ome decisions are easy,
even if expensive.
For Sean Kennon and
David Power the decision to buy the ﬁrst Gallus Labelﬁre in the region was deﬁned by two basic parameters speed and metallic ink. The new inkjet press, ﬁrst presented at Labelexpo in late 2015, outputs at 50 metres per minute, well up near the top of the digital engine board. It’s hard to beat, especially when it maintains the same speed no matter how many colours or processes are being employed. The throughput compares well with the actual factory ﬂoor production speeds of most narrow web ﬂexo presses, no matter what the manufacturers may say. With a full production schedule, an increasing number of shorter runs plus the need to boost productivity by eliminating time-consuming make readies, speed was a crucial factor for the Rapid Labels directors.
But there was more. Many high end labels specify silver and metallic inks. The exclusive domain of ﬂexo presses, metallic inks have proven a step too far for digital. True to its Gallus heritage the Labelﬁre 340 is an end-to-end label production system with ﬂexo
to be the tipping point for the two experienced directors, who began their working lives as qualified printers.
Know your strengths
Rapid Labels is a 63-person operation spread over four factories in the outer Melbourne suburb of Bayswater. It has an impressive if eclectic array of label presses, a testimony to the owners’ confidence in their own understanding and
skill of the industry. “We buy what we need, what we think is the best solution at the time,” said
Pride of place is a HP Indigo 6600, the latest in a digital experience that began ﬁve years ago and a technology brand for which Power has nothing but praise. A new Gallus ECS340 is along one wall next to a Gidue M5, facing a Mark Andy P7 8-colour. In the corner is one of the ﬁrst presses the two bought, an Iwasaki 8-colour. Over the years it proved to be a versatile utility press but its 15-mpm speed simply cannot compete in a digital age. It’s set to go to make room for the Labelﬁre 340, to be installed early April.
According to Power it’s practically a perfect mix of presses and gives Rapid Labels all the production ﬁre power it needed, until now.
stations included as part of the
line-up. There are ﬂexo units before and after the digital print unit that in addition to printing metallic can also do spot colours, making it a very ﬂexible machine system.
In addition it’s eight-colour digital inkjet printing can be varnished, laminated, embellished with cold foil and die-cut, all in a single pass. This single pass productivity proved
Australia’s ﬁrst Gallus Labelﬁre 340 inkjet
press is going to leading Melbourne converters, Rapid Labels. The
technology investment heralds a new era in
label production as the landmark press is set to
ﬁre up in production by April. Patrick Howard
went along to ask the
owners of the Bayswater
Sean Kennon and
David Power, what’s in it for them?
Sean Kennon and
To hear him tell it, the mathematics for digital are simple. In a 12-hour shift it takes two to three hours to change over a job on a conventional press. This is industry standard
and unlikely to be improved on anytime soon. Putting two to three jobs per press per shift, which is
not uncommon in the Australian market where print runs are generally shorter than their European and US counterparts, means unproductive changeovers are consuming eight or nine hours out of the 12.
With digital printing changeovers are practically eliminated. When using the same consumables the jobs can simply run one after the other. It’s a no brainer, provided the digital quality can match conventional printing.
This time last year Kennon and Power made the journey to the Gallus factory in Switzerland escorted by James Rodden, Gallus Australia. They took with them a bunch of typical and not so typical Rapid Labels jobs to put the new press through its paces. In the snow-bound test facility at St Gallen, Power had his stopwatch ready for the ﬁrst job, which just happened to use metal ink.
“I was amazed, thirteen seconds later there’s the job printing and the result was better than the conventional sample we’d brought,” he said. “After that I put away the watch. During the afternoon we did ﬁfteen jobs, which would have taken us three shifts. And the quality was better than anything I’ve ever seen, better than conventional, better than anything.
”They were sold, but let’s be honest, the Labelﬁre 340 is not a cheap press. Coming in north of AUD$2 million it’s a serious investment for any business. This is where Kennon comes into his own. Sean has had a lot of experience with label presses and he really does his research and crunches the numbers, so when it came time to choosing the right machine he had to weigh up the speed and print quality to set about proving the business case, which obviously turned out positive. As many another label convertor, he’s not one to share the commercial details of his business, but the proof is in the reality of Rapid Labels being the ﬁrst in the country to have the high-
powered digital inkjet press.
Customers come ﬁrst
Many companies talk abut customer service, about putting customers ﬁrst, but few carry it through to the same degree as Rapid Labels.
reach a decision.
According to Power everyone
that comes on board is thoroughly inducted into the understanding that what the sales people promise has to be carried out, no matter what. This is the living breathing philosophy behind what the company does.
It takes customer service to a whole new level and is the foundation of the business’s long-term success.
When they returned from
Switzerland, the samples were taken and put in front of customers for
their approval. It was unanimous
and with that the deal was done.
“The digital quality was so good even the customers commented on how much better it looked,” said Power. He tells of how using the eight-colour ink set he was able
to ‘fake’ metallic effects, that were quite acceptable for many jobs.
It means that with the Labelﬁre 340 metalized labels can be produced completely digitally, without using the ﬂexo stations.
Time up for ﬂexo?
The extra production capacity makes Rapid Labels into an even more formidable competitor in the market. The directors are convinced that others will soon follow in their footsteps and that the time for buying conventional presses is nearly over.
“We had to ask ourselves, ‘if we bought another ﬂexo press now, what would its value be in ﬁve years time with the speed at which digital inkjet technology is moving?’” said
He also tells of trying to scratch a newly printed UV-cured label with black solids without success. “We only varnish to avoid scufﬁng, that’s what we all do. With the Labelﬁre there’s no need other than perhaps
to give it an extra gloss if the customer wants it,” he said. “Think of the savings.”
As true professionals Kennon and Power have an aversion to appearing naïve or overly enthusiastic. They recognise that the Labelﬁre 340 is new technology. While conﬁdent of the Gallus reputation with Heidelberg backing, there’ll still be challenges in bedding down the new press. Service and backup will be key and you just know that on behalf of meeting their customers expectations the two will be demanding when it comes to expecting support.
“And the quality
was better than
anything I’ve ever
seen, better than
While in Europe last year they visited a big label house in Strasburg with a number of Labelﬁre 340 in operation. They stay in touch and are prepared to share their experence.
With the new press comes Heidelberg Prinect workﬂow, another ﬁrst. James Rodden is pressing them to link in all the other presses into a uniﬁed workﬂow,
but I get the feeling it’s one thing at
Rapid Labels is too established a company for it to be deﬁned by any single investment even one as pioneering as the Labelﬁre 340s. It’ll certainly have an impact and I look forward to revisiting in a year’s time to see how it’s worked out.
Currie Group goes “above and beyond” with Rapid Labels install
Thursday, 28 November 2013
By Nicholas Pond
The install replaces a second-hand HP Indigo 4500 that Rapid Labels picked up as a digital stepping-stone two years ago. Running a conventional press-house, from a Mark Andy P7 to a Gidue M5, Rapid Labels dipped its toe in the digital waters and found the Indigo filled up the work almost immediately, as well as expanding the business into new areas. With customer demand exceeding expectations and capacity, the food and wine label specialists turned to the Currie Group to handle the upgrade.
Speaking with Print21, David Power, general manager, Rapid Labels, said, “We’re floored by the thing. It’s an absolute beauty. It changes the way you think about label printing. It went in over the weekend, and down to the amazing support from the team at Currie’s we were up and running in no time. It’s the best install they’ve ever done.”
Approaching a peak period for the business, management at Rapid Labels were understandably cautious about a full-scale install, but Power is quick to praise the hard work and dedication of Currie Group’s ANZ labels and packaging division general manager, Mark Daws and technician Phil Watt.
“They’re a great team, switched on guys. They’re the reason we’re manufacturing in November. It’s a busy time of year, and we’re flat out. We can’t afford to be out of action for too long. The 4500 was taken out on the Thursday, the WS6600 went in over the weekend and we were up and running live jobs by midday on the Monday. They really went above and beyond,” says Power.
Power adds that with the extra speed of the WS6600, any lost time was caught up by the end of the day. The press increases throughput by as much as 33% on most colour jobs with its Enhanced Productivity Mode, and by 25% when adding white ink, achieving recognisable Indigo quality with greater savings and an increased turnaround. It can produce up to 130 linear feet per minute in colour, and up to 196 linear feet in one or two colour mode.
According to Power the quicker turnarounds not only takes the pressure off meeting customer deadlines, but also frees up Rapid Labels to reinvest the energy and time saved into customer service and support.
“Now there’s not much we can’t do. It’s only been in for a few weeks but it’s already exceeding expectations. There’s a mix of new digital jobs, and some conventional work that we’ve transferred over to digital because it’s a better match for the runs. We had a fair bit of work that we felt was more suited to digital which we can now get through in half the time,” he said.
The WS6600 offers a crossover point in narrow-web high-volume production, compared with analogue, for the majority of pressure-sensitive label jobs. It provides high resolution and registration, and the broadest digital colour range, using up to seven ink stations, achieving up to 97% of the Pantone gamut with on-press simulations or an off-press ink mixing system.
Established in 1982, Rapid Labels has grown under the management of Power and managing director Sean Kennon to operate a team of 35 employees across three factories.
“The best install they’ve ever done.”
Dave Power, general manager, Rapid Labels
Rapid Labels • Factory 1, 25 Stud Road, Bayswater, Victoria, Australia 3153 • Telephone: 03 9720 5350 • Fax: 03 9729 8247 • firstname.lastname@example.org