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.”
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
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.”