By Melissa Donovan
Digitally printed labels continue to gain market share in the traditional flexography market. This is achieved by both wide and narrow format printers.
For those print providers relying on a wide format device—over 24 inches in width—they can create labels, stickers, or decals in addition to existing applications like posters, banners, or vehicle wraps. These users are looking at smaller production runs, sometimes as low as one.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, print providers can choose to implement a narrow format device if they are looking to ramp up production of labels. Instead of relying on an existing wide format machine, a narrow format device can be dedicated to high-speed label production.
LDI Jacksonville/Orlando is a franchise with a multi-faceted background. Ray Carter, owner, LDI Jacksonville/Orlando, started the business ten years ago. Based in Atlanta, GA, with a background in dry wall, he moved to FL and bought a print business. At the time, he lived in the same building as the shop and employed around three part-time staff members. Carter leveraged his contacts in the architecture and construction industry to bring in business.
Ben Williams, manager, LDI Jacksonville/Orlando, worked in his family business for 15 years before parting ways at the end of 2012. He met Carter and began working at LDI Jacksonville/Orlando in January 2013. At the time, they continued to build, using both Williams and Carters’ contacts to bring in customers and spread the word about business.
All of the hard work paid off. Today, the company employs four full-time staff members in both its Jacksonville and Orlando locations, serving a geographical radius of about 50 to 60 miles. Both locations clock in at around 2,000 square feet of space each.
LDI Jacksonville/Orlando offers an array of services to architects, engineers, home builders, and churches. It does everything from vinyl lettering to banners. With the addition of its Mutoh America, Inc. ValueJet 1617H, even more services are added to the fold from direct printing on untraditional materials like ceiling panels to labels.
The company decided to bring in a direct flatbed printer in 2014. According to Williams, they couldn’t deal with printing on a roll and then mounting it to a rigid board anymore—plus being in FL, humidity and peeling were an issue. In response, he made a few calls and ended up meeting a Mutoh dealer in Orlando, who put him in touch with another Mutoh user. After watching the printer in action, Williams was sold.
With the expanded capabilities of the Mutoh ValueJet 1617H, Williams explained to his customers all of the new and different types of applications LDI Jacksonville/Orlando was able to accomplish—like labels. Williams’ has a good friend who owns a local lunch/breakfast place who requested stickers for its windows. After the window decals were printed, he was impressed with the quality and inquired about having some more made up to be used on bags and cups.
Williams recognized the appeal of personalized labels and in particular how the Mutoh ValueJet 1617H—with no extra cost to him—could efficiently create these labels at a high quality. The application is an add on to existing customers’ job orders and provides increased revenue for the shop.
“It got me thinking, why not make labels for water bottles and other types of things for all of our customers, for example company outings,” explains Williams. He sent a graphic designer business cards from various clients and asked him to design a water bottle label for each. Once the designs were received, graphics were printed on the Mutoh ValueJet 1617H and adhered to a water bottle. The finished product was presented to customers as an additional way to showcase their brand. Response was positive.
Since that first job, LDI Jacksonville/Orlando has printed runs of 250 to 1,000 water bottle labels. Williams says 250 labels is an average quantity, and it usually takes about 30 minutes to print and cut them to a finished piece. A less expensive cast vinyl material with a 3-mil thickness is usually used.
An additional bonus is that the graphic doesn’t require any lamination since the ink, Mutoh’s bio-based, resists abrasion and discoloration during the limited amount of time the graphic is in place.
Three different price packages are offered for water bottle labels. At one price, LDI Jacksonville/Orlando prints the label. The second price includes printing and adhering the label on a customer-supplied water bottle. For the highest cost, the print shop prints the label, adheres it to the water bottle it purchases, and delivers it to the destination. Williams says customers overwhelmingly choose the third option.
Lawyers, landscapers, copier salespeople, and construction companies to organizations holding golf events are all potential label customers. “Any company that deals with customers is a fit for water bottle labels. It is a great way to get the word out,” explains Williams.
The service is promoted in a number of ways. A monthly statement is sent to clients and a special is always added to the promotional piece to entice customers to take advantage of an offer they may not have done otherwise—water bottle labels were the July special. Other methods include scattering water bottles with the labels in the company’s showroom and offices and the tried-and-true Guerilla marketing approach.
While Williams hasn’t hit the street and marketed the service as much as he would have liked to this Summer, he continues to see growth in the label side of the business. Today, about five percent of LDI Jacksonville/Orlando’s total revenue comes from labels, but he believes this will increase.
The Mutoh ValueJet 1617H is essential to the company’s success. “It prints as long and as hard as the big boys. It may not be as fast, but I’ll take slow and correct any day. The printer is really a money making machine for us,” comments Williams.
While wide format digital works for some businesses when it comes to label printing, other times a dedicated, narrow format digital device is the best fit. Look at SnugZ USA, based in West Jordan, UT. The company started out in a garage back in 1989. Over the years it expanded its presence into the promotional products industry and went from lanyards to personal care items.
Six years ago its Z Collection launched, which includes lip balm, lotion, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and essential oils. The company not only manufactures the products, it also creates all of the labels and packaging that they entail. A year into the endeavor the firm brought digital printers in house for label printing.
“We chose digital because of the short runs we constantly encounter. We have such a variety of clients, quantities can run from 100 to 5,000 depending on the day. The volumes can get low and digital gives us the ability to do a lot of different types of labels in a quick amount of time,” explains Darren Massey, director of manufacturing, SnugZ.
Today about 70 to 80 employees work in the personal care division with Massey. Its clients are nationwide, with some overlap into other countries, but mostly in the North American region. In addition to Massey’s division, the company offers doming and creates stickers with apoxy and dye-sublimation printing. The entire production facility for all three divisions rounds out at about 4,900 square feet of space.
About a year ago, SnugZ considered upgrading its current digital label printers to the latest technology. After seeing an Epson SurePress digital label printer in action at an industry trade show, Massey requested samples to see what the printer could accomplish.
One of the company’s goals was to find a printer that could handle the very fine text they constantly place on their labels. “Most of our products have really small text with an ingredient deck. Our previous equipment had difficulty getting this type small but legible. So when we saw the Epson SurePress samples, that really stood out,” admits Massey.
SnugZ was also looking for quality in color. As a vendor printing other company’s logos, it needs to ensure the output is as good as it possibly can be. The Epson SurePress achieves vibrant color thanks Epson SurePress AQ ink—a water-based, resin-coated pigment ink system.
Lastly, the personal care division wanted to make sure its newest press included white ink. “We weren’t doing it before, but knew clients were pushing for it, so we wanted the capability,” explains Massey.
In November 2014 SnugZ integrated two Epson SurePress L-4033AW printers into its production facility. Today both run two-and-a-half shifts a day, which equals out to 20 hours a day. Two graphic artists are trained to design the labels and three press operators are trained on the devices. Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions media is run on the printers regularly.
The company prints with white ink. At the advent of the printer purchase, SnugZ introduced essential oils to its Zen line—an extension of its personal care division. The white ink allows them to work with clear material for the line’s labels. “We use the clear media and flood coat it in white behind the imagery,” adds Massey.
Clients are impressed with Epson SurePress L-4033AW printers’ output. The quality is better than previous output and the imagery is clearer.
Whether you are one-stop, traditional PSP already offering banners and posters and want to entice buyers with additional add-ons; or a promotional marketing company looking to benefit from the short runs and cost-effective personalization digital print can provide, labels are a viable option. Both wide and narrow format digital printers offer capabilities for label making.
Oct2015, Digital Output