The opportunity and ability to provide solutions geared to increasing the productivity of packaging lines and supply chains is what motivates many of today's most ambitious label system manufacturers and label converters.

For example - a customer who has a constant need to improve line efficiency, has been incorporated into the design of Harland Machine Systems’ (HMS) latest rotary pressure-sensitive labelling system. This labelling system, the Enterprise, is quite well suited to the beverage market where a "no look" label has dominated. It is available with up to six labelling stations and operates at 1000 packs/min.

This flexibility comes from the ease of format changes and of a great interest in it's auto change system. The auto change system simply means that the machine can automatically change between label heads therefore doing away with any downtime.

Total product changeover times have really been reduced by the use of quick release change parts and recipe product management and crucially, the equipment has been able to easily handle the high speed application of thin or ultra thin film labels. With a generous offering of over 40 product platforms available which can be continuously rotated, it is designed to be able to perform a multitude of accurate label placements.

Versatility is also easily achieved by the label head mountings that perform a radial movement and positioning of heads. A major French company has recently purchased a line. The company made an announcement of a very different and innovative direction in label application at the end of 2003, but it did not move at the pace the company was hoping for. The hope was that the labels would be printed, cut by a laser and also applied in line at the packer filler. One of the huge issues was that you cannot print as fast as a die cutter can operate. It was a limiting factor although the company still believes it is possible in the future.

As about 70% of sales are though exports, HMS is quite conscious of the need to have the ability to supply blue chip companies the world over. HMS is in the process of opening up a distributor network in the United States and setting up an agency/distributor network in Europe.

They are additionally looking to branch out into China in about one year.
This philosophy is very much supported by Skanem where close to one third of business is done with multinationals. A successful label supplier should definitely be concerned with size and geographical spread.

Multinational sales director David Harrison has stated that they can print at one site for a customer, but most often they print from several sites and deliver to close to seven sites for one multinational customer. Their multinational business grew by 18% last year by sticking to this policy with 10 converting operations throughout the UK and Scandinavia.

To ensure continued growth, Skanem really has to follow their customers business. There are plans in the works to develop business to East and South and it is likely that the company will continue to grow through acquisition rather then through start ups. Growth in Eastern Europe is up by 20% and it is at 27% right now in Russia as compared to only 3% in Europe. Multinationals are setting up shop in these areas and we need to be where our customers are.

Offering a value package

Innovations can take on many forms. Harrison states that the company tries to offer their customers great value for their money. This could involve a special logistics system and we would make the label requirement once per month and in large batches. The company would then ship them to the customer's warehouse and ask them to inform us as to where they use them. The customer is invoiced on use which allows for flexibility and labels when they are needed. This method also allows for Skanem to produce the runs in very efficient lengths.

One great product innovation that the company really supports is what is known as adaptive technology. Adaptive technology is basically stealing an idea and using it on a label. An example of this innovation include the metallic effects now produced by the company. The company also believes that innovations like this can deliver clear cost benefits.

With our wet wipe reclosure labels we had devised a special break in the die of the cutter that stopped the label from being pulled off the pack. This was not only a money saving move over the more traditional method that used a strip of hotmelt applied to the pack but also caused and increase in sales in the wet wipes market and the customer could really see the financial benefits.

Skanem has also made the investment of purchasing a digital HP Indigo press at Hobro in Denmark last December. The conditions had not been favourable before, but the company had found a business opportunity in Denmark . Now if one of the companies in the United Kingdom or Scandinavia want to have something digitally printed the company will be equipped to accommodate.

A big part of this strategic programme is to boost the productivity at its Boston production facility. Lincolnshire a supplier of Norprint Labelling Systems has recently invested more then £1m in Mark Andy's narrow web flexo technology. This includes two new eight-colour LP3000 lines, fitted with UV lamination equipment. Managing director Alex Evans has stated that the only way for the company to stay competitive is to continue to purchase the latest in equipment and thus raise the benchmark in label production.

In the meantime the self adhesive supplier whirlwinds Labels has completed all installations of its new MPS 330 press. There will be increased flexibility due to the additional capacity and offerings of cold foil blocking, embossing, de-bossing, multi-layer labels, and combination screen and flexo printing. Harlands has most often been involved in the production of more complex print work and the utilization of this new equipment with further enhance the services that they currently offer.
New innovations can also mean the manner in which labels are added into different products. As an example Ditone Labels who are part of the boxes group, is the current supplier to both the health and beauty and pharmaceutical sectors but their business is really about specialization.

Managing director David Stevenson states that their company produces many products that are particular to them and that the core of their business is about the engineering of the products rather then the particular markets that they serve. The word innovation is usually associated with a gizmo that changes the way the world does something but can now be associated with doing an excellent job and better yet also taking the cost out.

The company was supplying a company with labelling for very short runs. As the relationship matured they had gone into a warehouse packed with directly printed cans for each and everyone of their products. Stevenson was under the impression that it was really to keep their printing department from closing. The company now uses Ditone wraparound labels and has done away with their printing department.

Stevenson recently stated that he took a call from a Belgian brewery enquiring about the company's version of the leaflet label and we have an over laminate that stops it from getting greasy. Another innovative creation from the company is a neck collar that, because of a dry peel, can be applied by a labeller rather then by hand. Rather then the neck label sticking, it simply sits over the neck. The Tac Tag boasts an adhesive in two places that sits on a pack like a sail. This is a great option to advertise a special sale without covering up an existing label.
Mr. Stevenson has made it clear that the future will include a huge increase in security offerings. These methods will include the composition of the laminate and adhesive, the content of inks used and micro mistakes. Developments such as these will make it very easy to interrogate the label.

Two top priority issues for pharma specialist Kenilworth Products have been security and anti-counterfeiting. The company has recently moved in a brand new place of operations that occupy 5,500m2. Gary Saul, the managing director of the Irish based company , states that there are a wide range of solutions to these concerns. Solutions that include inks, holograms, small defects and hugely important with pharmaceuticals. It is of huge importance that the company ensures that users have the correct product. Kenilworth Products is a very competitive company that produces high quality labels that are safe and secure.

The improvements in productivity and an overall reduction in the complete cost of ownership have been claimed with another machine's launch. At the Pack Expo in Chicago the partnership of Pago and B&H Labelling Systems introduced the Marathon XL. The Marathon XL is a fast roll feed machine that features an electronic drive train along with a servomotor-driven feedscrew, it can handles containers between 8oz up to 3 litres at speeds up to 650 containers/min.

The innovative in-line design is said to help with the simplification of operations including maintenance and changeovers by the usage of fewer moving parts and digital automation. With the use of SmartDrive, five independent servomotors will communicate on a high-speed digital bus to synchronize all component operations. This includes label feeding, cutting and gluing. Causing the elimination of the gear, belts and chains of traditional machines, SMARTdrive is said to be able to actually improve the labelling accuracy of a machine over its lifetime.

Pago and B&H both guarantee a labelling defect rate of less than 5% and because of its totally electronic servomotor, is said to achieve the fastest changeover in the industry by eliminating the need for machine adjustments. It would be less then 15 minutes from one full production speed to the next including the time used for changing replacement parts.

In the meantime Catchpoint has announced that further developments are underway with its very innovative web/liner free self adhesive labels that had their introduction this last year at Total exhibition. These innovations include an increase in the choice of label shapes along with the speed in which they can be coated and finally labelling run spends.

In the most recent tests that have been done, it has found to be possible for the production of samples of release coatings and adhesives which are UV cured. Because of these developments Catchpoint labels will now be available with the option of permanent or peelable solutions. The company is presently working with companies in the USA and Europe on the modification of a variety of applicators to meet the requirements of this concept. Trials being run in the United States are working on the production of shaped labels in addition to butt-cut barcode labels using this process.

Initial tests that have been run have been an indication that runs of up to 200/min can be expected. In the United Kingdom Sessions of York application and printing opportunities are being researched by the first licensee who has been working as a development partner.

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