ALPS seminar discusses the issues of going digital

The Association of Label Printers and Suppliers (ALPS) organised a knowledge-sharing seminar on the subject, ‘Going digital – when and how’ on 24 November 2017 in New Delhi.

29 Nov 2017 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

According to Gururaj Ballaward, president, ALPS, the organisation was established in December 2016 and was registered in March 2017 with the express aim to bring together different technologies under one platform to help educate the label printers. Towards this goal, the organisation has planned a series of technical/ knowledge seminars to create about emerging/ changing technologies and other issues among the label printers. The current event was a part of this.

The event started with individual presentations by Gourav Roy of FIG; Shamim Alam of HP and Ranesh Bajaj of Vinsak, all of whom argued that digital is here to stay and the question now is not when but how a label printer can take the advantages of digital printing.

This was followed by a seminar attended by Ranesh Bajaj; Harish Gupta of Sai Com Codes Flexoprint; Shamim Alam; Gourav Roy; and Sanjeev Sondhi of Zircon Technologies. Gururaj Ballaward moderated of the panel discussion and discussed the issues raised by the presentations earlier.

The discussions clarified one key point — while everybody agreed that digital has its advantages, especially in variable printing and short-run, there was also a concern about digital being expensive compared to traditional processes like flexo.

The story of Roy

In his presentation, Gourav Roy of FIG, the company which represents Mark Andy in India, among other products, illustrated the advantage of establishing a self-sufficient shopfloor with the help of a digital label printing machine. He did it by narrating the story of a label printer called Roy.

Roy was doing well running his business in an old fashioned way, with old fashioned equipment, forever chasing the fastest changeover. He continued to work within his constrains hoping that one day the tides will change, until he realised that he was losing bid because of turnaround time, print quality, and cost, while the cost of investment was mounting, this despite his staff working hard.

Then Roy analysed his job requirements — short-runs, micro runs, variable data, versioning, and shorter delivery time. He visited various exhibitions to have a look on the digital products. He met various suppliers of digital machines to gain knowledge for inkjet, dry toner, etc. All these were fine, but he realised that finishing may be a problem.

Then one day, Roy found a machine which is designed for profitable short-run prime labels; which is simple, compact solution combining four-colour digital printing with inline converting and finishing – web cleaning, printing, varnishing, cold foiling, slitting and die cutting and more and which offered low investment on a pay-as-you-go model, and which has no click charges and an average msi of USD 0.46 –0.60.

According to Gourav Roy, the machine is Mark Andy, his story ends in a happy note.

Innovate to profit

In his presentation, Shamim Alam of HP focused on the importance of innovation to maintain profitability and presented a series of case studies where brands managed to innovate their current products ranges using HP Indigo digital label presses.

He argued that as cost of products rises, so should rise the stakes of a packager or labeller. This is something that’s not happening today. For this, label printers must change their mindsets. A label converter must change his status from a print service provider to marketing service provider. He should start creating value for customers, not drop prices. He should start taking risks rather than putting his eggs in one basket

How to achieve this? Alam offered a series of scenarios and illustrated the possibilities with case studies.

Personalisation and versioning can help deliver a brand experience, create brand advocates, and connect socially, as Coca-Cola did when it printed a series of common European names on its bottles using variable printing.

Web2Print can help make the consumer part of the brand, crowd source content and deliver a stand out brand experience, which Oreo did with Alibaba, where a customer could design a pack in the web using just a few steps.

A ‘Limited Edition’ campaign, with the help of a HP software called Mosaic, can help reflect individuality, create desirability, and influence brand loyalty, as Coca-Cola and Nutella did.

Alam also argued that digital can also help create labels that are event specific, geography specific and so on.

Digital finishing

During his presentation, Ranesh Bajaj of Vinsak explained that the current global label sales value is USD 110 billion and it is growing annually at 5.4%. Asia accounts 40.7% share of global labels consumption; North America accounts for 22.4%, followed by Western Europe with a share of 19.9%.

Coming to digital, Bajaj said digital can help a firm become more sustainable and also improves the bottom line and profitability by reducing materials wastage on substrates, inks, varnishes etc; improving production times in pre-production; presses, particularly downtime and finishing; optimising workflow and handling and by reducing energy usage.

Then Bajaj asked if hybrid (flexo + digital) narrow web press is a viable option. It contains digital printing and finishing in single operation, thus offering low capex on finishing machines.

He gave the example of the Domino + Lombardi inkjet press, a five-colour inkjet press which comes with a semi-rotary flexo printing & finishing units with die-cut and easy waste rewinder.

Talking about digital finishing, according to Bajaj, another viable option is laser die-cutting. Software plays a valuable role in laser die-cutting. The software pre-processes a job in advance, so when the printed web enters the laser cutter, the job bar code has already been read and the laser is prepared for that individual job, thus minimising the setup time. It offers customisability of design without having to wait for dies from a different agency. It can cut through complex patterns and laser die-cut last longer when compared to traditional rotary die-units.

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