Fast turnaround label specialist Superfast Labels has installed the UK’s first Epson SurePress digital label press. Andy Thomas reports
Within four months of installing the UK’s first Epson SurePress L-4033A digital label press, Superfast Labels had printed over three million labels on it, cut waste, cut stock levels, cut overtime and identified lucrative new markets.
The 11-strong company based in Sittingbourne, Kent has been at the forefront of self-adhesive label printing for almost 30 years. Living up to its name, Superfast considers itself the fastest label printer in the country, offering a 24 to 48 hour turnaround, and manufacturing over 100,000,000 labels of over 2000 different sizes a year for customers across Europe.
Superfast’s reputation for printing a wide range of labels has attracted a strong customer base from a wide range of sectors, including: music, book, drink, food, retail, pharmaceutical, software and electronics. Particular specialities are cover labels for books and CD/DVD labels for all the UK’s largest duplication plants and music publishers (over 20 million in 2011 alone).
A policy of continuous improvement in production equipment has kept Superfast Labels at the top of its game with the ability to offer top quality and often complex and specialist labels at any volume, very quickly and competitively. Managing director Andrew Miller chose the 6-color Epson SurePress to add high quality affordable inkjet printing capabilities alongside his four Nilpeter flexo presses.
‘While it can happily print label volumes up to and over 10,000, the SurePress also gives us the ability to handle smaller volumes fast and cost-effectively,’ he says. ‘Unlike many other digital presses, it prints directly onto standard off-the-shelf label stocks at variable web widths up to 330mm wide without the need for special pre-treatment or top coating. The non-contact inkjet printing process also means we can print onto textured substrate which opens up a whole new market for us in food and drink packaging, particularly for artisan producers who want a quality bespoke product at small volumes.’
Space is always an issue and Miller originally planned to replace a flexo press with the SurePress. ‘Because it is so compact we placed it in its own small pressroom alongside a new GM DC330 mini converter finishing system, creating a self contained department while keeping all four existing flexo presses.’ After a short installation and training period, the SurePress started live production and within four months had already printed 500 jobs, averaging 65 meters printed in 21 minutes each – totalling 3.1 million labels. ‘The ability to get jobs on press, printed and finished quickly with no waste is great,’ says Miller. ‘It means we can print jobs on demand for customers, in the exact quantity they want at any time and with the confidence that the color will be perfect and consistent. As a result we don’t need to keep stocks of labels on site for customers which has freed up valuable space.’
Miller has designed a bespoke Management Information System that allows the company to cost jobs, view machine status and track all orders in real-time through the factory from all departments. This is linked to the SurePress Esko digital front end and provides live production data, including queued and finished jobs, label quantity, substrate type, ink use, etc. ‘This gives us very useful management data,’ says Miller. ‘For example, I can see immediately that a job of 12,000 38mm circular labels took me 35 mins to print on the SurePress.
‘Our success is due to the service we provide and the digital capabilities of the SurePress are already rapidly opening up new markets for us,’ says Miller. ‘The combination of flexo and digital printing capabilities allows us to provide a broader range of services than before. We pick the best press for the job and have moved numerous jobs to the SurePress that were previously printed flexo. I expect 30 percent of all our production will move to the SurePress within a few months.’
Pictured: Epson SurePress L-4033A digital press
This article was published in L&L issue 4, 2012