Digital label presses gain traction in the pandemic

Indian label converters drive digital volumes

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Cazulo labels
Labels for premium Cazulo Feni produced on the HP Indigo. Photo Cazulo

As we wrote more than a year ago, the pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital label presses. Digital label presses require less manpower and touch and are capable of multiple job changes and smaller volumes. In the pandemic, they have helped converters deliver with short turnaround times and to provide variable barcoded labels without the use of an additional offline inkjet operation. As one converter said to us during the last 22 months of the pandemic, “If this period of economic uncertainty and constraints has not taught us the value of digital presses, it is unlikely that anything will.”

Buds & Berries
Labels for boutique brand Buds & Berries shampoos produced on its HP25000 digital press due to its capability of high quality and unmatched speed to market. Photo Cavin Care

Hence the population or footprint of digital label presses in the country that numbered about 35 to 40 presses acquired over several years before the pandemic, has been considerably enhanced with the installation of another 12 or 13 machines in just 18 months. The list of additions includes digital label and flexible packaging presses from Domino-Multitec, HP, Konica Minolta, Screen, and Monotech. Notably, the Domino-Multitec and Monotech inkjet label presses are manufactured in India. The Domino-Mulititec n610i uses the Domino print engine together with Multitec’s unwind, rewind, and flexo print and coating units in a hybrid configuration. The Monotech digital label press currently has an export backlog of half a dozen machines. 

The story is volumes – triple-digit growth

Digital press manufacturers are especially happy with the volumes generated by their label presses over the past two years. In the case of HP, one of its Indian customers is the leading user of its consumables in the world. And for Konica Minolta, its Indian customers rank among the top five markets globally, in terms of print volumes. As Manish Gupta of Konica Minolta India said, “The capital cost of a digital label press seems relatively high to Indian converters, and they have to put through large volumes to get their return on investments, and this is what they have been doing.”

Similarly, Appadurai of HP India says, “The story for us in the last two years is triple-digit growth in volumes. None of our customers print less than a million impressions monthly. Some have doubled their production while at least one has tripled its volumes.”

Digital packaging for start-ups brings joy

label
The HP 25000 digital press at Trigon Digipack is used for both labels and flexible packaging. Photo Trigon Digipack

More than volumes on the label presses, Appadurai is excited by the concept selling generated by the new owners of the HP 25000 presses sold and installed for flexible packaging in the past year. These presses are also used for low to mid volumes of labels that are easily produced by the inline slitting of wider materials. He is impressed by his customers’ ability to pitch flexible packaging pouches to the new boutique customers searching for knowledgeable partners to help them bring generation Z products to market. 

These clients are obsessed with the health and sustainability features of their niche products and not with squeezing their suppliers on the price of packaging. As one of the owners of the HP 25000 says, “I am tired of some of the big brands who expect us to run after them and their volumes, and much happier to work for start-ups who treat me like an expert in packaging.” 

Note –  this article this is from the Packaging South Asia January 2022 issue to be posted to subscribers on 4 January 2022.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Packaging South Asia’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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Editor of Indian Printer and Publisher since 1979 and Packaging South Asia since 2007. Trained as an offset printer and IBM 360 computer programmer. Active in the movement to implement Indian scripts for computer-aided typesetting. Worked as a consultant and trainer to the Indian print and newspaper industry. Visiting faculty of IDC at IIT Powai in the 1990s. Also founder of IPP Services, Training and Research and has worked as its principal industry researcher since 1999. Author of book: Miracle of Indian Democracy.

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