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Business Opportunities

Label Printing

Label printing is certainly a lucrative sector with reported growth year-on-year. Jo Golding finds out how printers can get started in this sector and with what equipment

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Superfast Labels printed six million labels in six months following investment in an Epson SurePress L-4033A digital label press

Always read the label

We talk a lot about diversification in Print Monthly, as it is a great way to add value to your business. However, it takes a lot of investment to make such a move and of course, not every company will be able to afford this at times. In this feature I delve into the world of label printing and round up the best advice from experts in the field, so those looking to get into this area of the market for the first time know how to get started and what technology they will need.

Label printing is an exciting area, there are even exhibitions dedicated to it. Labelexpo Europe attracted 35,739 visitors in 2015, and there were more than 600 exhibitors for visitors to feast their eyes upon. The sheer amount of visitors to this event shows how popular this sector of the industry is and how much opportunity, therefore, lies within in it.

Philip Easton, director of Domino Digital Printing Solutions, sees more growth for label and packaging printing in the future: “The label sector is growing between 3 to 5 percent in volume terms: in-mould, self-adhesive and sleeve/shrink wrap label types are the fastest growing, whilst wet glue labels are in decline and often printed sheet fed. I think the demand for labels and packaging is very likely to follow the growth in the general population, but there will be trends to and from different packaging types.”

(Above & below)  Philip Easton of Domino Digital Printing Solutions would recommend an inkjet digital press such as the Domino N610i for label printing, with print speeds of up to 75m per minute

Easton adds that it is a good market to invest in: “The key trend in this market is shorter production runs and shorter lead times, often 24 to 48 hours from order to delivery. As a result, investment should be directed to web-based digital printing technologies and in this respect inkjet is the fastest growing.

“Label printing is a very fragmented market, not dominated by a few larger players and there are clearly opportunities to start a business satisfying local companies and expanding from there. Finishing equipment is also a worthy investment, in which the UK supplier AB Graphics is very strong, particularly for short-run work. The other area for consideration is a company workflow that also facilitates processing many small orders.”

Label printing is a very fragmented market, not dominated by a few larger players and there are clearly opportunities to start a business satisfying local companies and expanding from there

Easton recommends purchasing a digital press, rather than conventional print technology, as the trends point towards short- run jobs: “We would recommend purchasing a digital press, probably on balance an inkjet press (such as a Domino N610i) and where required sub contract any longer production run work that is more cost-effective on conventional flexo printing technology.”

Solid growth

Filip Weymans, director segment marketing and business development labels and packaging at Xeikon, explains why he thinks label printing has become popular: “Look to the possibilities in terms of decoration, the flexibility the technology provides against other decoration methods. This growth is not a balloon that will collapse at some point. No, this is solid growth.”

Filip Weymans of Xeikon says printers should start with an entry-level press and ‘focus on the additional values you can offer like flexibility in various ways rather than being a price driven business’

He advises printers to bring in people with experience in the label business. He says: “Understand the business model including the price structure as it pertains to printing roll-to-roll, and gain an appreciation that the various converting steps involved do make the cost model totally different from a sheet-fed environment.

“On top of this it makes sense to get started with an entry-level press and focus on the additional values you can offer like flexibility in various ways rather than being a price driven business.”

Weymans says that for companies looking to enter this market, it comes with many challenges, making taking over an existing business an easier route into the sector.

He continues: “When looking to digital equipment, be sure to look carefully into the capabilities of the technology.

Does it cover the basics? Can it provide for durable toners/inks; food approved; odour free; light fast; including such options as one pass opaque white. Make sure you can tick all of these boxes. It will save you a lot of headache after.

“With regard to the press type, our advice is to go with an entry-level press which can be upgraded at your facility to new capabilities, either a wider web or faster speed, without having to completely swap the press.”

David Spratt, head of business systems sales at Epson, warns printers not to underestimate the importance of the media used, as well as the specialist knowledge required to give the customer the label they want.

He says: “I see label printing as a clearly differentiated sector within printing. Obviously I would recommend printing companies look thoroughly at what Epson has to offer. I don’t say this because it’s some sort of sales pitch, but because the innovative inkjet technology we have introduced over the last couple of years is quite different to anything that has been available before.”

Spratt highlights the importance of printing short runs on demand and the technology that is up to the job: “Our Colorworks C3500 and C7500 printers are designed specifically to meet this need. So I would say there are generic technology trends towards digital, towards single pass colour in short runs, but it is our Precision Core print head technology in the Epson printers which makes our products so compelling.

David Spratt of Epson recommends the Colorworks C7500 and C3500 printers for label printing

“Not only is the cost per label extremely attractive our technology means you get a durable printing solution that requires little or no intervention and no consumable parts including the printhead. This is something different from any other offerings in this part of the market.”

Although Spratt notes the competitive nature of this sector, he says there is a still a great opportunity for people wanting to enter this market.

He adds: “Not only is the established market big but we are not just talking about fulfilling existing demand. By offering customers the opportunity to change their business model, printing what they need when they need it, it makes the potential that much bigger and it gives you chance to deliver real business benefits to your customers.”

Top tips

With these wise words from Spratt ringing in your ears, it is interesting to note the findings of Del Williams,who has penned an article called Five Tips to Help Commercial Printers Increase Their Printed Label Business. “Although sheet-fed digital label printing is not new, the fast growing sector is enabling high-margin work of a quality only previously achievable with flexographic or lithograph machines,” he writes, continuing: “Moreover, this is being achieved by utilising a growing variety of new label materials as well as tools and templates that open the door to profitable new sales and marketing opportunities.”

Williams speaks to Dave Fox, technical sales and service manager of Avery Products Corporation, who says digital short-run variable data jobs have minimal setup charges, therefore labels can be a high profit area.

Fox gives five tips for entering the label market. Firstly, printers should choose quality materials that run well on presses. He explains that all labels sold by Avery Pro, its commercial printing label division, for HP Indigo are RIT third party certified.

Secondly, they should consider premium, high-margin label materials. “Commercial printers and their customers can distinguish themselves in the market with high-end labels that make their products ‘pop’ by selecting a special label material look or finish,” says Fox.
They should also demand true technical support, and take advantage of free tools and templates. Lastly, they should promote their business using available tools and materials. Avery Pro provides printed label applications examples, customisable brochures, PDFs, and videos that printers can download, make their own, and use to promote their business.

O Factoid:  Some labels consist of two layers of adhesive substrates combined, for example, on some cosmetic packaging there are labels printed with information about its ingredients that is then revealed when the top label is peeled off—these are called piggyback labels. O

“If you are using a dry toner or Indigo digital press or considering it, you would be leaving a lot of business on the table if you did not take advantage of its full abilities, with labels being among the most profitable possibilities,” adds Fox.

Expand your offering

Another company with a strong label offering is Roland DG, a company which knows the importance of quality and appearance in making your products stand out.

Mathew Drake, business manager of Roland DG UK, says: “A digital printer is the most important tool a design professional will need to succeed in this competitive market and stay ahead of the competition for both packaging prototypes to wow brand managers and producing high-impact labelling products.

“Roland DG has the solution for these needs; the world’s first series of LED UV inkjet print and cut machines; the VersaUV LEC Series is the ideal solution for those working within the packing and labelling industry, enabling users to effortlessly produce both mass and bespoke short-run labels at a low cost with luxury tactile effects and on premium quality.”

The VersaUV series from Roland DG works with the specially developed ECO-UV gloss ink to create a wide range of tactile effects

A wide range of effects can be created using specially developed ECO-UV gloss inks such as matt, gloss, spot highlights, and braille. White ink can also be used to create bold prints on darker media.

Drake continues: “Roland DG VersaUV LEC series boasts a number of advance features that make this machine the ideal selection for those looking to improve or expand on their labelling offering. Using the Roland DG VersaUV LEC series’ variable data printing capabilities, using the popular Roland VersaWorks software, users can produce high volumes of personalised, be-spoke labels meaning the potential profit margins are huge.”

Print studio Giraffe Press invested in a Roland DG VersaUV LEC-540, which has enabled them to expand into new markets. Jason Pavlou, managing director of Giraffe Press, explains: “There is an exhaustive range of applications that can be printed on the LEC-540, from packaging prototypes to labels, textured 3D printing right through to creative UV printing.

“All of these are helping us to challenge convention with our customers and changing their perception of what a wide-format machine can do, the type of mediums it can print on and applications it can print.”

Having spoken to experts in the label printing sector, it is clear that the best way forward for those looking to get into label printing is to purchase a digital inkjet printer, and work towards short production runs and short lead times.

It is also important to invest in quality substrates, take advantage of free tools and templates, and seek technical support if needed. Without a top tier of dominant players, the label sector is certainly wide open for new entrants looking to boost profits.

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