New Insights for a New Industry

New Insights for a New Industry

26 February 2020, Wednesday

As a product group, labels have evolved in board, versatile directions. Commonplace in almost every industry, these impactful, illustrative mediums are used to identify goods, market products, and provide essential consumer or legislative information. Bar-coded iterations can even be encoded with specific details and applied beyond the consumer sphere.

Given how pervasive labels are in our society, it is important to understand where the industry stands, and how to position oneself within it.

The modern label printing industry can be summarised by one prominent characteristic: consistently high growth. Labels comprise a rapidly developing sector of the printing industry; over the past five years, values have been climbing at a rate of 4.8%1. They are produced by a highly specialised sector, which is forecasted to reach a market worth of 67.02 billion by 20262. Current projections anticipate that this upswing will not slow down: the average annual growth of the printed label market will likely remain at 4.0% until 20243.

The Challenge of Analogue

Analogue—or traditional—label printing requires that designs be converted into printing plates. While extremely cost effective for large-scale orders, this technique suffers when it comes to flexibility. Printing plates need to be prepared and changed for each job, making it highly inefficient to work with smaller batches. The necessity of trial print runs result in substantial wastage, especially for roll-print presses. This setup also requires skilled operators to run smoothly, creating a significant barrier to entry.

Consumer demand is increasingly shifting from long- to short-run jobs, requiring both a shorter turnaround and more diverse outputs. The innate rigidity of analogue presses, compounded by long lead times and demanding operation requirements, greatly impedes label converters from responding accordingly.

The Advent of Digital

In many ways, digital label presses are the direct opposite of their analogue counterparts. Digital presses bypass the tedious plate-making process by reading data from PCs and printing designs directly onto labels. Minimal preparatory work is required, constrained to essential tasks such as paper replacements or colour adjustments. With vast improvements since the first introduction of this technology, print quality is stable from the moment a job is initialised, greatly reducing wastage.

Production aside, digital presses offer far more nuanced benefits. User-friendly interfaces and instructions provide operators with intuitive, easy-to-follow instructions, eliminating extensive training. Importantly, digital presses leverage variable data printing (VDP), a method that allows design elements (such as text) to be altered within individual printed outputs without hindering the overall process.

Highlights or Hyperbole

The question then becomes: should all businesses make the transition to digital presses? The answer is rarely straightforward, and is highly dependent on business goals, capabilities, and strategic directions. That said, here are five key factors that flag a business as being primed for change:

1. You require customised output.
Digital presses are capable of producing variable images and text, enabling targeted marketing and personalised products. Quick turnarounds can be achieved when testing different branding strategies, and when printing regional, seasonal or special event labels. Track and trace label solutions and security-centred designs likewise offer new possibilities for companies that require more advanced features.

2. You are looking to save time and costs.
Digital printing minimises human error and paperwork, speeds up response times and lowers lead time. No investment needs to be made on the creation, replacement or maintenance of printing plates, and there are minimal, inexpensive labour requirements. Opportunities arise to improve supply chain efficiencies, such as just-in-time production and short-run proofing.

3. You want to reduce your environmental footprint.
By producing exact output quantities and reducing the need for test prints, digital printing helps manage unnecessary wastage. Eliminating chemicals, water and plate-making materials likewise results in a more environmentally friendly business.

4. You handle small to medium print jobs.
The flexibility of digital presses makes them well-suited to handle small to medium sized jobs. Lower lead and preparation time results in greater turnover rates and versatility, while having control over image and colour management ensures that quality remains consistently high.

5. You are looking to expand and diversify.
Digital printing attracts more business for traditional printing presses and creates new opportunities for growth. According to feedback from label converters, alternative products such as shrink sleeves and flexible packaging are increasingly popular with their customers6.

It is important to note that the solutions do not need to be mutually exclusive: digital presses can be used alongside analogue operations when needed.

A “Perfect Fit” for Business Expansion

Built on the proven Konica Minolta AccurioPress engine, the Accuriolabel 230 is optimised for producing small batches of high-quality labels and stickers. As a solution, it excels in supporting that crucial first step into the digital printing industry, especially when used in parallel with existing analogue presses. By transferring digital jobs to this highly efficient system, traditional presses are freed up for longer print runs, capitalising on the strengths of both. Complementary software targets key requirements of the prepress process, and jobs can be queued from a single touchscreen, making reprints more time and cost effective.

For those looking to make the digital transition, this printing system offers intuitive starting points that enhance productivity and flexibility—all at an affordable price.

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