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Línea Adhesiva focuses on sustainable growth

Colombian label converter Línea Adhesiva, based in Sabaneta, just south of Medellin, celebrated its 20th anniversary in March 2018. The company’s success is borne of sensible management and a focus on sustainable progress – with impressive consistency, it has achieved double-digit growth every year since its foundation. The company’s evolution has taken it from a printer of 2-3 color labels through to prime label, shrink sleeve and folding carton production, while adding a host of additional products and services to its offering.

Línea Adhesiva was founded in 1998 in Medellin as a supply company to Línea Informática, a barcode specialist and distributor of Zebra Technologies equipment which was looking for an alternative source of labels and other products rather importing from outside Colombia. Línea Informatica owner Miguel Barreiro was one of three founding partners, alongside Waldemaro Sacco and Olga Lucía Osorio. A fourth partner, Carlos Echavarría, joined as general manager a few months later, following a 15-year stint with Colombian self-adhesive material manufacturer Arclad.

In a 150sqm factory equipped with a 3-color Mark Andy 830 press, Línea Adhesiva initially specialized in product traceability, providing logistics labels for pallets as well as some textile labels. At two-year intervals, two further Mark Andy 830s were installed, with the presses accompanied by slitter rewinders built by a local manufacturer to Línea Adhesiva’s specifications.

From day one, the company also began selling Zebra Technologies thermal transfer printers, ribbons and spare parts. Now representing 20 percent of Línea Adhesiva’s business, the machine division’s portfolio has expanded over the years to include Cab thermal transfer printers, since 2010, and thermal transfer overprinters from Linx, beginning in early 2016. Zebra and Cab thermal transfer printers are focused on secondary and tertiary packaging; Linx equipment on primary packaging.

Prime move
In late 2008, Línea Adhesiva relocated to its current 1,000sqm facility in Sabaneta. Initially renting, it bought the factory four years ago. This was swiftly followed by the installation of a 6-color Mark Andy 2200 UV flexo press – with a 13in web width and hot stamping, varnishing and reverse printing capabilities – to facilitate a move into prime label production. ‘Our clients began asking for more complicated labels with higher quality finishing,’ recalls general manager Carlos Echavarría. ‘The Mark Andy 2200 allowed us to move into the food and personal care sectors.’

At the same time, the company invested in its pre-press department and an ink laboratory for color matching. It standardized its processes and developed its own management information software to increase automation. ‘It was a necessary investment,’ explains Echavarría. ‘If you’re printing labels of 2-3 colors and then moving into prime label production, it is like moving into the big leagues.’

In 2015 Línea Adhesiva installed a 13in, 8-color Nilpeter FB3300 servo-driven flexo press with relam/delam, cold foil and the Danish manufacturer’s Quick-Change Die unit. ‘We wanted to begin shrink sleeve production, achieve the quicker turnarounds that were being requested by our clients, and increase our capacity,’ says Echavarría. ‘We had considered buying another Mark Andy 2200, but the press range had been discontinued and we felt the Performance Series was too big a jump for us, so we opted for the Nilpeter FB3300.

‘Nilpeter presses are well-equipped and bring together high-level technology from leading suppliers: RotoMetrics cylinders, Harper anilox rolls. The GEW UV lamps, for example, are a key factor in performance.’

With the installation of the Nilpeter FB3300, Línea Adhesiva shifted its focus. Armed with the new options brought by the machine, the converter expanded its marketing department, began shrink sleeve production, and made further inroads into personal care, a sector with stringent demands for quality printing and finishing.

‘With the Nilpeter FB3300, we were able to provide the better quality and more elaborate labels which our clients were looking for,’ says Paula Sacco, service manager. ‘The new press also brought higher productivity with less downtime and reduced waste. We received great support from Nilpeter and their technicians from Brazil. We like to have strong relationships with our suppliers. They are not just suppliers, but strategic partners.’

Cutting of shrink sleeves was initially carried out externally, but was brought in-house with the addition of dedicated equipment in 2016. ‘Shrink sleeve use is rising in Colombia in the food and drink sectors, as well as personal care, where the company is strong,’ says María del Pilar Barreiro, marketing director. ‘There is lots of potential in these markets for this technology.’

Thanks to its 13in web width, the Nilpeter press will also allow flexible packaging production in the future. ‘There’s a niche in market for short runs of flexible packaging which we can serve,’ says Echavarría.

The same year, Línea Adhesiva further invested in its laboratory, with ink supplier Actega installing formulation and mixing equipment and software for ink measurement.

Steady growth
Línea Adhesiva prides itself on the sustainable and steady nature of its growth during its two decades of operating. It has achieved 10-15 percent growth per annum since its inception; this rose to 16 percent in 2016 and 2017. ‘We are always organized and stable in our growth,’ says Echavarría. We have strong trust in our processes. There are many converters who might have similar technology and suppliers; our key differentiating factor is the service and flexibility we can offer clients. This support is crucial to sustainable growth.’

The continual diversification of its products and services has also been key to the company’s success, points out María del Pilar Barreiro, and is aided by the investment into R&D of 10 percent of turnover. Over the years, a wide array of products have been added to its offering: prime labels, security labels, and shrink sleeves. The company sells printers, consumables, applicators, dispensers and software. It is an authorized distributor of thermal transfer ribbons from Armor. 

Línea Adhesiva’s factory in Sabaneta houses more than 90 employees. A further 20 are split between sales offices in the Colombian cities of Bogota and Cali.

Carlos Echavarría says the company is well-placed to continue its solid growth. ‘We are optimistic about the label market in Colombia. There is good growth in the food, beverage and personal care sectors, where we have a strong focus. The weaker Colombian peso has stimulated various industries, particularly those which are exporting products, while local label suppliers are doing well because imports are more expensive. The country’s GDP growth dipped in 2016 and 2017, but is forecast to bounce back to 3 percent per annum and higher in 2018-2020.’