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Armor Asia celebrates 20 years

L-R: Mark Day, Wesley Alves and Hubert de Boisredon celebrate the anniversary

Armor, the thermal transfer ribbon manufacturer headquartered in France, has marked the 20th anniversary of its Asia subsidiary with a celebration attended by its teams based in Singapore, China, India and Japan.

‘For Armor Asia, it is time for maturity, expansion, ambitions, and to implement plans that we didn’t think were possible before,’ said Hubert de Boisredon, Armor’s chairman and CEO, kicking off the celebrations in Singapore. 

The company had invited its distributors to Armor Asia Technical Club (ATC), a conference which discussed its new products, customer challenges, and ways to grow together as well as market trends and opportunities. It was followed by a factory tour and a gala dinner.

Mark Day, global sales director at Armor, set the stage by revealing that the company grew by 11 percent in volume worldwide last year, of which 17 percent growth came from Asia, 13 percent from Americas, and 8 percent came from EMEA markets.

Wesley Alves, vice president and managing director for ASPAC (Asia-Pacific) at Armor, said: ‘To support the surge in demand and growth, we will potentially have new slitting plants in the Asia-Pacific region. We are further investing strongly in people and continue to launch new breakthrough products such as the new AXRTX, a new grade of thermal transfer ribbon dedicated to the printing of textile labels.’

While colored ribbons form a small percentage of the entire product range, Armor recently launched silver and golden thermal transfer ribbons as well for luxury segment applications to complete its product portfolio.

Day said: ‘With more food traceability and other government regulations being implemented around the world, we see customers demanding higher quality of thermal transfer ribbons. It brings opportunities in terms of volume and sometimes challenges for we have to develop new products to match the requirement. Our distributors ensure thermal transfer ribbons meet the requirements of end user. Growth is, thus, not driven by volume alone but also by value added products.’ 

Armor has also set up a new coating and slitting plant in China, mainly for the domestic market, to enable fast growth in the country. 

‘We see double digit growth in Asia led by huge amount of industrial activity moving here, and these investments will strengthen our position in the market. We target to supply 500 million sqm of thermal transfer ribbons in the region in the next two years,’ added Alves. 

‘We continue to grow share in each region with 30 percent market share worldwide and working towards capturing 40 percent of the pie by means of acquisition, new slitting operations, innovation, support and service,’ said Hubert de Boisredon.

Growth strategy 
Day further shared the company’s investment plans in the next five years and its commitment to innovation and efficiency. ‘From three plants, with one each in France, Singapore and the US in 2001, we today have 12 production plants and a total of 27 units including logistic sites dotted all over the world,’ he said. 

Armor widened its reach across the world by adding new slitting centers in Turkey, east Africa and Canada in 2018. It also acquired the thermal transfer business of Iconex last year, strengthening its position in the US market. 

Explaining the growth strategy, de Boisredon said: ‘We increase our footprint to be close to the customer. We want to find our customers instead of them finding us. Being close also ensures we give them good technical service which, in turn, gives us a strong hold on the market. It also enables us to support our customers with any new application. 

‘We want to reduce lead times so supply chain and logistics are an important aspect for us. Lastly, the decision to open a new subsidiary is primarily driven by growth trend and demand surge in each region.’

To feed continuous expansion and fuel growth, Armor capitalizes on its research and development team. ‘We invest around four percent of our turnover in R&D every year,’ said Day. ‘Alongside, we continue to invest in improving our efficiencies while also increasing our production capacity. Since the turn of the century, Armor has invested 130 million euros in the company. 

‘We have planned another 100 million euros in investment between 2017 and 2022 towards a high-speed coating machine, worldwide slitting and packing robotization, automation of warehouses and logistics, new generation of ink grinding, more slitting sites, expansion of storage capacity, and for more solvent-free products to reduce our impact on environment.’

Stressing the company’s efficient production, Day pointed out that while the number of slitting machines has increased over the years, Armor has reduced its coating machines despite the marked increase in production capacity. ‘It is a price-sensitive market and we have adapted ourselves to remain efficient without it having any negative impact on jobs. The average growth of Armor year-on-year has been 10 percent, with the industry growing at 5 percent worldwide,’ he said.

Automation
Efficient production at Armor can be credited to the automation and robotization that is developed and programmed in-house at all its plants. 

‘Singapore, France and the US each house a team of software engineers who work towards making our systems more automated. Each plant shares its knowledge and developments with the other to be more efficient,’ said Alves. 

As for the automation in Singapore, the local team designed and programmed robotized palletization and a spare parts management system which is being rolled out to different plants worldwide. The local in-house engineers also developed a blackness level measurement system of the film on the whole roll that helps keep a stringent check on the quality of thermal transfer ribbon rolls. 

‘With more automation and robotization coming to various plants, we have started transforming our factories and making them future-ready,’ Alves said.

Attended by more than 40 customers from across the region, the event concluded its celebrations by engaging distributors through playing a board game in small groups, aimed at better understanding the company’s product line. 

‘Armor is creating quality relationships with our partners so we can become one team and together grow our businesses,’ de Boisredon assured.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakriti Agarwal is India and Southeast Asia editor for Labels & Labeling.

Aakriti has been India editor for a number of years, and editor of the online newsletter, Label News India.

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