Read later
  • 20 Sep 2017

Rapid growth at Grafisk

Grafisk Maskinfabrik (GM) has increased turnover by more than 60 percent in the last five years. With a host of new equipment being launched at Labelexpo Europe 2017, these are exciting times for the Danish finishing equipment manufacturer.

Danish finishing equipment manufacturer Grafisk Maskinfabrik (GM) is going through a period of rapid growth, with turnover increased by 2.5 percent over the last five years and staff numbers nearly doubled in the last three. Despite buying a second facility just two years ago – of the same size as its main 2,600 sqm plant in Copenhagen – production is again at full capacity. The original plant is being expanded, while the search is on for a new, bigger factory nearby. The growth comes at a time of transition.

GM’s founder Erik Nielsen and his wife Randi, head of administration, retired last year, leaving their son, CEO Uffe Nielsen, in sole charge. Uffe Nielsen, who has worked at the company since 2003 (and also spent school holidays working in his father’s factory as a youth), has filled several senior management positions to help continue GM’s upward trajectory: Morten Toksværd has joined as sales manager, Hans Jørgen Schjøtt as CFO and Jin Dahl as COO.

Employee numbers have increased from 40 to 71 in the last three years, with five new engineers hired last year. The company has also opened a new call center for client service.

Innovation

Erik Nielsen founded Grafisk Maskinfabrik in 1980. The company began by manufacturing register control systems for Nilpeter flexo presses before building its own line of machines, and then producing a digital finishing system in the early stages of the technology in the 1990s. R&D has been a cornerstone of GM since its foundation, a strategy that continues under Uffe Nielsen’s leadership.

‘The company has always been driven by innovation and research,’ affirms Uffe Nielsen. GM employs 15 dedicated R&D engineers. Current projects include the development of machines which use organic solar cells to convert light energy into electricity. GM is a machine partner for multiple leading universities around the world, and is actively involved in researching future energy technology.

GM is also putting R&D resources into producing machines which can process digitally printed flexible packaging. ‘We see great potential in the flexible packaging and carton markets,’ says Nielsen. ‘Digital technology is making great progress in these sectors and will cause the same disruption that it did in the label market. We have experience in the carton market – we have 10 carton lines installed in the US, for example – so we are looking to take advantage.

‘These are exciting times in the industry. There is a great deal of innovation and creativity. So much is going on.’

Elsewhere, the company is investigating the potential for its machines to be used in the wallpaper market. GM produces in-line finishing equipment for all major digital and inkjet press manufacturers. Its most popular machine is the DC Mini, of which more than 200 have been installed since its launch in 2010. ‘It is a compact in-line finishing system,’ says Nielsen. ‘Its small size is important as space is often at a premium in label converting operations.’

In total, GM has more than 1,000 machines installed worldwide, not including basic equipment such as roll lifters. The company manufactures more than 30 different machine models, all with modular designs to allow for easy export and upgrading.

Production is running at full capacity – more than 200 machines a year. As a result, an upper level is being added to the production area of its headquarters which will increase capacity by 30 percent. Down the road, a second 2,600 sqm facility was bought two years ago for OEM production. Nielsen says he hopes to find a site for a bigger, purpose-built facility nearby into which GM can move within the next two years.

GM’s biggest markets are the US and Latin America. It has offices in both, and a distribution network which spans the globe. In some countries, such as Italy, it relies on an exclusive distributor. Elsewhere it often shares agents with Nilpeter: GM used to build converting lines for the press manufacturer, so the agents know the technology. ‘We have a global presence through our distribution network,’ says Nielsen.

Having successfully managed a generation shift in its leadership, and with a host of new products being launched at Labelexpo Europe 2017 and an R&D team working on futuristic energy projects, GM looks set to continue its upward trajectory.

Customer case study: Ikonprint

Celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, Ikonprint was founded as an RFID label converter, producing UHF RFID and electromagnetic labels for library applications.

Founders Thomas Nielsen (no relation to Uffe) and Jørgen Kollerup had both worked in Avery Dennison’s RFID division for more than 10 years.

The company prints 15-20 million RFID labels a year, making it the leading RFID label converter in Denmark. Libraries take six percent of production, with the rest divided between logistics, retail, postal, airport and tracking applications.

RFID labels, printed on two KDO flexo presses extensively refurbished in-house, represent 50 percent of Ikonprint’s business. It also operates RFID tag printers from Avery Dennison, Primera and Zebra.

The company’s in-house engineering expertise has allowed it to modify much of its equipment to suit its specific needs, as well as building its own RFID testing and insertion systems. It manufactured its own finishing systems, too, before installing a GM machine.

After installing a third, standard 6-color KDO flexo press, the company began producing labels for household cleaning products and other markets, which encouraged it to look at digital printing options.

Around 80 percent of clients are dealers, and Ikonprint supplies other local converters with RFID labels. It produces 15 to 20 label jobs per day on average.

Its first foray into digital printing came in 2015 with the installation of a Trojan Memjet system. Last year it delved further, bringing a Nilpeter Panorama digital press into its 1,300 sqm factory, where 14 staff run 1.5 shifts. ‘The Panorama was running at 50m/min and producing jobs just one week after its installation,’ reports Thomas Nielsen. ‘Turnover has grown by 25 percent since it arrived.’

The new press allowed Ikonprint to move into a variety of new end use sectors, including craft beer, liquor and chemicals. There is potential for RFID integration into its digitally printed labels in the future, says Thomas Nielsen. Meanwhile, it supplies cognac brand Hennessey with item-level RFID tags for NFC payments and tracking.

‘Denmark has a tradition of micro-brewing, so craft beer has become an important market,’ says Thomas Nielsen. ‘The combination of Nilpeter Panorama digital press and GM converting system can serve this sector with high quality labels with metallic effects.’

The GM DC330 converting system was installed at the same time as the Nilpeter Panorama to embellish the digitally printed labels. Among its features are a varnish coater, lamination, cold foil, auto knife box, dual rewind and a 20in semi-rotary die-cutter which can automatically switch between semi- and full-rotary modes. Its modular nature allows it to be adapted and upgraded in the future.

The system incorporates GM’s new in-register lamination module (see boxout). Ikonprint is the first official user of the new module, following beta-testing at UK converter CS Labels.

‘The DC330 is our first machine from GM,’ says Thomas Nielsen. ‘To have local support was very important to us as a small company, and we like the fact that we can adapt it in the future thanks to its modularity. It is a good fit with the Panorama. The story is what sells a product, so flexibility is key to be able to provide new options.’

Ikonprint is helping GM with the latter’s development of a RFID label finishing system. ‘We don’t look for standard products such as food labels, for example,’ says Thomas Nielsen. ‘Specialty applications are in our DNA.’

James Quirk

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Quirk is group managing editor of Labels & Labeling.

See author’s profile »