have the previous two years, since the last Labelexpo Europe 2017 been for your company – new moves, company health in terms of finances?
A: Our digital toner-based technology has experienced an unparalleled journey in label printing that began only four years ago. At the last Labelexpo Europe in 2017, we announced a “100th customer” milestone. Our accelerated growth path within industrial printing achieves another significant landmark on our stand C12/C19 in Hall 8 at Labelexpo 2019 with the announcement of the 450th installation of our AccurioLabel toner presses around the world. At this year’s show, we have our newest member of our toner label press family, the AccurioLabel 230, which has important new enhancements. We have grown from being the third biggest manufacturer in label printing right at our start in 2017 to being number 2 in the market in 2018, according to InfoSource figures (April 18 – March 19). Konica Minolta’s labels business is all very healthy.
Q: The global label printing market is estimated to be around 65.56-bn sqm. India’s share is around 2.3%. One, how much of this is printed using digital presses? What’s your installation numbers worldwide, and in India?
A: At Labelexpo 2019, we’ve announced the 450th installation worldwide of our AccurioLabel toner presses. As we continue our growth, of course, there will continue to be more installations across the world, including within India, but we don’t break down those figures by country. What we do know is that research predicts a massive growth in the development of installed bases for digital colour label printers over the next few years, which shows no signs of slowing down. Figures from Keypoint Intelligence show that in the market there were just under 4,000 digital colour label printer installations in 2017, a figure the research group predicts will rise to almost 7,500 units by 2022.
Q: What are the most significant changes you see compared to previous editions of Labelexpo that you may have attended?
A: The further uptake of digital, which perfectly reflects market trends! Customers want shorter runs, shorter turnaround times and the rise of mass customization, and at Konica Minolta we see these trends continuing to shape the labels market going forward. Our own Konica Minolta AccurioLabel presses were originally designed to address exactly these needs for small to medium sized label converters. Now we are seeing this technology become a viable solution for larger and larger label converters looking for a press to complement their high-end digital printing systems.
Q: What critical feedbacks you are working on from your existing installations?
A: We approach things relation-oriented and co-create with our customers, as already the development of our AccurioLabel presses showed where we listened closely to our customers and improved the machine according to their feedback. I think this is what sets us apart – we want to rethink together with our customers what is possible in label printing, we want to set new standards together. Labelexpo 2019 will give us another important platform to actively source expertise and experience from customers and involve them in industry-first insights and synergies to inkjet printing and augmented reality solutions. We will have many open conversations with visitors at the show about our offerings, we have a customer-centric approach.
Q: New technologies in pre-press and finishing, substrate and inks, are enhancing the functionality of labels. What significant improvements that you would like to talk about your solutions?
A: At Labelexpo, Konica Minolta will be using practical demonstrations highlighting how the easy-to-operate Konica Minolta AccurioLabel 230 meets the growing market needs for shorter runs and more customization. This new family member is a new version of Konica Minolta’s highly successful digital label press bringing important benefits for customers in terms of productivity, flexibility and stability as we continue to accelerate our presence within digital label printing. Improvements include a 73% speed increase, improved productivity, an option for overprinting, no warm-up required, less waste and more accurate print registration.
Also, we will be showing one of our AccurioLabel230s with a flexo station for printing white inline for the first time. Offered by Grafisk Maskinfabrik (GM), our development and manufacturing partner in Europe, this option will be coming soon. Existing users can also have their systems retrofitted to enable inline white printing.
Q: When you look back at the last two years, what have been the most promising trends, ideas, and even techniques you have seen? Do these trends, other than personalisation and customisation, favour digital printing?
A: A key trend we have observed – both in labels and in packaging – is that brands increasingly want to add value through innovative decorative and tactile elements within the printed piece, also to be more distinctive. In this regard, technology such as the digital embellishment systems of our strategic partner MGI is a ready-made opportunity for label converters to offer highly creative services and win new business. At this year’s Labelexpo we will also display an embellishment and finishing workflow with MGI technology for even greater impact of their labels and a clean and easy finishing process with the DC330MINI.
Q: Your thoughts on manufacturing collaborations as the industry rapidly integrates digital and technical competence?
A: For our label business in Europe and selected other regions like North America, Japan, Korea, Australia, we have a strategic development partnership with finishing specialist Grafisk Maskinfabrik (GM), of Denmark, which has been extremely successful. For business in other parts of the world including India, we have a cooperation with Brotech. This year’s show marks another significant milestone in that business relationship because, for the first time, we are showing one of our Accurio Label 230s with a flexo station for printing white inline. Offered by GM, this option will be coming soon. Existing customers can also have their systems retrofitted to enable inline white printing.
Q: What according to you has a bigger impact for digital companies - traditional flexo devices getting hybridised and offering localised digitisation, or rapid versioning pushing shorter runs. How do these balance out on overall impact towards digital adoption?
A: We don’t believe in an either-or with regards to this question – as with regards to many questions. Just think about the question analogue vs. digital – it is both technologies that have their legitimacy and need to complement each other. There are needs and use cases for both of the above. A digital label module from Industrial Inkjet (IIJ), the official sales and technical support centre for Konica Minolta inkjet printheads outside of Asia, will also be an attraction for visitors to our stand at this year’s Labelexpo. IIJ has developed its print engine concept further to include a range of standard press-adaptors for common flexo label presses. On our stand, we will show a complete digital flow on our stand to demonstrate how we are collaborating with customers and partners to push the boundaries of label production. We’ll also show important advances in software using augmented reality through its genARate application and others.
Q: What sort of dialogue and exchange do you have with the brand owners to anticipate the consumer landscape? Can you share some insights?
A: The dialogue we have with our customers and with brand owners is helping to shape the future of label production. It’s no longer just about the products and technology, but providing full service and back-up support for our customers. We proactively help our customers to grow their businesses through Prokom, the user group for Konica Minolta commercial and production print customers. We have a global network, but support is provided locally. Local representative companies provide an extremely important connection to our customers.
Q: Discussing labeling innovations vis-à-vis role of your product. How do you make labels stand out?
A: One of our customers, Firus Druck in Germany, has never looked back since buying one of our AccurioLabel label production printers. Originally using flexo and offset, the company now produces most of its print jobs digitally. The investment to really make its labels stand out also included the DC330-Mini fully integrated converting line from GM as well as a GM Hot Foil system to further enhance quality and finishing. Vineyard owner Benjamin Beth has gone on record to confirm that the printing has gone to a completely different level. “Small quantities, top quality and at cost-effective price definitely makes a difference,” was his verdict.