DUTCH LABEL PRINTERS SUCCESS STORY
Max Aarts had no run-of-the-mill, faceless factory in view when he moved his company – J Max Aarts BV – from the West to the East of Holland. Instead, he wanted a building which would reflect the growing prosperity of the firm and enhance its image. At the same time, the premises should offer the staff pleasant working conditions as well as being friendly to the environment.
Orta Atelier in Utrecht undertook the project and the resulting building on a small industrial estate on the outskirts of Enschede certainly realised Max Aart’s expectations. Fully faced in Western Red Cedar wood, it gives the relaxed impression of an opulent country residence, to the extent that many first-time visitors drive by, little imagining that a label printer could be so spectacularly housed!
Production was transferred to the new plant and the move from the earlier location in Zoetermeer was completed by September 1993.
Starting as a retailer of packaging materials and gum paper, Max Aarts progressed to self-adhesive tapes and then had the customers’ names printed on the tapes. From there, he moved on to printing the tapes himself on a very small press.
In 1983, Michael Lawson joined the firm and started to print labels on a converted tape press. Within four years the company acquired an Allied Gear Flexomaster 1B solely for label work. ‘However we soon found that more was needed to fulfil our customers’ requirements’ relates Max Aarts.
To do that, he specified a machine with four-colour printing with UV varnishing, three or four die-cutting stations, and inter-colour drying, which could be set up without tools and with quick-change ability.
The latter is of particular importance since there is a lot of short run work resulting in three to six job changes in an eight-hour working day. Many jobs also involve printing the same design in other colours and with different texts, up to ten such changes being common practice. And although large orders make up much of the production volume, a big section of the market needs runs down to 10,000 labels.
A large part of the clientele is in the food industry. Other clients are production companies who, when planning a new marketing campaign, find they have no labels. Max Aarts is requested to produce samples at short notice, after which the customer returns with the big order. Trouble shooting, in the form of re-labelling incorrectly labelled packages at short notice also demands quick deliveries. ‘The customer calls at 3.00 pm and the label go out at 5.00 pm. Repeat jobs like this can be delivered in one day, new jobs in two,’ relates Max Aarts proudly.
Visiting Labelexpo ’89 to check the machinery on offer, Max Aarts was impressed by the solid construction of the Edale 250S and gave instructions for the machine to be examined in detail. A visit to Edale’s factory in Romsey, England, together with Edale’s local distributor ‘Henny’ van den Berg, heightened enthusiasm for the machine. ‘We asked for some changes to the specification, for example reducing the minimum repeat length from six to five inches to make it compatible with the Flexomaster and thereby enabling us to use the same dies,’ confides Max Aarts, ‘and, after careful consideration – it’s a big investment for a small company – placed the order at DRUPA 90 for the E250S with five printing units, four die stations and an overprinter.’
Under training at Edale’s factory, Michael Lawson was able to print a full-colour job, with a quality equal to that of larger and more expensive in-line machines, on the first day. ‘The E250S is so easy to operate,’ he recounts. ‘The control buttons are in the correct places and it’s very user friendly.’ By the second day he was perusing the electrical wiring diagrams and eager to strip down the press. Today he is fully capable of servicing the machine, with advice over the telephone from Romsey if necessary. ‘But the E250S is easy to maintain and there’s no problem in changing anilox rollers. Meter rollers and doctor blades, as well as the dies, can all be changed without tools!’
With the E250S in production, and especially after conversion from metering rollers to doctor blades, customers were quick to compliment Max Aarts on his quality. ‘You print a lot sharper now,’ was a typical comment. Proving so popular, the press has hardly stopped running since it was commissioned. Hence it became necessary to acquire another machine for extra capacity and back-up. The Edale E250S DG is smaller than, but compatible with, the ‘S’ model and has the same five-inch minimum repeat length, four printing units and three die-stations.
Water-based inks are used in printing normal labels. After initial unsatisfactory trials, May Aarts finally found a supplier of good inks and has used only water-based since then. ‘We now run very fast, for example a three-colour fitting job on paper at 150m/min, helped by our video control system. Sinclair & Valentine have, amongst others, been very helpful. They respond immediately to our calls and developed a special varnish for our Douwe Egberts labels,’ relates Max Aarts.
The latter form a very interesting aspect of Max Aarts’s production. Involving the use of foils for security purposes, they provide tamper evidence on the Douwe Egberts coffee jars. A special patented glue was also developed for pilfer-proofing the jars for the Spanish market. Fraud-proof labels are another speciality. They are printed on the adhesive side of the label so that, if the label is removed from the jar, or other container, the text comes off the label leaving an irremovable fraud warning on the products.
Such specialities reflect the company’s philosophy as explained by Max Aarts. ‘Currently we have two strings to our bow, we retail packaging materials and operate a production unit producing labels and self-adhesive tapes, declined.
Hence he is planning to move more of the production into labels in future. ‘That’s the most interesting sector, particularly special labels for security and medical applications. The moiré specialised you are, the more attached the clientele becomes to you. And so we try everything to do that little bit extra for our customers. We never say no. We accept any order, large or small, since customers grow from small orders to larger ones. We have no salesmen, our business prospers by word of mouth, and it works!’
The clientele is mostly Dutch although some of the production is exported to Belgium and Germany as well as Russia indirectly. But the German market is the main attraction. ‘We’re currently trying to expand our foothold in that country and that was one of the reasons for making the move to this location,’ reveals Max Aarts.
The new building certainly contributes to the company’s successful marketing efforts, having already been instrumental in winning several new important accounts. Not just from the outside, the interior is equally impressive. The pleasant atmosphere in the reception and office areas is carried through to the production departments with a central air conditioning system extracting fumes from the press room and completely recalculating fresh air 17 times an hour. The exhaust is thoroughly filtered before being released into the outside air, leading Max Aarts to observe jocularly: ‘We’ll meet environmental regulations that haven’t even been drawn up yet!’