2024 Labels and Packaging Leaders Forum: Nick Vindel, Heaford

2023 has been a good year. There are always converters who need plate mounters, and we sell all around the world. Australasia, Asia, and some parts of Europe have been a little slower – particularly in the wide web market; Latin America has also seen a slight downturn in some countries. But often when sales in one region or country fall, they rise somewhere else.

Asia is often a challenge in terms of pricing. There is more price competition from Chinese manufacturers. However, we have noticed that converters from developing markets increasingly understand that they need to get things right first time: if you reduce waste, you reduce costs. Because the market in general is becoming more competitive, they need to be quick to maximise efficiency.

In some countries in Africa, for example, converters are beginning to invest in ancillary equipment. We have received orders from Kenya, which has traditionally been a very price-sensitive market.

Lead times on presses are high at the moment, and this can affect ancillary equipment such as ours. If a converter has to wait 12 months for a press, it will delay investment in the mounter.

Automation is the key trend. Many converters say it is harder to recruit operators, so they want their equipment to be more automated and as simple to train on and operate as possible. Most of the mounters sold nowadays, particularly on the flexibles market, include some level of automation.

2024 will be an interesting year, particularly because of Drupa. It’s the world’s biggest print show and there hasn’t been one for eight years. In the wide web market, a lot more companies are investigating digital technology.

Drupa will be a good way of gauging the market, for wide web in particular. These shows are good barometers. It was the same at Labelexpo Europe 2023: we had a good show and sold machines, but we noticed the lack of visitors from some regions due to geopolitical reasons.

They also make up a good number of visitors in the wide web market, so that might affect Drupa. Companies might also delay machinery investments until after the show, so the wide web market could be slow until then. 

We think gravure will continue to decline. Job runs are getting smaller, so flexo has the advantage there, and its improvement in quality along with changes in environmental policies in some regions in recent years has also had an impact on gravure.

The much higher production volumes in the corrugated market will continue. There is a recent trend towards using more colours in that market, as well as shorter job runs, which necessitates more mounters.

Another trend which will continue is the younger age profile of our customers. There has been a generation shift in leadership at many converters. This requires a change in strategy from a sales point of view. We now take LinkedIn and Instagram, for example, much more seriously than we used to, because of this shifting age profile. The younger generation are keener on automation and new technology.

This article was first published in the 2024 February edition of ProPack.pro magazine

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