Linerless and RFID are big innovations in warehouse labelling

In the last four years since the last Labelexpo Europe, Bixolon has made a lot of exciting product announcements bolstering its industrial label printer line as well as pushing further into RFID label print and encoding. Now, the company is looking at setting up its own production plant in India with a local partner, Jay Kim, managing director, Bixolon, Europe tells Noel D’Cunha

15 Sep 2023 | By Noel D'Cunha

Jay Kim, managing director, Bixolon, Europe (extreme left) with his colleagues during Labelexpo 2023

Noel D’Cunha (ND): How have the previous four years, since the last Labelexpo Europe 2019 been for your company – new moves, company health in terms of finances? 

Jay Kim (JK): We have made a lot of exciting product announcements in the past four years bolstering our industrial label printer line with the launch of the XT3-40. Plus, we have pushed further into RFID label print and encoding with the launch of the XD5-40tR desktop printer and the XM7-40R mobile printer. Seeing the advantages of labelling, we have made investments in both research and development to nurture this business.

Bixolon itself has experienced significant growth over the past four years which has led us to invest in a new manufacturing plant in South Korea which when finished later this year will be double the size of our previous facility. This is in addition to the opening of additional regional offices in the Middle East and Mexico bringing our regional office count to five, allowing us to maintain a distribution network spanning the globe.

ND: Your presence at the Labelexpo Europe 2023 – what’s different this time? 

JK: Since our presence at the last show, we have grown as a company which is shown in our stand size and printing portfolio offerings at the upcoming show. We’ve grown not only our industrial label, desktop label and mobile label lines but have formed alliances with software houses such as SOTI, SAP and Bartender.

ND: Your theme at the show and your star/key product(s) and how would you link it with a current trend, which you think is significant, and the visitors must take note of? 

JK: We showcased three themes at the event, our linerless vs liner labelling drive, RFID labelling and Bixolon’s growing selection of best sellers on the stand. We presented a comprehensive selection of RFID print and encode printers, including mobile, desktop and industrial models. Among them, the XM7-40R four-inches (112-mm), the premium mobile RFID label printer with advanced features, and the XD5-40tR four-inches (118-mm) RFID enabled thermal transfer desktop label printer. In addition, the XT5-40NR four-inches (114-mm) thermal transfer RFID label printer, which provides outstanding power and performance for industrial use.

Offering high performance variable width printing solutions, Bixolon also presented its bestselling range of labelling printers, including the popular XM7 series featuring the premium XM7-20 two-inches (58mm), XM7-30 three-inches (80mm) and XM7-40 four-inches (112mm) auto-ID mobile liner and linerless label printers, along with a wide range of accessories. Alongside, the budget-friendly XT3-40 four-inches (114mm) industrial labelling line, the unique XQ-840 four-inches (118mm) two-in-one, standalone label printing solution with an integrated tablet, and the compact SLP-DX220 two-inch (60-mm) barcode label printer, together with the highly reliable XD5-40 4-inch (118mm) desktop direct thermal printer suitable for small to mid-range businesses.

ND: The global print label market size has reached USD 45.2-billion in 2022 and is expected to reach USD 58.8-billion by 2028 at a growth rate of CAGR of 4.17% during 2023-2028. The global labels market reached a volume of nearly 60.3 billion sqm in 2020 and reach 78.5 billion sqm by 2026. Do these numbers excite you? And why? What is your market share globally and in India? 

JK: These numbers excite us as they allow us to see the potential of the market. We currently hold 1% market share label printers in India. As we continue to increase our label printer portfolio after listening to the wants and needs of the industry, we are starting to see aggressive growth within the market.

ND: Consistency in print quality from the first to the last label with every label in between. Five simple steps you would recommend to achieve this. How many Indian label printers do you see this being implemented?

JK: Our recommendations would be as follows.

1 Do your research, and choose a printer which is well-designed and manufactured which holds media well. Look under the lid, is it made of too much plastic? If gears are made solely of plastic, for example, they will be more likely to break quicker with heavy use.

2 Know how much you will be printing and look at reliability, printers with high TPHs will allow for more high-quality printing between changes.

3 Make sure that there is good connectivity between the printer and the host device.

4 Find a quality printer which has the ability to adjust the print head depending on the media.

5 Major point - find good quality media, even if you purchase the highest quality printer if the media is not sufficient this will lead to low print quality and breakages. 

ND: Many label printers in India price their work the same no matter who the customer is, not taking into consideration that different customers have different price elasticity. How does one make a label pricing inelastic? - More services; control the data; work with the sales team to classify customers (elastic/inelastic).

JK: The Indian market has a rule to publish the prices of imported products online, for market transparency. Due to this policy, it is difficult for manufacturers to be price competitive in the low- and mid-range market, and the over-competition among global manufacturers can reduce each company's profit and make sales difficult. 

However, considering India's rapid economic growth and the potential of the domestic market, we believe that the preference for high-end products is expected to increase in the future, which will increase the demand for our products.

ND: Waste, such as liners, and defective labels that have to be binned, is often overlooked. Other unnecessary costs, in areas such as disposal, labour and unproductive machine time, may also remain hidden. Calculating the cost of this waste is the first step towards addressing and resolving the problem. ... I know the profit leaders have a program of mapping categories of waste which a label plant needs to review and address. This will help the company increase value within your business. Your suggestions on how to tackle waste and related expenses?

JK: Bixolon is one of the industry leaders with its linerless label printing technology. Linerless labels are essentially labels without backing paper, which saves money on transport and storage costs of labels and removes the need to dispose of backing paper. This eco-solution allows for variable length labelling so can be as big or as small depending on the users’ printing requirements. They are available in permanent and re-stick adhesive depending on the application and usage.

As Linerless printing increases in popularity, the cost per roll is decreasing rapidly making it as cost-effective as traditional liner labels.

ND: That brings us to a question – what does sustainability mean to you – downgauging, renewable raw materials, recyclable, circular economy? 

JK: Sustainability is rising to the top of almost every company’s agenda at the moment. As a manufacturer of label, mobile and POS printing solutions, Bixolon’s solutions offer a range of sustainable opportunities. From the paper-saving features for a range of its printers to the use of Linerless printing technology which not only removes the need for label backing paper but also allows for variable-length labelling. We work with industry-leading media providers to produce printing solutions which are compatible with eco-technologies such as blue paper and we are always looking to the future where we can assist our customers more.

ND: Finally, we have seen packaging innovations play roles – new product formats, becoming eco-friendly, increased shelf-life and such. Do you see labels playing more innovative roles like those happening in the packaging arena – out-of-the-box stuff? Can labels complement packaging innovations? 

JK: Linerless labelling and RFID labelling are big innovations in warehouse labelling.

Linerless labelling allows for variable length labelling depending on the information required for a label. It can include everything from box details, barcodes, addresses and more.

RFID labels allow for easy identification and tracking of packages within a warehouse. Information of the product contents can be encoded onto the label which can be then scanned by an RFID reader. The labels do not need to be visible for scanning and can save valuable time on inventory management and tracking of a product as it moves from one area to another.

ND: Some numbers – production, sales during 2022 and 2023 (overall and in India)? Your projections for 2024?

JK: Bixolon currently imports its products into India. However, it is looking at production options with a local partner. Sales are projected to increase by 50% from 2022 to the end of 2024.

ND: Your plan for India?

JK: Currently, India is taking the stance to encourage local production on a pan-national level, so we're trying to figure out the details of the regulations. Even though it doesn't apply to our products yet, we are seeing difficulties for a period of time. 

Moreover, since the product can be imported with a licence, we are keeping a close eye on the government's announcements and are also looking at setting up our own production plant in India with a local partner.

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