Century Printing & Packaging (CP&P), a family-owned label converting company located in Greer SC, has invested in one of the newly launched Mark Andy Digital Series iQ digital hybrid presses. The Digital Series iQ combines the servo platform and technology from Mark Andy’s popular Evolution Series with the Domino N610i UV-inkjet engine and is firmly targeted at the middle section of the label market where it offers a perfect blend of speed, print quality, and cost-effectiveness.
Established by Neil, Ben, and Don Waldrop in 1997, CP&P started with a Comco Cadet producing two and three-color flexo work. Don and Ben were originally in a textile related business together, and Neil joined after working at the PrintCon Center at Clemson University. Neil recalls: “It was very basic at the beginning, working from a converted bathroom, but it gave us a glimpse of what the future might hold and the confidence to invest and grow the business.” Hopes and plans were nearly brought crashing down when the company’s move to a new 16,000 sq.ft. factory in 2001 coincided with the tragic events of 9/11. “Nobody knew how this would affect the country or the business world, and it was a case of digging deep and focusing on a supplying a quality product with customer service to match,” he added.
Neil and Ben Waldrop with CP&P’s new Mark Andy DSiQ that has given them greater production flexibility and reduced their costs
From these humble beginnings, CP&P has grown into a leading converter of quality labels for a range of markets including newspapers, nutraceutical, chemical, and the food and beverage sectors. From a staff of eight in 2001 the company has grown to employ 26 and now has five Mark Andy flexo presses: three 10” 2200 models and a 13” Performance Series P5, in addition to the new Digital Series IQ. All the flexo presses are eight-color and use water-based technology with UV on the last station for lacquer. “We prefer to work with water-based inks because of the labels we produce for the food industry – and our products are now supplied to 34 States in the US as well as exported to Canada and Australia,” he explained.
The new Digital Series iQ is CP&P’s second Mark Andy digital press, the company having installed a Digital One toner-based line back in 2019. The Digital Series iQ can be configured with up to seven UV inkjet colours (CMYKOV +WW) and converting components integrated to meet each customer’s specific requirements. Print stations, semi rotary vertical die cutting, cold foil, and inline slitting are common options. The CP&P press has a four-color digital capability with three flexo units and Mark Andy’s award-winning QCDC die-cutting unit. It has a production speed up to 230ft/min (70m/min) in high-speed mode and 164 ft/min (50m/min) in high-quality mode, while print resolution is 600 x 600dpi across its 13” (330mm) web.
Though seasoned professionals now, with 25 years of hard work and experience in-house, Neil Waldrop says one of the company’s assets has always been an open-minded approach. “We had no previous print industry experience to draw on so had no pre-conceived ideas. We just kept investing in the latest and best technology we could afford and the Digital One and Digital Series iQ are the latest examples of that.”
Speaking for Mark Andy, Sales Manager John Baer explained the logic behind CP&P’s investment in the Digital Series iQ. “Basically, we focused their attention on the cost to print/job estimation data that we had on file and made available to them. In simple terms, we took their book of business from the previous year and compared all the jobs they ran on their flexo presses with the same jobs costed on a Digital Series iQ. Long story short, running most of the jobs on the Digital Series iQ proved to be more profitable than traditional flexo – even on a Mark Andy flexo press!”
The decision to consider digital capability was based on CP&P’s assessment of a market that was showing clear signs of a shift in demand. Shorter runs lengths, JIT delivery, faster turnarounds, consistent quality, and more added value were among the pressures the company was feeling from its customer base, which is diverse in both size and number. “We invested in the Mark Andy Digital Series iQ press to give us a more competitive space where digital printing is becoming a requirement. It allows us to combine our flexo knowledge with the new technology of inkjet to get vibrant colors with UV inks that provide a high level of consistency and durability,” he explained.
While the Digital One offered a single-pass inline process, the Digital Series iQ takes that a few stages further, and CP&P view the hybrid concept as the most cost-effective way forward in a market where a mix of flexo and digital print will continue to be in high demand. The new press offers a wider range of substrate capabilities and the possibility of grouping jobs together, whether short or long, to give more scheduling flexibility. This has been a key part of CPP’s strategy to deal with the supply-chain challenges all converters have faced in 2021 and 2022.
“We have made a significant investment in this press to position ourselves for growth and to meet customer expectations with the highest technology available in the industry. After four weeks of setup and tremendous support from Mark Andy’s technical team, our press operators were very comfortable with the new technology. In addition, our production and pre-press departments have made it a seamless effort to deliver consistent quality and results for our customers,” he added.
As product consistency is so important, Neil Waldrop has high praise for the durability of the inks used on the Digital Series iQ. With no experience of fade or rub-off, he says there is seldom a need to apply lacquer or lamination to obtain a high-class finish. With a typical order consisting of 42 SKUs in run lengths from 150ft to 3000ft, the lack of plate costs and reduced waste levels on the digital press make it a very competitive tool. Around 85% of CP&P’s work is straight repeat, so color consistency is vital, and while VDP work represents only a small part of the company’s business today, it’s predicted to grow as more customers become aware of its usefulness and applications.
One thing Neil Waldrop stresses is the need for regular cleaning and maintenance to ensure optimum performance with the Digital Series iQ. The benefit is rapid turnaround of high-quality labels with minimal waste and downtime – all of which has allowed CP&P to increase its production volume and variety. “We like to keep all our presses fully scheduled at least one week ahead – and this is no problem with the Digital Series iQ! The seasonality of some of our work is ideally suited to a digital hybrid line, and the new Mark Andy is a perfect fit for that,” he concluded.