In our overview of the label industry from April to the end of August in our previous print issue, we wrote that although there has been significant interest in digital label presses during the pandemic and the lockdown, the sales have not been commensurate. As we write now in the last week of September, it seems that we were not entirely correct about this. There have been several installations, and a major label press installation is underway and should be complete by the time this issue reaches our readers’ hands.
We are aware of a pair of Konica Minolta label press installations, an Indian manufactured Monotech Color Novo label press, and a couple of HP Indigo installations with another Indigo installation underway. It seems that the interest in label presses generated by the increased SKU’s and short runs is not going away and is likely to lead to at least a couple of press sales in the next two months as some semblance of normality returns to the market.
With half a dozen digital label press installs already, it is likely that another five or six digital label presses will be installed before the end of the financial year in March 2021. Although forecasting in these uncertain times is a bit unsafe, this number could be a bit higher if the economy revives a iittle faster in November and December. The interest is there.
High volumes for digital label presses during the pandemic
Several vendors and label converters have assured us that the volumes printed have been excellent. Label converters recognize the flexibility of digital presses for short runs and the ease of job changeovers and their capacity to make a complete label with the end-of-line variable components if needed. One of HP’s customers in Assam who uses its digital label press for printing on lamitubes has become the leading global user of this press, in terms of volumes.
Priyank Vasa of Unix Fix A Form is a leading label printer and converter in Gujarat, who had three narrow web flexo presses before installing his Domino N610i, which is a hybrid press built jointly with Multitec Aids. While the press with its flexo unit and the Domino CMYK + Orange + Violet + White inkjet station along with an Esko DFE was installed before the pandemic, Vasa says he has benefited greatly from it during the lockdown and afterward. He admits that the learning curve to run a digital label press is steep. Still, the benefits of a single operator being able to run the press was a great advantage when there was a shortage of personnel together with the need to maintain social distancing norms. The prepress workflow handled by a work from home technician was very helpful during the lockdown. The entirely digital workflow paid off since the trade shops for making flexo plates were also constrained during the lockdown’s initial periods.
Unix Fix A Form specializes in pharma and agriculture-related product labels, and both sectors were deemed essential from the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. Vasa says that while at first N600i was seen as a solution for short-runs, it has proven versatile. Short-runs for in-mold labels where wastage is a critical factor were successfully undertaken and eventually label jobs as long as 4,000 and 5,000 meters. “When we purchased the digital label press, we thought it would just be for short runs, but now we simply treat it as our fourth label press. I agree that the interest in digital label presses will grow, but in my opinion, I think these need to be hybrid presses,” he says.
This article was first printed in the September 2020 issue of Packaging South Asia monthly magazine.