Labelling the future is a challenge for the label industry, in the face of the exceptional change that is happening on many fronts. A developing palette of label technologies and alternative options; the ‘cloud’ business environment; the urgent need for succession change in SMEs; making the decision to stay local, serve a specialty market segment, or go international; maturing geographical markets versus the emerging economies…
Technology innovation is changing the face of the entire print industry; and as commercial print dwindles in the face of downloadable reading matter, packaging print is growing exponentially. It is the key area where the consumer relies on a product’s physical brand image to confirm its quality, reliability, and desirability. Today’s modular presses make it possible to use multiple ‘traditional’ print processes – UV flexo, screen, foil blocking – in the one machine pass – as well as digital print for personalisation, barcoding, etc. What is more, the new-generation digital label presses deliver high-quality print results too; and today’s sophisticated digital pre-press solutions make design, proofing, and even product prototyping fast and easy – even if the client is thousands of miles away. Short-run work and multi-versioning of generic brand labels are now firmly part of a label converter’s remit. There have never been so many options.
Lean and green
At a time when brand owners are concerned to keep costs as low as possible, optimise profits, and still present a ‘green’ image to the consumer, lean manufacturing and sustainable practices must also be central to the label converter’s activities.
E-commerce has long been a key to the effective running of the relationship between labelstock supplier and label converter, and today’s ‘back office’ at the label converter can be seamlessly integrated with the front end. Using today’s most up-to-date systems, which match those of the customers, is key.
Specialisation is one route: there are successful label printing companies serving specialist industries. Alternatively, companies can look to extend their reach from being a ‘local’ supply base, to cross-border trading and, then, an international presence - achieved either independently or as a result of establishing partnerships and alliances with like-minded companies in other countries. Finally, of course, there are mergers and acquisitions – today an area where we are seeing very strong activity.
Label – the future?
Whatever is to come, the future will still need a label. The intrinsic function of a label is to identify the contents of a package. We have come a long way from the handwritten ‘label’ on a brown paper bag (probably the first example of direct print – a labelling method that still has currency today!) There are wet-glue labels, self-adhesive labels, shrink and stretch sleeves, in-mould labels… and now we can learn about a product through scanning QR code on its packaging. But we still have to be able to pick the right product from the retail shelf – and only a physical label of some kind can enable us to do that.
Based on article by FINAT.