Comment by Edoardo Cotichini, Team Manager Industrial Printing, Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe GmbH
As we enter another decade, we look forward to continuing to grow our presence in a label market that is ripe for an onslaught of digital technology. While overall penetration is still relatively low and there’s lots of room to grow, change is gathering pace and the march to digital technology is like the sound of thundering hooves getting ever closer.
There is a seismic change in the industry towards shorter runs, just in time production and customisation where label printers and converters need the highest quality printing. These trends will continue to shape the labels market going forward.
Brands continue to drive change by making short-run printing mandatory; increasingly they are making the ability to print digital labels a vendor requirement. Research from Finat Radar shows that 73% buy digital labels because they know that for some applications it’s the best match. Converters are gaining skills at digital printing and selling digital printing. Other main market drivers include more targeted marketing, lean manufacturing, sustainability and variable data printing. All contribute to the overall growth rise of the colour digital label printing market. The introduction of new cost-effective production presses, such as our own AccurioLabel 230, also drives growth.
Whereas our customers use their machines primarily for label production, we see folding carton and flexible packaging increasingly becoming a second focus. An additional benefit – both in labels and in packaging – is that brands increasingly want to add value through innovative decorative and tactile elements within the printed piece, which is where the inherent nature of digital print brings distinct advantages.
In this regard, technology such as the digital embellishment systems of our strategic partner MGI is a ready-made opportunity for label converters to offer highly creative services and win new business. For example, MGI’s JETvarnish 3DWeb digital enhancement press for labels and flexible packaging produces in-line flat and 3D spot UV coating, 3D embossed varnish textures and flat and embossed foil.
Forecasts by Keypoint Intelligence / InfoTrends show that colour digital label and packaging printer revenues across the world will go up by over 65% to virtually $800 million in a five-year period to 2021. The same source predicts that the printer value of print by application will soar by 175% in the same period.
The new decade heralds another important digital toner printer milestone for Konica Minolta with the 500th installation of our AccurioLabel label printer. It’s been an incredible success story, particularly when you think that we only began in the label printing segment after trials just over four years ago.
Looking forward, we know that other suppliers will enter this growth market. All will be thinking along the lines of speed to market, making the best use of short run and creative solutions and providing that added value to customers.
The AccurioLabel 230 is the newest model in the toner label press family from Konica Minolta. Important enhancements include a 73% speed increase, improved productivity, an option for overprinting, no warm-up required between jobs, less waste and more accurate print registration. At Labelexpo in September, for the first time we showed one of our AccurioLabel 230s with a flexo station for printing white inline. It’s been developed with our manufacturing partner in Europe, Danish company Grafisk Maskinfabrik (GM), and from feedback we know it is expanding its reach and becoming a viable solution for larger label converters looking for a press to complement their high-end digital printing systems.
However, it’s not just about the technology or the quality – that’s a given. In a true collaborative approach as a relationship-orientated company, we actively source expertise from customers, partners and brands owners for inkjet and toner-based systems. The development of our AccurioPress technology was a perfect example of how we listened closely to our customers and improved the machine according to their feedback.
Around the world, around the clock – we help shape ideas for our customers. Our dedicated market approach is working. We are rethinking together with our customers what is possible in label printing, which is another reason why we have grown to become number 2 in the market, according to InfoSource figures. And our accelerated growth shows no sign of slowing.
In the future, we will continue to provide practical help and support, anticipate customer needs and then turn them into innovative solutions in a collaborative, partnership approach. Digital is the future. I can hear those horses now.