A company born out of an acquisition in 1999, the origin story of Artex Label & Graphics’ is a unique one. A Michigan coat hanger manufacturer with its own printing department was purchased by a competitor. That competitor did not have an interest in keeping the printing department, leaving the opportunity for a loyal label customer to buy the printing equipment, which included a 7-inch Mark Andy press. That customer was Terry Gruppen, who today is the President of Artex Label & Graphics.
Gruppen started a family-owned company valuing high-quality service and products. In fact, the “Artex” name comes from the “art of excellence”, proving superior quality has always run through the business’ veins.
Artex started creating labels for the food market, which was already familiar to Terry. The “boots on the ground”, “serve people well”, and “do the job right” mentality quickly opened doors and created new opportunities. Sooner than later, the company was running jobs for beverage factories and tackling industrial and prime labels as well, expanding its offering, its team – which today counts with 35 full-time employees and seasonal assistants – and the pressroom.
However, finishing became a bottleneck for them. “As the industry evolved, we started doing a lot of unique numbering and vision inspecting, and even with some high-speed cameras all the processes were starting to slow us down, so we needed another tool in the kit to meet the demands of out the door. We were getting the printing done effectively but needed to match this quality with the post-press finishing,” said Phil Treadway, Office/Project Manager, Artex.
That’s when they decided to purchase the recently launched Rotoflex DF1.
Before choosing the machine, Artex compared it to similar offerings in the market. The decision boiled down to quality control and speed processing, modularity and upgrade capabilities, and the fact they didn’t want to be in the backside of technology. “Also, knowing that this device was going to fit in the family of products that we had really pushed us to consider it above all others. We felt it was it was probably one of the best options that were available to us and we were immediately sold on it,” affirmed Treadway.
Rotoflex DF1 machine installed at Artex. The Michigan converter was seeking advanced finishing technology to combat bottlenecking delays.
The DF1 platform allows for several upgrades, which caught Artex’s attention, and the standard configuration comes with a single flexo station for additional embellishments. “We thought we could make the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of finishers of it. I mean, we know it’s not an all-in-one, but it certainly has a lot of key tools that are helping to get the job done,” said Treadway. “We also had hopes that we could set the DF1 up as a mini press for us, and that can be beneficial. It comes down the line when we want to add an embellishment to an item. For instance, one of our presses is a five-color press, so it makes sense if we have six-color jobs or a spot for us to be able to take that over to the DF1. It helps with really premium press time and throughput,” he adds.
In addition to streamlining their finishing department, using the DF1 for spot varnishes better establishes Artex in the world of higher-end packaging, which is a top demand for industries such as pharma and nutraceutical. Consumers want attractive packaging with a lot of either color, texture, or tactile options. The DF1 provides that option, especially beneficial for their traditional digital press. “The DF1 essentially makes it a hybrid for us,” said Treadway.
Artex customers, like most in the industry, are requesting smaller buys and shorter turnaround times more regularly, even as SKUs continue to increase. But many of these SKUs are the result of new products being tested in the market, limiting customers regarding investment options. That’s where the DF1 semi-rotary really shines, as jobs that historically require a full shift for printing, finishing, and converting can now be done in one-third or half the time due to the speed and robustness of the DF1.
“We had some definite need for it as we were holding back a couple of major projects because we wanted a digital option with offline cutting. Believe it or not, we were actually using our P5 for converting our digital boards in some cases, and we run the P5 about two 10-hour shifts a day. So not being able to use the machine as we were supposed to was harming our productivity,” stated Treadway.
In 2017, the company invested in a brand new 10-station Performance Series P5 flexo press. One year prior, they acquired a Rotoflex VSI, a high-speed roll-to-roll inspection, slitting, and rewinding machine to expand their label converting and finishing capabilities. The two machines propelled them to grow from more of a regional operation to a national one. “The speed and quality of performance of the P5 landed us in markets where we can now work to be number one in the nation in our market,” said Treadway.
The printing company has experienced double-digit percentage of growth for the past two years – a healthy, constant, and steady growth. Projections going into 2021 are optimistic too, with similar expected growth rates as they win new projects for kombucha, nutraceutical supplement, and durable industrial labels, among others.
“Our goals in the last few years have been a continuous improvement plan, working on additional color certification or taking additional measures for quality control. We see this as an ongoing thing, where quality and improvement are non-stop. The Mark Andy family of products and now the Rotoflex DF1 have helped our business to continue to keep pace with other manufacturers and, at some point, even outpace them, and there is intrinsic value in that,” says Treadway. “One of the things that we look for is a good mix of quality, speed, and price, and we feel that Mark Andy and Rotoflex enable us to meet and exceed the goal of offering them to our customers along with the capabilities that will continue to serve them for the long haul,” Treadway adds.
With sights set on future growth and the technology in place to achieve those goals, Artex Label & Graphics has established itself as a premier label provider capable of serving a large portion of the label and packaging market. On their mission to provide their customers with the highest quality custom labels, on time and on budget, with no excuses, Treadway concludes “We’ve been working hard to ensure that we are the best we can be for our customers, and with our pressroom updates and investments in new tech, we believe we are on our way to accomplishing that feat.”