Labels: the first place of a brand's identity

Bruno Vermeulen, EMEA marketing director at Esko, tells Noel D’Cunha that considering the importance of labels, it is essential that printers nail much of what may go wrong by bringing in automation and standardisation.

02 Oct 2015 | By Noel D'Cunha

PrintWeek India (PWI):How does the label printing sector look like in 2015? What are you hearing from your customers, who have invested in your equipment in the last two years?
Bruno Vermeulen (BV): The sector is doing great and growing nicely. Of course, this comes with the necessary challenges to remain competitive and to serve customers as they need it. Coping with the challenges of today, our customers are in need for further workflow automation and integration in their business processes. Short runs and quick turnarounds have become standard production requirements in this industry. Agility executed perfectly is the new normal. Hardware allows for that: digital presses have become more performant, analogue presses and finishing lines have improved their setup and changed over time.
PWI: What is your star product at the Labelexpo Europe 2015? Can you explain what’s new and how will it benefit the customers?
BV: Esko has a very broad portfolio of products in this industry, and it would simply not be fair to discriminate products. The workflow automation and integration are spearheading the offerings. The Esko’s range of digital flexo plate imaging solutions is celebrating its 20th anniversary, where it has added the HD Letterpress to its Full HD Flexo range. 
PWI: In terms of functionality, has the role of labels enhanced or is it still a piece of decoration?
BV: A label plays many different roles. The “piece of decoration” as you call it here is in fact in the first place of the brand identity. It’s very important that the label is the carrier of that brand identity, providing the shelfshout to build competitive advantage. All technical features to make the most brilliant labels with lots of effects today exist. But there is more: as legal requirements become more stringent, labels become an important carrier of all kinds of data: shop related data, brand data, anti-counterfeiting, security data, nutrition facts, legal data, etc. 
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?
BV: Obviously that is the case, as the label is the most flexible and performant carrier for all this information on a product.
PWI: Short-run work and just-in-time delivery are fast becoming the norm. And to remain a competitive supplier and meet these changing demands, what should the Indian label printers do to improve their production methods? How does your kit help in this?
BV: Typically, label converters' first thought goes to a new hardware to improve their productivity. As a matter of fact, multiple investigations have shown that it’s not the production speed of the configurations that the printers have that are the bottleneck. It’s more the loss of time and efficiency in setting up presses or finishing equipment, in preparing files and plates where the biggest gains can be made. Solving these bottlenecks with smart software that automates as much as possible plus integrates with the customer's business systems to avoid loss of data and errors. 
Colour standardisation is another domain where Esko can help: just as in digital printing, flexo presses can be setup to work with a fixed set of colours to avoid washing and setup times. Esko has the technology and expertise to help customers with that process.
PWI: How can your products help label printers become more cost-effective to meet today’s fast-evolving production requirements and deliver greater commercial advantage. Can you give an example?
BV: Automation and standardisation (fixed colour palette) are key possibilities for major improvements.
PWI: New technologies in pre-press and press, substrate and inks, are enhancing the functionality of labels. In future, what improvements can we expect from Esko?
BV: One more point of attention is the increasing contribution of SaaS and subscription software we bring. Thanks to offering software in the cloud rather as a service than as a fixed investment, or, providing software solutions through flexible monthly subscriptions, businesses can scale their operations easier while keeping their overhead investments under control.
PWI: What do you see changing and growing in the label marketplace?
BV: The label industry worldwide is a healthy and growing business. Quality has become a given; now the game is about flexibility – efficiency to enable fast turnarounds and short run production, with no compromise.