Few concerns but label market’s potentials visible

Ajay Mehta of SMI Coatings in a candid interaction with Noel D’Cunha speaks about extreme competition, pricing and the eminent influence of technology.

03 Oct 2015 | By Noel D'Cunha

PrintWeek India (PWI): The labels market is on the rise. As a label stock manufacturer, how has your growth been since the last Labelexpo in 2013?
Ajay Mehta (AM): We had a fantastic experience at the earlier Labelexpo. We have seen a growth of 25% in the past two years.
PWI: What’s the outlook like for the next 12 months? 
AM: The label printing sector has been extremely competitive in terms of pricing. The growth of the installed capacities is far outstripping the requirement. Everyone can see the potential and such mismatch between actual growth and increased installed capacities are going to be there in a growing market. 
PWI: But what are your hearing from the label printers?
AM: Our friends in the industry have an extremely positive outlook, in the long run, but I think the current market situations can be a matter of concern. 
PWI: What is your star product at the Labelexpo Europe 2015? Can you explain what’s new and how will it benefit the customers?
AM: Our star products are the complete range of label stock materials using filmic release liner. These materials are environmental friendly as the films are recyclable.  
PWI: What about the labels as a product, have you seen its functionality and role enhance? 
AM: Being decorative is a major role for the label, because as an eye-catching decorative piece, it can boost sales of a product. However, new smart and active labels are making the labels more functional while retaining the decorative aspect. These multifaceted labels are fulfilling a wide range of applications across various industries, especially food and beverages industry. 
PWI: New guidelines for product security and ingredients disclosures are being introduced on a regular basis. Do you see labels donning a bigger role here?
AM: Labels are the easiest and most comprehensive way to take care of these new security guidelines as well as ingredients disclosures which are regularly being introduced. These are some of the key areas which highlight the functional utilities of labels. 
PWI: There was a buzz about linerless labels during the last Labelexpo. Your take on the technology?
AM: Linerless labels have been evolving since quite a few years and have gained acceptance in some areas. This technology will be complementary to the mainstream labels technology for some time to come. 
PWI: Short-run work and just-in-time delivery are fast becoming the norm. Production ways will need to be tweaked, experiments will need to be done.
AM: Indian label printers have been very conscious of this growing requirement and have assessed the benefits of digital printing presses. The newer flexo printing machines are evolving and giving the digital presses a challenge. Short-run jobs are of two kinds. Some are new developmental products which will grow into a bigger brand. These are huge opportunities to develop new long-lasting businesses.
The other types of short-run jobs are primarily due to personalised products or to keep inventory in check. These may be a reduction in number of labels required at one go. These are more challenging as clients may not be willing to pay extra costs involved due to reduced runs. 
As a label stock manufacturer, we support the industry by giving exact quantity and size in a very wide range of our products. 
PWI: Label stock is a big part of the label producing cost. Minimise waste, become cost-effective, and deliver greater commercial advantage. But how does one do it?
AM: Major wastage is at the time of start-up of each job and of each roll. The easiest way is to increase the length of each roll to the maximum possible for their machine. Increased length of roll reduces the number of change over and thereby reducing wastage significantly. We need to have material handling equipment at presses to ensure that bigger rolls can be handled properly. 
Moving to thinner material like filmic release liners also increases the length of the roll in the
same diameter, thereby reducing changeovers and wastage of material. 
Another method is to install auto-splicing units on the machines which reduces wastage of material as well as increases productivity.
PWI: Combination presses, hybrid presses, digital presses, fixed palate, flat dot, and what not. There’s an increasing challenge for label stocks to measure up with these requirements. What improvements can we expect from SMI?
AM: We are constantly working to make the label stocks more and more environmentally friendly. Reducing grammages of face material, release liners as well as adhesive while improving the functionality of the label is the way forward. New Label stock configurations are being worked out to ensure security features are enhanced. 
PWI: What do you see changing and growing in the label stock marketplace?
AM: Label stocks have been moving from paper as face material to films. We expect the pace of change to increase.