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FLEXO Magazine : September 2012
their businesses more efficiently, with an increased focus on both productivity and quality. Their customers are demand- ing shorter runs, reduced delivery times, and more complex, specialty labels on a variety of substrates. SHORT RUN RESPONSE Short runs is a topic that has dominated conferences and seminars in recent years. It has been witnessed globally due to regional promotions, an increasing number of SKUs and lean inventory requirements. This trend has been evident in Latin America as well. Until recently, affordable technology to address these shorter runs with narrow-web flexo has not been readily available. This has, of course, increased the interest in digital technology; but cost, especially for smaller converters, has been prohibitive. Historically, flexo technology was not geared to manage short run work effectively. Conventional press designs did not lend themselves to fast makereadies and changeovers, nor were they developed with a focus on reducing material waste and minimizing consumables. Advancements over the years including servo technology, pre- and re-register programming, and automated position- ing of critical printing components, have brought the capabil- ity of short run within reach of the flexo user. In recent years, narrow-web flexo press manufacturers have taken a closer look at the various costs that make up total production expenses for various size label runs, isolating those which can be managed more efficiently, and address- ing them with design and technology improvements. As a result, extreme advancements have been made in these ar- eas including labor (set-up and changeover times), material waste and plate costs. An example is the Performance Series press platform by Mark Andy, which has a focus on faster set-ups and change- overs, and has seen great success in the Latin American mar- ket since its introduction in 2009. Major players in the industry have purchased multiple presses, impressed with the ease of use and productivity benefits. While this technology is helping converters to address shorter runs, flexo press manufacturers acknowledge there are still even shorter runs (less than 5000 labels) that are still not economically feasible to run on a flexo press. In these instances, digital is admittedly the best option. As a result, press manufacturers are considering diversifi- cation of their product offerings to include affordable, digital presses to fill this gap in the market. These product offerings will be a perfect complement to the existing flexo presses and will offer a competitively priced option for converters with short run needs, thereby allowing them to handle every job that comes their way. DIFFERENTIATION DEMANDED As the middle class of Latin America is purchasing more, manufacturers are looking for ways to differentiate them- selves from their competition. At the same time, government regulations regarding product labeling and required content have become stricter. As a result, printers and converters are receiving pressure to produce more complex, specialty labels, at an exceptionally high quality. Again converters have turned to technology to fulfill this demand. According to press and finishing equipment manu- facturers, equipment requests from Latin America are more commonly including value-add features like foil, expanded content, screens and 100 percent inspection systems both in-line and off-line - components that just 10 years ago would have been unnecessary and occasionally, unaffordable. This increased focus on quality has again, pushed converters to invest in new technology to make them more competitive. In addition to product decoration and expanded content, Latin American converters are also looking to broaden their capabilities when it comes to substrates. There has been a significant increase in converters looking to add film packag- es to their equipment in order to move further into the flexible packaging and shrink sleeve markets. Again, this is a trend that is not unique to Latin America, but the stable economy and interest in investing in new technologies has brought it more to the forefront. FUTURE FORECAST Looking to the future, the converting industry in Latin America continues to show positive signs of growth. Consum- er demands and increased competition in the market have driven converters to put a larger emphasis on quality and invest in new technology. Additional investment is being made in human resources, with an understanding that well-trained personnel are going to take a more active role in the quality of product being produced. Collectively, these investments have already resulted in steady growth over recent years and an anticipated positive future for the Latin American label market. n About the Author: John Cavey of Mark Andy, Inc. has been with the company for 10 years, serving the past three as sales manager for Latin America. Having spent significant time in Brazil, Cavey has a unique perspective on and understand- ing of the Latin American culture and is able to leverage that ex- pertise in his busi- ness relationships. He works closely with a network of distributors to effectively manage the requirements of his customers and provide Mark Andy equipment to converters throughout the region. www.flexography.org september 2012 FLEXO 33