June 14, 2017 | Mark Andy Inc.

Converter Q&A: Growing with Entry-Level Digital Hybrid

Blair Labeling is a pressure sensitive label converter making waves in the Colorado packaging market. As an early adopter of Mark Andy’s entry-level digital hybrid solution, the company is seeing success with Digital One and the newfound versatility of a multi-platform workflow.

Currently residing in the heart of Denver, their team calls a 30,000 square foot facility equipped with 6 label presses “home”. With run lengths ranging from a thousand to millions of labels, the 22 employees at Blair have seen it all and produce a little bit of everything – health and beauty, cannabis, and craft spirits to name a few.

The following comments are from a Q&A session conducted with Marco De La Vega of Blair Labeling. You may recognize Marco from his contributions to Label & Narrow Web’s recent webinar “Cracking the Digital Code: 3 Converters Share How They Leverage Hybrid Technology”.

Below Marco dives into his experience with Digital One, partnering with Mark Andy, and how the recent purchase has elevated their business.

Q: What did your selection process look like? With Digital One launching nearly a year ago at Labelexpo Americas, did you attend the show looking to invest in a digital future?

“We went to Labelexpo in anticipation of purchasing a digital solution. We had been in contact with Mark Andy regarding Digital One since its’ initial inception and were very interested, but we still needed validation that this was the best fit for us. My family looked at other competitors and saw the digital presses offered at the show.

We collectively made the decision that the Digital One was the best press offered at the right price point to get us started in digital. Plus it was the only solution that was the total package- everything offered inline. After nearly 6 months of production, we have yet to be disappointed with that decision.”

14370445_1187039027985536_2225445358143209536_n.jpgBlair Labeling celebrates their press acceptance with Mark Andy at Labelexpo Americas 2016

Q: Did your company have any prior experience with short-run or digital work?

“Before we had been outsourcing our small run digital work. We took on the majority of these orders as a favor to our existing customer base but didn’t have technology in house to profitably support it. When we started to advertise that we had a digital solution, short run work starting pouring in. Now we don’t need to outsource and are running the press like crazy.”

Q: Did you have to make any adjustments to integrate Digital One within your pressroom?

“We really didn’t have to do much to ‘prep’ our shop for this digital press. One of the best attributes of this press is that it’s a self-contained unit. No need for a clean room and no need to worry about dust in the area. We run a lot of work that creates dust and when all of the presses are running, even if there is “dust” in the air we have not seen a decline in print quality. Ultimately, we replaced one of our existing presses with Digital One.”

Q: What kind of work keeps your Digital One busy?

“The work we are primarily running on the Digital One are complex applications. We are continuing to push the limits on what work we do on press. One of our biggest customers in the Cannabis space is running the majority of the work they bring to us on the digital press because the market that they are in is pretty volatile in terms of regulatory changes. Those jobs alone keep the press pretty swamped.”

_DSC2491.jpgSample work on shelves at Blair

Q: After 6 months of production, the results have to be in. Can you share anything regarding performance and success with the digital label press?

“This press has opened up our traditional flexo presses and given us another tool to churn out labels faster. It’s saved us on more than a few occasions when timing didn’t work in our favor and the customer needed lower volume product fast.

It eliminates the need to charge some customers for plates too. They essentially pay a small “price premium” for the digital labels but are in love with the quality. It’s more “low-cost” in comparison to a job with plate changes and the longer turn times. A week’s worth of work for this customer is turning into a few days with zero registration issues. We’re proud of a 45% increase in productivity with a 20% decrease in waste.”

Q: Do you see digital hybrid printing shaping the future of your business?

“In our mindset, we view hybrid as an opportunity to not only provide high-quality labels at a very competitive price but ultimately to start relationships with small companies who will eventually grow and fill our larger presses. This press has given us a great way to get in the door and establish relationships with up and coming companies in the area. It’s kind of our mission at Blair.

Our honey account is a good example. They were one of our smallest clients years ago. Despite the small size, we valued them as we would a large company requesting millions of labels per job. Now, they are one of the largest suppliers of honey in the country and we value the partnership deeply. We’ve both grown together, and that’s pretty cool.”

_DSC2498.jpgMarco De La Vega prepping a file for print on the entry-level hybrid label printer

Key Takeaways

Blair’s decision to purchase the Digital One has enabled them to grow their business and increase productivity.

After talking with multiple employees at Blair, it’s evident they enjoy working with other family-owned and operated businesses. Their situations hit home. Any struggle shared, Blair knows all too well and has been there personally. As a true consultant to their customer, they guide partners through the maze that is labels. They offer fair pricing, making loyalty to the converter even more strong in such a turbulent industry.

Blair hopes to purchase another hybrid unit by the end of next year. Rumor has it that the newfound growth post-digital is also pushing the business to explore expanding into a larger, 50,000 square foot facility. Plenty of extra room for more hybrids, which they stand behind as the future of print and the future of their business.

To learn more about Blair Labeling, visit their website.