The Label Printers, a label manufacturer headquartered in Aurora, IL, USA, produces billions of labels every year, selling to customers all over the US as well as throughout the world. Supported by 70 employees, the company serves a wide range of markets, including security, pharmaceutical, point of purchase and food, and uses numerous presses (Mark Andy, HP, Webtron, Aquaflex,) and rewinders (Ash and Arpeco).
This year, the company celebrates 50 years in business. Growth has come over the course of a half century both organically and by acquisition. The company doubled its size in 1985 and added a second building in 1996. The Label Printers’ facilities total 94,000 square feet of modern, efficient manufacturing space with plenty of room for continued expansion.
Overseeing the company's growth is Bill Kane, who started as an assistant production manager and the company’s seventh employee. Kane was made a partner at The Label Printers in 1977, and became its chief executive in 1993. According to Kane, "The Label Printers has 'since day one' been about quality. No matter how big or how small the order is, it doesn’t leave here unless the order is right. And we have quality control systems to help us do just that.”
The Label Printers uses inspection systems throughout the plant, and the team clearly understands their use and their value. The company has both a strategy and the technology in place to insure quality for their customers. They inspect on press with BST eltromat video cameras and on their re-winders with BST eltromat Shark 100% inspection systems; which they started using eight years ago.
On press, the inspection systems are used to check that the job is in register, but that is just one small part of the inspection done by the operators during label manufacturing. They use the cameras to look at several critical areas of the label, such as traps, process print, vignettes, reverse print, etc. The camera is an essential tool in their on-press inspection process.
Production Manager Tom Erickson explains, “The camera is not parked on a register mark – that’s the worst thing you can do. Especially now with the new POWERScope 5000 systems from BST eltromat, where you can program five different areas.” Using the systems correctly to inspect the entire repeat and all the critical elements of the labels is impressed upon the operators from the very beginning. Added Erickson, “We want the operators to use the systems to their full capacity and they are not going to do that by letting the camera sit on one place.” When the inspection system is installed on a machine, the operators are trained on how to use it correctly.” They know that every roll has to be checked and signed off on by Quality Control, so they use it to build quality into the production process.
Some time ago, The Label Printers made a decision to put 100% inspection on their re-winders rather than the presses, for a variety of reasons. They feel they have more versatility putting them on the re-winders, and they can perform 100% inspection on those jobs that need it and use it for those customers that both want it and are willing to pay for it.
The Label Printers has several re-winders, four of which have BST eltromat Shark 100% inspection systems. They have Shark 4000 systems, on Ash and Arpeco machines, which are used on pharmaceutical labels, and capable of identifying very small defects. They also have two BST eltromat Shark 1000 systems, both on Arpecos. Said Erickson, “We don’t need that detailed inspection for the jobs we run on those two slitters. So the Shark 1000’s are a good fit.” This combination enables the company to offer the full range of inspection levels – from visual inspection through automated 100% inspection – to meet the varying needs of its customers.
A pharmaceutical essential
On the subject of industries where inspection capability is essential, Kane says, “If you want to be in the pharmaceutical printing business you need to have 100% inspection. We do a lot of pharmaceutical labels. If you have bad labels with missing print or missing color on a pharmaceutical product, it causes a major problem. They have to shut the line down, they have to inspect maybe two days’ worth of product. We know of printers that have been decertified for certain accounts because they let that happen.”
As for benefits, Kane and Erickson both feel the greatest value of 100% inspection technology to them, has been its impact on helping them keep existing customers and attracting new customers.
Having 100% inspection has “enabled us to keep several of the customers we already have. Without, it’s a possibility we don’t keep some of those customers,” said Erickson. And it has clearly helped them attract new customers. Erickson told the story of a pharmaceutical customer that had a job with a color bar across the web, which the previous supplier could not consistently provide. “Because we have the Shark system, we can ensure that we give them the products they need, and guarantee that color bar is correct.” In addition, Kane was also quite certain about the investment value of 100% inspection systems. He suggested that those label printers that do not have 100% inspection should consider the cost to replace a lost account. “If you have customers that require that depth of quality, what is it worth to you to lose that account?” Therein lies one simple justification for the investment in 100% inspection that is easily quantified by any label printer. The Label Printers has inspection systems from BST North America throughout the plant. The company has a long working relationship with BST eltromat, going back to the days of BST Pro Mark. BST eltromat is the preferred supplier for inspection technology at The Label Printers for many reasons – reputation and past experience with BST eltromat inspection systems, the fact that their offices are less than an hour away and they had a working relationship, and the local sales rep, Klaus Kraetzer. “We have a really good relationship with Klaus,” says Erickson. “Quite frankly, I couldn’t ask for a better sales person. Not only can he sell them, but he helps install them and he trains the operators.” This is one of the competitive advantages BST North America has for all label companies in North America – sales people with years of experience, in-depth knowledge, and understanding of the products. Finally, when asked how well the Shark 100% inspection systems work, Erickson said they are simple and very intuitive, and said he has had no problems. As for The Label Printers’ overall satisfaction with the 100% inspection systems, on a scale of 1 to 10, Erickson says he “would rate it a 10.”