Ballouhey SAS is a family printing company located in Saint Marcellin, in the beautiful Auvergne Rhone-Alpes region of southeast France. Traditionally a sheet-fed offset house with some digital capacity, Ballouhey invested in a Mark Andy Digital One press in 2018 and most recently has added its successor, the Mark Andy Digital Pro to its production portfolio.
Established originally in 1908, Ballouhey Imprimeurs is now in fifth-generation ownership and management, and has built an enviable reputation in the food packaging industry for the quality of its printed labels, paper wraps and folding cartons, all of which are certified as ‘food safe’.
Up to 2000, its print capability had always been sheet-fed letterpress and subsequently offset, and today the company has a modern six-color Manroland press with varnish capability that handles dry labels (wet glue) and folding cartons. The company moved into digital print around 20 years ago and today has the capacity for sheeted work.
But it was in 2018 that it took a closer look at what web-fed digital could offer, as Managing Director, Fabien Ballouhey explained: “The volume of work we were sub-contracting to digital printers was growing fast and we felt the time had come to bring it back in-house. The Mark Andy Digital One appealed to us because it was simple to operate and allowed us to print and finish in one pass.”
Digital One, like the new Digital Pro, needs no clean-room environment and is a servo-driven dry toner-based press designed to offer high-quality print at a low level of investment. Even with its small footprint, it still offers a 330mm web width and can handle a variety of substrates, without the need to use the full web width. It prints CMYK at 1200dpi at speeds up to 19m/min, while its flexo station can add spot color, varnishing, laminating, or cold foil, before die-cutting and slitting. It is also fitted with an air-cooled LED-UV lamp, and requires only a single-phase power supply.
Press Operator Véronique Chenaoui with Ballouhey’s new Mark Andy Digital Pro 3 line at the company’s plant in Saint Marcellin, France
For Ballouhey, Digital One solved the problem short term, but as demand grew and volumes increased it became clear that extra capacity was needed and in April 2021 the company installed the latest Mark Andy Digital Pro line. The new machine builds on the performance capability of its predecessor, increasing running speed to 23.4m/min across a range of substrates from self-adhesive stock to films. Usefully, Digital Pro is scalable, allowing Ballouhey to update its specification to meet new demands. For example, the hybrid print station can be located before or after the digital engine, and in Ballouhey’s case, the die-cutting unit is semi-rotary as opposed to fully rotary.
“The semi-rotary die station is much easier to use, gives better register, and has reduced make-ready times. We are already seeing a 30% saving and are aiming for 50%, which makes a significant difference on short-run jobs, especially combined with the faster production speed. Overall, we think the Digital Pro will be twice as productive as Digital One,” he added.
Typical work for the Digital One at Ballouhey was 300 – 400m of substrate printed four-color and mostly with varnish to seal the surface for use as primary food packaging. With the Digital Pro, run lengths have increased to typically 3000 – 5000m, and now one in three of all jobs at the company is handled by the new press. Since bringing the digital work back in-house Ballouhey has seen a 150% growth in demand, and this has reset the balance of work the company produces from 70:30 offset to digital to nearer 60:40, and digital is continuing to grow.
Currently, most of the company’s output is for French customers, but Ballouhey is looking to grow its export business to markets in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and the UK – but it intends to keep to its specialty of food packaging. “We have FSSC 22000, IFS and BRC accreditation for food compliance, and are very proud of our Imprim Vert certification that we achieved back in 2005. This is a commitment to environmental protection based on recycling, pollution prevention, and energy reduction,” he said.
Ballouhey takes its responsibilities very seriously in this area, seeing recycling not as the marketing tool used by some companies, but as long-term strategy for running a successful business. Its commitment to the cause influences its choice of substrates and adhesives and resulted in it the company winning a prize at the Etiq et Pack Annual Awards for a washable label produced on the Mark Andy press.
Fabien Ballouhey is successfully building on what his forefathers established over 110 years ago, with sales showing a 20% increase year on year. A staff of 15 will generate nearly €2m of turnover in 2021, and much of the growth has come from the investments the company has made in Mark Andy digital technology.