The blindspot in label Printing – Part 2

A pleasant day to you all. Permit me into your space for the second part of this discuss. We started out in the last edition by looking at label printing in terms of Technology. Talking about technology, I kind of agree with Godfrey Reggio who said “It’s not that we use Technology, we actually LIVE it”, imagine a life without gravity, osmosis, the law of motion, elasticity, I particularly love thermodynamics or the law that explains the conservation of energy, stating that energy is neither created nor destroyed, it simply just changes form. This is why we can pull solar energy into a battery and store it to be used in lighting our bulbs or powering fans after sunset. It is important to state that printing technology is set to resolve specific problems and there is no one technology that resolves all problems, today I will like to classify this label printing technology under two clear heading – conventional (which resolves the problem of printing good quality, long run) and digital (clearly set out to resolve the challenges of those in need of smaller volumes). The standard today is for the cost of printing digitally to be at least three to four times that of conventional, and I clearly hear those who keep saying digital print is more expensive, I think they are not totally correct. Let’s take a scenario, if we are to print a standard size label conventionally, we will normally be asked to print a minimum order of say two million pieces, let’s assume that quantity will justify a unit cost of N5, the printing cost is N10, 000,000. If this client needs 200,000 labels monthly then it means he/she will consume this labels in 10 months. So if we refuse to calculate the cost of transporting this labels to the client’s storage, the cost of storing the label, the cost of a bad store keeper that allows some of this labels get to the hands of counterfeiters’, and more importantly the cost of funds, as we need to always remember that N10m was tied down for 10 months then we will always think the label cost only N5 per piece. Now, if a client needs 200 labels monthly, say each cost N60, Mr. Customer is spending N12,000 monthly. Technology has made it possible to get this done digitally at a seemingly higher cost without any huge storage cost, or the risk of a bad store keeper selling the labels for piracy, and since client is printing as needed no capital is really tied down. This is the flexibility that digital label printing brings, helping the customer with smaller supplies to grow organically. We must also not forget that a professionally printed label, increases the value of the product immediately the product gets a brand attention. A reasonable brand owner will pay more for this flexibility.

Labels can be printed conventionally, the two most popular techniques are flexographic and gravure printing; many find it difficult to clearly define the differences in this techniques because of the close similarities, the preparation for both involves creating printing sleeves, cylinders and plates, and both are for long run, high volume printing, even though gravure is for much higher runs making flexo printing cheaper. This two technologies produces really good results even though gravure has 3-4 times higher lead time than the flexographic process. If you ask me, I think one can achieve much more flexibility with flexo presses as it has the ability to print on both porous and non-porous substrates but we should warn here that this technique is very unforgiving to those who will want to cut corners. The challenges in the gap of printing small and medium runs is what the digital technique has come to bridge. It took a while for the technology of a dedicated digital label press to evolve and when it did, we saw a lot of players in the more sophisticated phase, for example xeikon digital label presses are toner based with a super high resolution of 1200dpi, and printing with slowest speed of almost 10linear meter per minute can roll out lots of short to medium runs labels at a speed of “wait and get”. This technology resolves problem of shorter runs and faster delivery time that is missing in the conventional printing space. To justify the cost of investment there is a need for constant flow of jobs. So for that conventional label printer who is constantly losing the opportunity to print small and medium quantities this kind of a machine will help block the hemorrhage. I have always said that digital will never replace conventional printing, both will co-exist and a lot of conventional printers around the world are beginning to realize this. For the printer who wants to build label volume to be able to justify buying a xeikon machine, our message at the recently concluded Online Open house was clear, we need to start offering professionally printed labels to the clients, and the Afinia range of entry level digital label printer can help achieve this. otherwise, we are beginning to see that brand owners are demanding better quality labels and where they don’t get it they are now purchasing the label printing machines to help take control of their quality and delivery period. I am afraid that we might also have to have a 3rd part of this write up. This will give us the opportunity to look at and classify label printing in terms of types; Like Wet-glued Label (used mainly in the alcoholic beverage industry), Pressure-sensitive or Self-adhesive Labels (which seems to have a wide range of application- food and beverage, cosmetics, house hold, just to mention a few) and Linerless Label (usually used as tapes in wrapping boxes and packages, it has a special release coating applied to the face of the label which allows the labels to be wound on a roll without the adhesive sticking) etc We can easily break down the various application and target market from the above segmentation in the next edition, so I urge that you anticipate this. Meanwhile, for a better understanding of why we have been dwelling on the possibilities in label printing, it is a market that was valued at USD 39.17 billion in 2019, and expected to grow by a minimum of 4% yearly through 2025. In fact the sector is expected to grow and be valued around USD 49.86 billion by 2025. Let me leave you with the thought according to Packaging Impressions “Run lengths are decreasing by an average of 7 to 9% yearly, digital printed jobs driven by digital inkjet label colour presses capable of producing high resolution, fine dots and faster speed are propelling the digital label printing growth”. To be continued… Thoughts from: Akin Oduwole CE @ Technology Global

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