Sales have recovered after the fall during the pandemic. Asia is a particularly good market for us at the moment. Last year, towards the end of the pandemic, was a great year for us and 2023 seems to be around the same level – so better than pre-Covid, but similar to last year. So, although the label market has been either flat or in decline this year, digital still performed well.
As we emerged from Covid there was the energy crisis caused by, among other things, the war in Ukraine. But it was interesting that the usage of HP Indigo presses by our clients was not dramatically affected. The steps that converters could take to remain profitable when energy prices were spiking – reduce waste, increase efficiency – were facilitated by digital technology.
Our new V12 and 200K presses, launched at Labelexpo Europe, have been well received by the market, and these will help bring us more growth. Running at 120m/min and bringing digital benefits such as fast set-up and lower waste, the V12 can profitably replace flexo for a certain volume of jobs. Not every converter has the volume of jobs needed to run the machine efficiently, so sales will be gradual initially.
The 200K is a viable option for label converters not only because it allows them to diversify into certain flexible packaging applications, sleeves, in-mold labels and other products, but also because if you split the roll in two, the wider web width means you are essentially printing two rolls at the same time. The wider machine gives a bigger throughput and therefore, for some jobs, it is not far from the V12 in terms of productivity.
Such is the agility and speed of the V12, its launch will stimulate other technology providers to respond with similar agility. The press is only one part of the equation, so the converter must ensure there is no bottleneck caused by other steps in the job – particularly in areas such as workflow and converting.
One can’t predict what will happen with the economy. Of course, in difficult times, it is not easy for a converter to sign a cheque for a new machine. But the difficult times also help to make the case for digital.
It’s the perfect tool not only for the label converter, in terms of optimising production, quicker turnarounds and reducing waste, but the benefits also transfer to the converter’s customers, the brands. The whole value chain can be positively impacted by the agility brought by digital printing.
Drupa will be an interesting show. Automation will be a key theme, not just in printing, but in workflow and converting too.
This article was first published in the 2024 February edition of ProPack.pro magazine
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