Latest News on Label Stock Supply chain.

Posted by Roy Harris on

 

 

June 2, 2022.

 

We address the supply chain challenges for label buyers in North America and the remedies facing the printing and label industry today. 

 

As part of our Insights, we recently have been investigating paper imports from Asia using air freight to cut down on turn around times. To learn more about how we can boost label supply to printers dealing with supply chain challenges. Roy Harris, who is responsible for supporting the paper, label and corrugated markets world wide, as well as aftermarket, has been in the Forest Products industry for more than 35 years and boasts significant product management experience in domestic and international markets.Currently working on supply bottle necks and distribution.

What is my current view of the supply chain challenges facing the industry?

RH: Throughout 2021 and into 2022, the material supply chain has created a massive disruption in the narrow web label market. We have heard that label converters are facing extended lead times of four months or longer for common label material substrates.

In addition to the challenge of label converters taking care of their current customers and their existing business, the limited availability of material and/or allocations taking place has also prevented the ability for many of them to grow their business with new and/or existing customers. So, when you take a step back and look at the big picture of the limited quantity of material available, the material usage throughout the production process is more important now than ever before.

 How are these challenges that are causing label converters to think differently?

RH: Whenever there is a shortage or constraint on any type of product, the natural tendency is to think, “How do I take what I have and make it last as long as possible?” Think back to the beginning of Covid. What was the one item that every consumer had trouble finding on store shelves? Toilet paper. Quantities were limited. Prices increased. And immediately overnight, everyone had a new appreciation for the precious supply of toilet paper.

The label material supply shortage is no different. Label converters are having to think about their use of label material, with a whole new appreciation of it. They are having to look at their business in different ways and be even more creative in finding solutions that enable them to keep production running to meet the needs of their customers.

 What is an example of a creative solution that helps label converters and their customers?

RH: When you look at label production, in general, there is a tremendous amount of waste. Specifically, wasted material. Think about a label converter loading their press to run a job. How much of that material is used to “feed the machine?” How much of that material is used for color corrections and adjustments? How much of that material will wind up in the recycling bin? How much of that material is not viable for billable, revenue-generating label jobs produced and delivered to the customer?

So, label converters have the opportunity to look at their book of business and potentially adjust how they run their jobs. And specifically, how digital printing can help.

 How can digital printing help?

RH: Let’s say XYZ Label Co. is going to run a label job with one version. The initial setup, including inline finishing makeready, might require 250 feet of material if run on a flexo press, versus 50 feet of material if run on the  digital UV inkjet label press… plus 100 feet of material for near-line or off-line finishing setup. So, in that example, the Digital press uses less material than an average flexo press during make-ready.

Now let’s consider for simple color adjustments. On the flexo press, that may require an additional 100 feet of material to come up to color, compared to 15 feet on a digital press. And then on every version or spot color change, that will require an additional 100 feet of material on the flexo press, compared to zero additional feet on a digital press.

Considering the factors above for a job with 3 versions, that is 300 feet of makeready material to run that job flexo versus 45 feet on a digital press. Think about that. In that example, that means that 300 feet of material is going in the recycling bin if run on flexo… or conversely… could be used for billable, revenue-generating work if run on a digital press.

And that’s just one label job with a few versions/adjustments. So further to that point, let’s say you have a label job with black plate changes for various languages. An example being a wine label where the Government Warning information changes on each version. For three versions, English, Spanish, and French, you would save roughly 85 – 90% on makeready waste just from the initial makeready and the black plate changes.

How would multiple versions or SKUs magnify this problem?

RH: Imagine you are going to produce labels for four different flavors of cookies: sugar, French macaroon, cranberry almond, and chocolate hazelnut. You would have four versions of that label with completely different artwork for each. Using the earlier example of 300 feet of material for the initial set up x 4 versions, that would require 1,200 feet of material waste to prepare that job to run and finish on a flexo press. Compare running those same four versions on a digital press, and it is 100 feet of material waste total. That’s upwards of 90% savings on material setup. And the material savings further grows when jobs with similar finishing processes are run together, utilizing the capabilities and strengths of the  digital press.

When you think about all the jobs you run over the course of a shift, a day, a week, a month, etc., it’s significant. For example, just think about the setup for 15 label jobs. At a conservative 250 feet of material waste per job setup on flexo, multiplied by 15 jobs… that’s 3,750 feet of material waste. Compared to those same 15 jobs set up on a digital press, it would be 100 feet of material multiplied by 15 jobs – that’s 1,500 feet of material. So, in that example, the difference between running those digitally on a digital press saves you 1,750 feet of material. That’s like taking a 5,000-foot roll of material and, instead of throwing it away, using it to produce work that is billable and revenue-generating.

 How will digital printing impact the industry moving forward?

RH: Digital printing is on a strong upward trajectory. Label converters today, more than ever before, are understanding the value of having digital in their arsenal. As brand owners are increasing SKUs, versions, and personalization coupled with demand for quicker turnaround times, decreased inventory, and superior and consistent print quality to differentiate their products on store shelves, label converters are realizing that digital is not just a “nice-to-have” but rather a “need-to-have” to be competitive, retain customers, enter new markets, and grow their business. Add on top of that the label material supply chain situation, and digital printing becomes even more of a game-changer than it already was. It is going to make label converters think of digital printing in a way they never have before.

What can label buyers do to get more information?

RH: In terms of getting started, all label buyers need to do is reach out to uslabel.net. So that they can see the consistent, repeatable high-quality label stocks that can be printed on our stocks. We can run ROI and TCO calculations for them, so they know upfront if uslabel.net is a good fit for their business. We can also show them the amount of material waste savings they will have in comparing running their label jobs digital versus flexo. Our customers are our business partners. When they win and succeed, uslabel.net wins and succeeds. So, we want to do everything we can to help them.

We greatly appreciates your continued business and support through this time. If you have any further questions or concerns regarding future label deliveries and price increases, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

 

We are more than happy to discuss this situation with you.

 

Sincerly

 

Roy Harris

 

uslabel.net


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