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Armor hosts 40th Technical Club

The ATC was the first since the introduction of inkanto last year

The thermal transfer specialist’s 40th Technical Club took place at the French seaside resort of La Baule

Thermal transfer specialist Armor hosted its 40th Technical Club in June, inviting distributors and clients from around the world for a two-day gathering in La Baule, a well-known French seaside resort located a 75-minute drive from the company’s headquarters and factory in Nantes.

Seventy-four people from 49 countries were in attendance, representing a wide geographical spread: nearly half were from Europe, a quarter from Asia, and the remainder split between South America, Africa and Oceania. Fifty percent of the attendees had not previously attended an ATC. Twenty-one Armor staff were on hand during the event, as well as three guests from inkjet printhead manufacturer Kyocera.

Armor’s Technical Clubs have been running since the turn of the century, with the first taking place at its subsidiary in Singapore. ‘The concept was to gather technical people from the thermal transfer industry to learn and share experiences, to spread the technology and raise awareness of the Armor brand,’ says Pierre-Arnaud Hommel, communication manager. The success of this first event led it to become a regular occurrence, taking place around the world in Armor facilities.

This latest edition on the French coast was the 40th ATC in under 20 years, and the first since the company rebranded its thermal transfer ribbon range last year under the name inkanto.

Providing a dedicated identity for Armor’s thermal transfer activities, inkanto has facilitated a number of additional tools and services to aid the sale and use of thermal transfer products. This includes a reworked extranet, 2go2, to streamline interaction with customers, and a new lifetime guarantee that means, regardless of the product’s age, issues will be dealt with.

To create a strong visual identity, full branding has been introduced on cores to boxes, with the latter now featuring a 2D barcode that connects with a quality control database to allow each customer to download a certificate of conformity for each box, as well as identification and reporting of issues with a particular batch. A cleaning cloth is also included in every box to assist with printer/printhead maintenance. The number of ribbons per box is lowered to allow greater flexibility with customers’ needs, and a new design for samples makes them memorable and easy to identify.

Objectives

At the ATC, Armor outlined a series of objectives. The company aims to increase its market share from 29 percent at the end of 2017 to 40 percent over the next five years. Means for achieving this target include the creation of additional local production facilities around the world (new sites have opened recently in Kenya, South Africa, Canada and Turkey), the reinforcement of local sales teams, and investment in new machines, robotics and automation to streamline production and increase efficiency.

Armor also aims to increase support for its global partners. The inkanto rebrand is part of this strategy, says Pierre-Arnaud Hommel, as it helps distributors to differentiate their thermal transfer ribbon offering. The branding aims to create customer loyalty and new markets in the volatile thermal transfer ribbon sector. 2go2, the redesigned extranet, is a further part of this strategy, while Armor has also created a game dedicated to assisting its partners’ training on the inkanto range.

By the end of 2018, Armor aims to offer for each product family – wax, wax-resin and resin – a three-tier range based on the end-user’s needs: a competitive ribbon, a standard ribbon and a specialty, high-performance ribbon. Product development is ongoing, particularly to address high-value applications such as textile labels, electronic labels and automotive labels.

Sales figures were also shared with attendees. Thermal transfer ribbon sales rose by nine percent from 2016 to 2017, well above the estimated overall market growth, to bring Armor over the 200 million euro revenue threshold. Growth in the year to June 2018 was 10 percent.

The ATC was formed of a series of presentations and workshops in which attendees were divided into small groups to maximize interaction, plus a host of networking activities and a tour of Armor’s factory. Attendees were also treated to a rally, in traditional Citroën 2CV ‘Deux chevaux’ cars, through a salt marsh.

Feedback from the event was positive. One distributor commented: ‘Today I can speak to our sellers and clients with much more confidence and knowledge about Armor products. This will strengthen our company in sales.’