Interview with Werner Krummenacher about the printing market in the United Kingdom. (This interview was conducted in December 2020).
As we face the interwoven complexities of Covid-19 and Brexit, the print sector has perhaps never faced more dynamic and challenging circumstances. We sat down with Werner Krummenacher, Head of Sales Product Management bei Gallus Ferd. Rueesch AG, for his perspective on the industry.
1. What has been the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on your UK business?
We are seeing two major developments:
1) Printers in the food and pharma industries are extremely busy and looking to increase capacity.
2) Printers in the high embellishment segments (such as spirits, beverages, cosmetics) are facing some decline in business.
Printers producing for both these segments, could compensate losses in 2) with gains in 1).
Generally, 2 in 3 printers in the narrow web business have either not been affected or have increased their business. We estimate that 1 in 3 printshops in UK have been affected negatively.
2. Do you see the effect as a short-, medium-, or long-term situation?
We will see the long-term effects of Covid-19 on the economy earliest in 2021-22. Projecting it is like looking into a crystal ball. What I described above is the short-term situation.
In the medium term, we believe that things between the food/pharma and high embellishment segments will even out a bit again. But it really depends on how the situation with Covid-19 develops, which is unprecedented. Nobody really knows today.
3. How has Gallus responded to the unique market situation?
Generally, Gallus is experiencing a really busy time in the label business. However, we cannot go and visit our customers as usual. We have therefore started using remote demos and trainings as a means to reach our customers in these times. Customer service is very important to us, which is why we ensure that in emergencies our customers can rely on our service technician, who are part of the critical workforce, to help them service their equipment.
4. What are the main features of Gallus technology that best suit today’s market demand?
The year 2020 proves once again that flexibility is extremely valuable for print shops. The reason is easy: label and package printers need to be flexible during their production to meet the current demand and to produce labels individually adapted to the current circumstances. Circumstances are forcing almost all label printers to think about their productivity and flexibility, and to answer for themselves: is a digital press the right choice to reduce fixed costs for the jobs? Or would a narrow web flexo press like the Gallus Labelmaster be better?
Flexibility means more than just choosing the best-suited substrate, ink and process. Printers need to remain flexible -– tomorrow even more than today. Investing in a Gallus press is future-proofed and gives the printer maximum flexibility. Printers can now buy a Gallus Labelmaster with flexo units and decide later on to buy a cold-foil embossing unit or the Digital Printbar “White Edition”. It is all about flexibility.
5. How do you see Brexit affecting sales of label presses in the UK (whether or not a trading deal is reached with the EU, and whatever deal that may be)?
Before Covid-19 we experienced a lot of hesitation in investments into new equipment.
For a lot of our customers, Covid-19 has brought additional business, so that they now need to invest to be able to extend their capacities. But the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit and the possibility that we will face a deal or no-deal situation, has affected the UK economy over the past few years and will continue to do so going forward, especially in a no-deal scenario. We already see larger groups with production sites in Ireland, ramping those up, to be prepared for the worst case.
6. What is Gallus’ strategy for the UK market going forward?
Gallus traditionally has a strong presence where there is a demand for the best quality, such as strong combination printing for high-end, highly embellished labels. With the Gallus Labelmaster we are now addressing the food and pharma industries and commodity labels.
With the Gallus Labelmaster we have developed a machine line that is second to none in terms of productivity and efficiency, in today’s highly competitive label industry. The Gallus Labelmaster allows our customers to reduce their machine set-up times and waste, thus considerably lowering cost of production.
In addition, the Gallus Labelfire digital hybrid printing press is the answer to a changing demand, where runs are becoming shorter and there is a need for personalised labels with more variants.
7. What industry trends do you see playing out, and how will Gallus respond to these?
Besides the trend to shorter runs and the growing demand for more individualisation/versioning, a hybrid press like the Gallus Labelfire is able to offer added value with high cost efficiency, e.g. by producing highly embellished labels. This makes the investment attractive for entrepreneurs, marketing managers, brand owners and start-ups as well. This means there is not just one profile of customers investing in digital printing. The investment decision depends on various requirements.
Another trend worth mentioning is printing with low migration. Currently we are running field tests with the Gallus Labelfire with Low Migration capability. The first field test has already been successfully passed, and the second one is running.
Short runs are of course quite a challenge. However, for run lengths of approximately 3,000 running metres and above, flexo printing is still the main printing process.
Productivity and speed, quick return on investment due to the price-performance-ratio – these are a few of the advantages of flexo presses like our Gallus Labelmaster. A whole range of applications for various market segments are produced with flexo presses, ranging from self-adhesive labels, glue-applied labels, sleeving like (wrap-around and shrink sleeves up to in-mould labels).
Last, but not least, there is the ongoing trend for highly embellished labels. Besides the Gallus Labelfire with the Digital Embellishment Unit and the Gallus Labelmaster with screen printing unit and cold foiling, our flagship Gallus RCS is perfectly suited for highly embellished labels and packaging applications. The printer can integrate almost all printing processes in the Gallus RCS.
8) And finally: where do you see the UK label industry in five- and ten-years’ time?
The ongoing trend of shorter runs, more variants and personalised labels, will continue in the UK as well and intensify the need for a flexible digital printing process. The Gallus Labelfire enables our customers to print digital to a high and, especially, stable quality in an efficient converting inline process – so that you can do it all in one pass and save cost.
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