For someone who’s new to the label business, digital can be the easiest way in as it is quicker to adapt to and requires less technical expertise. Digital works more or less like a home printer. However, the choice of adopting either digital or flexo depends on the prospective or intended market because the dynamics are completely different in the use of the two technologies.
In digital labels, the need for photopolymer plates is eliminated. Thus, in the digital scenario, one has the flexibility to print the labels directly after the layout is done. This allows the converter to save time as well as cost. This becomes profitable for converters who need to produce short-run labels.
The moment one goes to the long-run jobs, the mathematics change. “Over time, digital has opened many applications and requirements of the marketers. They now want to establish direct contact with the end-users and understand their requirements. In that way, in the digital scenario and ecosystem, many new areas have opened up which was not possible in the analog scenario,” says Vijay Kamat, production manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions India.
Advantages of digital over flexo
Both digital and flexo have their own space with converters. However, many of the new features of labels that are gaining importance in the market are easier to achieve with digital labels. Digital label production’s advantages are versioning, security printing, variable data printing and short lot printing with lower cost.
Track and trace labels are becoming important since brands want to track their products right from the manufacturing process to the end-user. Retailers want to track inventory with unique machine-readable codes. Brands want to know who bought the product and where and when the purchase was made. They would also like to know if the customer has used the interactive code to find out more about the product.
Growth of digital in Indian scenario
Digital is an easy process to adopt but the hand-holding done by the press manufacturers or suppliers is extremely important. Konica Minolta is especially keen for its customers to succeed and hence very particular about training them. A major part of the training is to educate the converters about the new features and processes that can be adopted. In most of the cases, label printing companies prefer narrow web flexo presses even though they are also investing in digital presses. In such a scenario, press suppliers play a major role in integrating the new technology with the already existing production workflow since for certain applications, digital is handier while for others the converter is compelled to use flexo.
Konica Minolta plays consultant’s role for new customers
In industrial printing Konica Minolta believes that it is a different ball game altogether. Here Kamat says Konica Minolta is growing more as a consultant than as a mere press supplier as it is actively participating in educating the market. “We believe in hand-holding of the customer to help them shift from an existing flexo setup to a completely new digital setup, which can be tedious. Installation is just the beginning of the entire process of adapting to a whole new technology. The business applications, overall workflow approach and adaptation to varied processes, and even in finishing, the process in flexo is entirely different when compared to digital. So, we always try to ensure that we go step by step in educating our customers on each of these aspects,” Kamat adds.
Konica Minolta began its Accurio Label 190 sales eighteen months ago. Having installed three digital label presses in India so far, it believes that its path forward in the next one year will be much stronger. The company has laid the base with the right infrastructure, workforce and an organized distribution channel in India in the past year. It expects to double the installed base in the current year.