Reflecting on 2024 So Far: Century Printing and Packaging’s Milestones and Observed Market Trends

As we stand at the midpoint of the year, Century Printing and Packaging takes a moment to reflect on the milestones achieved, strides made, and advancements moving our industry. CP&P has seen great progress and has established strategic initiatives that set the stage for the next six months to improve and innovate for every client.

Century Printing and Packaging has achieved remarkable success this year, having sold over 85 million labels and fulfilled over 3,000 orders. This substantial volume highlights CP&P’s ability and dedication to meeting high demand while maintaining top-notch execution. The presence of a well-organized team working in unison has been instrumental in reaching these impressive milestones.

Let’s uncover some direct impacts to better understand what led to Century Printing and Packaging’s success in the year’s first half.

According to an article on LinkedIn, the Chemical Resistant Labels Market is projected to grow by 13.6% from 2024 to 2031. CP&P has focused on the chemical segment, which has led to their growth and expertise in providing specialized labeling solutions for this industry. Keeping up with this rapidly growing market shows their ability to meet the specific needs of chemical manufacturers, ensuring safety and compliance through durable and long-lasting labeling solutions.

Another reason for the remarkable success witnessed in 2024 is the sale of RFID labels. Century Printing and Packaging has taken the necessary steps to integrate itself into the new world of RFID labeling, not only to understand the industry’s changes but also to position the team as experts in the space. CP&P also intends to invest in encoding equipment for RFID labels within the year, bolstering its capability to stay current with future RFID trend needs.

In line with technological advancements, CP&P is exploring the purchase of a second digital press by the end of the year. This investment will empower the team to proactively assess and respond to customers’ evolving needs. By incorporating additional production bandwidth through introducing new presses, CP&P will have the capacity to accommodate a broader range of customer requirements.

Next, let’s examine market dynamics and customer trends that are significantly contributing to CP&P’s 2024 growth.

We are all experiencing the impact of inflation in one way or another, but one positive effect is the growing favor for store brands over name brands. A significant number of CP&P’s customers produce store brands, and this change in consumer preference has directly boosted sales. You may have already observed the trend of store brands occupying more space in shopping carts as consumers actively seek budget-friendly alternatives to name brands. Read more about this trend in the Wall Street Journal.

In contrast to last year, when supply chain disruptions presented significant challenges, 2024 has witnessed more stable supply chains. Century Printing and Packaging has taken proactive measures by expanding its pool of materials suppliers. This move ensures cost competitiveness and swift production timelines without any delays. The newfound stability has enabled CP&P to prioritize delivering consistent quality and reliability to their customers, even amid ongoing uncertainties in global supply chains.

Lastly, let’s dive into some strategic initiatives that CP&P has taken that will lead them into a flourishing 2025.

Century Printing and Packaging has conducted extensive studies on setup costs in response to customers’ heightened price sensitivity. This research has allowed them to refine existing pricing models, ensuring competitive quotes while maintaining profitability. By understanding the detailed costs of each production run, CP&P can provide customers with the best possible pricing without compromising quality.

Century’s workforce remains a cornerstone of their yearly success. CP&P takes pride in having a stable and dedicated team with the right people in the right positions, driving operations forward without interruption. A unified team, all pushing in the same direction, will fortify CP&P against any challenges that come their way in the second half of the year.

Looking ahead to the second half of 2024, Century Printing and Packaging is confident in its ability to continue providing high-value labels at every price point to its customers. The strategic investments mentioned above, strong production capabilities, and stable supply chains position CP&P well for future growth.

Century Printing and Packaging wouldn’t be here today without the support of its customers, partners, and team members for their continued collaboration and dedication. Together, CP&P is looking forward to achieving even greater milestones in the coming months and years.

Thank you for being a part of the journey.

The Art of a Quote

In the labeling realm, the quote process is the bedrock of the communication between a vendor and a customer. With a remarkable 27 years of industry expertise, Century Printing and Packaging comprehends and masters the intricate details of providing precise and competitive quotes that meet clients’ needs. Several factors come into play when preparing a quote for a label job. These include the size of the label, the number of colors required, and the intended end use of the label. One of the most important considerations is the specific standards that the client requires. This could include a wide range of factors, such as the type of materials used, the branding strategy, and the overall design and aesthetic of the product.

Material selection is critical, where a delicate balance between value and quality must be struck. Clients often seek materials that are both cost-effective and durable. CP&P has demonstrated exceptional proficiency in identifying this ideal equilibrium, ensuring that the selected materials meet the requisite performance criteria and remain economical, assuring the cost-effectiveness and durability of materials.

Pricing for label jobs is typically based on a per-thousand-label basis. The higher the quantity, the lower the per-thousand cost, as the setup cost for the label can be spread out across a larger unit size. This pricing model offers competitive rates while maintaining high-quality standards. By updating their pricing models regularly and sourcing materials from multiple vendors, Century Printing and Packaging ensures they provide the best quality at the best price.

A labeling quote includes a detailed breakdown of all aspects of the label production process. This includes the choice of materials, whether paper or film, the type of laminate or coating to be applied, and the size and configuration of the label rolls. The quote also itemizes any costs associated with tooling, such as tooling required for custom shapes or sizes. This level of detail ensures that clients understand the production process and associated costs, allowing them to make informed decisions that align with their labeling needs and budget constraints.

Additionally, CP&P meets the 9001:2015 International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard. The ISO sets international standards for quality management systems to ensure that products and services meet customer requirements and regulatory standards. Century Printing and Packaging’s ISO quality system is crucial in its operations, particularly in the labeling quote process.

ISO standards provide a framework for companies to establish, maintain, and implement standardized processes and procedures to ensure that every label meets the highest quality standards. One key aspect of CP&P’s ISO quality system is a checklist integrated into its production process. This checklist serves as a comprehensive guide for press operators and managers. It outlines the critical steps and quality checks needed during the label setup and production process. It covers aspects such as ensuring the correct die-cut, verifying that graphics match the proof, and confirming that the right materials are used.

Century Printing and Packaging is acutely aware of the significance of environmental sustainability in labeling. While clients may express a preference for sustainable materials, their availability and cost can pose challenges. Century Printing and Packaging’s approach is to harmonize client preferences with practicality, ensuring they offer environmentally friendly options whenever possible, thereby reassuring clients of their commitment to ethical practices.

Undoubtedly, the process of labeling quotes is a multifaceted and critical aspect of the labeling industry. It involves intricate scrutiny of factors such as label size, material, design, and printing techniques to arrive at an accurate and cost-effective quote. Century Printing and Packaging has earned a reputation as an experienced and reliable player in the industry, adept at effortlessly navigating these complexities and delivering exceptional results at the right price.

The Anatomy of a Label

Understanding the breakdown of a label is important to visualize how each layer works together. A label comprises five main components: the coating, ink, substrate, adhesive, and liner. The topmost layer of the label, the coating, sits on top of the ink to enhance its appearance and color. The coating can be either laminate or varnish. Laminate provides enhanced protection, offers a more comprehensive barrier, and acts like a giant piece of masking tape, enforcing strength and the ability to last for long periods of time. In comparison, varnish provides the flexibility of being applied to a selective part of the label if required. Varnish coatings can be water-based or UV-based, offering different looks and feel depending on the customer’s preference.

The ink layer beneath the coating is arguably the most significant part of any printed label. It is responsible for conveying all the vital information and aesthetic elements. Choosing the right ink also involves many degrees of customization and variation. You can learn more about the differences between water-based and UV inks here.

The next layer is the substrate, which refers to the material on which the label is printed. It plays a critical role in determining the label’s performance and durability. The substrate affects the label’s ability to withstand environmental conditions such as contact with liquid, heat, and light exposure. It also impacts the label’s ability to adhere to different surfaces and maintain its original look over time.

Different substrate materials can be chosen based on cost constraints and the label’s intended use. For instance, a paper label is suitable for general information on a box where resilience and environmental factors are not significant concerns. However, a film label is preferred in outdoor or challenging environments, such as labels on lawnmowers, electrical boxes, or food products that undergo cooking processes. Film labels are more resilient and can withstand harsh conditions, such as extreme temperatures, grease, and moisture. Regarding food labels, additional restrictions and regulations ensure that the materials used are safe for direct food contact and meet FDA standards for food packaging materials. Understanding the impact of substrate choice on label performance is essential in ensuring the label’s longevity and functionality.

The adhesive of a label is the most technical aspect of labeling, particularly in the context of pressure-sensitive labels, where the bond strength between the label and its substrate is paramount. As such, attention must be given to the adhesive’s characteristics, including its composition, tack, and viscosity. Failure to consider these factors can lead to issues such as label peeling or detachment, which can undermine the label’s functionality and aesthetic appeal.

The adhesive’s performance is influenced by factors such as how quickly it needs to stick and the environmental conditions it will endure. It is essential to use adhesives rated for specific temperature ranges during their application and use. Labels may need to be applied at one temperature but then subjected to different temperatures, such as flash freezing. The adhesive must withstand these temperature changes without losing its ability to stick or causing the label to crack and peel. A label that fails to adhere properly can negatively impact the product’s perceived quality, potentially leading to decreased sales.

The last label component is the liner, which serves as a protective backing for the adhesive until it is applied. Typically composed of paper or film, the liner prevents the adhesive from losing its properties before use and ensures optimal performance upon application. While this may seem straightforward, choosing the right liner is crucial, as the wrong liner can lead to lost time, production delays, and wasted material.

Century Printing and Packaging is passionate about staying at the forefront of advancements in labeling technology. Recent developments have been transformative, including the creation of thinner, higher-performance films that offer superior toughness and performance. The emergence of new adhesives specifically designed for harsh environments, such as those with high humidity, has opened up new possibilities for label production. Advancements in die-cutting tools have led to more precise and efficient label production.

The final product of a label is a testament to the expertise and meticulous attention to detail of label manufacturers. Selecting the appropriate coatings, inks, substrates, adhesives, and liners for each client is a complex task that requires deep understanding and experience. Century Printing and Packaging, with a 27-year track record in the labeling industry, has developed a sterling reputation and proven expertise in choosing and producing labels at a high level. Their comprehensive understanding of label components and longstanding commitment to exceeding customer expectations make them the best choice when looking for a label partner.

Mastering the Science of Flexo Press Set-Up

Achieving impeccable results in labeling demands creativity, design finesse, and meticulous attention to the technical aspects of the printing process. Among the various printing methods, flexography, or flexo printing, stands out for its versatility and efficiency in producing high-quality labels. However, mastering the setup of a flexo press run is essential to harness the full potential of flexo printing

Flexography is a modern printing technique that utilizes flexible relief plates to transfer ink onto substrates, such as paper, film, or metallic foil. This method is favored for label printing and unsupported films because it can accommodate various materials and produce vibrant, durable, impactful prints. When running a flexo press, preparation is critical to ensure a successful outcome.

At Clemson University, one of my professors, Page Crouch, taught me a simple yet powerful statement that has stuck with me: “Design for success.” This statement holds a lot of significance, emphasizing the importance of careful planning and consideration in every step of the label process. It means that every decision, from the smallest details to the big picture, should be made with the ultimate goal of achieving success.

At every pre-press stage, optimization for the best outcome is key. Preparing the artwork starts with the label design for flexo printing. This involves carefully selecting appropriate colors, defining trapping and overprinting settings (which refer to the techniques used to prevent gaps or overlaps between adjacent colors in a print), using printable fonts and point size, and setting up dieline and bleed specifications. A dieline is a graphic element that serves as a template or guide to create a die, which is then used to cut or shape the label substrate.

When preparing for the flexo printing process, creating high-quality flexographic plates is crucial to reproduce the design elements accurately. Laser engraving is commonly used to make these plates, as it can achieve curves and other specifications that result in precise and accurate prints on the press. This translates to a high-quality, impactful final print that meets the design and application requirements.

Consistency in color is also critical in flexo printing. Color management practices are implemented to achieve this, including calibrating color profiles and performing color proofs to verify color accuracy before printing. Ensuring the desired effect in the print is achieved when the ink hits the substrate results in consistent color across different printing runs.

After the prepress steps have been performed, the next order of business is setting up the press. This stage involves choosing the appropriate label substrate based on the application requirements and selecting ink formulations compatible with the preferred substrate. These first steps ensure that the substrate is clean, free from dust or debris, and properly conditioned to minimize static electricity. Ink viscosity adjustments are also conducted to achieve optimal ink transfer and color density to meet desired color specifications.

Next, the press setup agenda involves carefully mounting the flexographic plates onto the printing cylinders to ensure proper alignment with the cutting die. Once the plates are firmly secured using tapes or adhesive materials, it’s time to choose the appropriate anilox rolls based on the desired ink coverage and resolution requirements. Fine-tuning the printing pressure settings to achieve optimal contact between the plates, anilox rolls, and substrate is a prerequisite to avoiding excessive pressure, which can lead to plate distortion, wrong color, or substrate deformation.

When printing labels with multiple colors, meticulous calibration of the registration settings is essential to maintain accurate alignment. This prevents design elements from shifting and compromising the final product’s quality. Regularly monitoring and adjustment of ink density levels ensure consistent color intensity and coverage. Quality inspections, including the use of cameras to zoom in and monitor print quality, are a must throughout the press setup process to identify misregistration, color variations, or print imperfections.

Post-press setup is just as important as the prepress and press setup stages. Regular maintenance tasks, such as cleaning ink chambers, doctor blades, and anilox rolls, prevent ink buildup and maintain printing consistency. Replacing worn-out or damaged components as needed is a proactive measure to avoid production disruptions. By performing these tasks regularly, you can keep your equipment in top shape, extend its lifespan, and maximize its performance for each label job.

At Century Printing and Packaging, we believe in fostering a culture of continuous learning and knowledge sharing among our team. We understand the importance of mastering the art of flexo press setup for label printing, as it unlocks the full potential of flexography and enables us to deliver outstanding results that meet the highest standards of quality and efficiency. Our team is trained to focus on every aspect of flexo press setup, from selecting the proper plates and inks to ensuring optimal ink transfer, registration, and consistency. Our commitment to due diligence ensures we deliver exceptional results with every label job, from pre-press preparation to press setup procedures to post-setup optimization.

Leading the Way in RFID Labeling

Staying ahead of the curve is essential in the rapidly evolving labeling industry. The Century Printing and Packaging team, led by the expertise of Ben and Neil, has made it their goal to advance with the movement toward RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) labels. Recently, they attended a conference at Auburn University, where they were immersed in the latest trends and requirements in the RFID labeling sector.

Auburn University’s RFID lab, a beacon of innovation in Radio-Frequency Identification technology, is pivotal in advancing RFID applications across various sectors and helping businesses integrate this technology into their operations effectively. Through its cutting-edge research and hands-on approach, Auburn’s RFID lab is shaping the future of this revolutionary technology and its impact, providing reassurance about the industry’s progress.

Ben and Neil traveled to Auburn University’s RFID conference on Wednesday, April 3rd & Thursday, April 4th, in Auburn, Alabama. Their mission was simple: learn from experts in the industry, network with peers, and gain a deeper understanding of how RFID technology is reshaping the packaging landscape. The annual conference at Auburn University is a pivotal event for those looking to stay ahead by gaining the essential expertise to educate their teams and customers. The conference was centered around source tagging and RFID technology, which provided valuable insights into the latest trends, requirements, and best practices in the field. With workshops, presentations, and discussions conducted by leading experts, the two days spent in Auburn offered a comprehensive and informative experience that will be influential in the early and later stages of RFID adoption. One key trend discussed at the conference is the increasing adoption of RFID tags by major retailers like Walmart. These tags are now a requirement for many products, and Auburn University’s RFID lab plays a crucial role in approving packages with RFID tags.

Packaging providers, like CP&P, play a crucial role in this shift towards RFID technology, eventually leading to the natural extinction of the universal, widely accepted barcode. As retailers and other industries increasingly adopt RFID tags for their products, packaging providers are instrumental in integrating these tags into their everyday solutions. The ARC lab prioritizes partnering with packaging providers to ensure their active involvement in the RFID process. This essential collaboration ensures that businesses have a thorough understanding of the process and are prepared to use this information to shape future decisions.

One of the main challenges in adopting RFID technology is the possibility of signal interference with certain products. Materials like metal or products that contain liquids might obstruct or weaken RFID signals, making it hard to read tags accurately. It is essential to recognize that onboarding and verification are critical, particularly in situations involving products with these characteristics.

As exemplified by their attendance at the conference, Century Printing and Packaging is not just keeping pace with industry changes but leading the way. They’ve received positive feedback from previous RFID initiatives and are already seeing customer requests based on their expertise. While at the conference, Ben and Neil engaged with multiple vendors regarding equipment and possible investment in the future. This investment will ensure they can offer customers more integrated and efficient solutions while meeting major retailers’ evolving requirements.

As RFID technology progresses, it’s poised to replace barcodes as a ubiquitous labeling solution. The food market, in particular, is expected to see significant growth in RFID adoption to help with issues such as traceability and rotation. CP&P aims to educate its customers and help them choose the best solutions. By providing cost-effective options and staying on top of future demands, they ensure their customers are well-equipped to meet the challenges of an increasingly RFID-driven market.

Century Printing and Packaging’s commitment to innovation and customer satisfaction sets them apart as a leader in the RFID labeling industry. With their proactive approach and dedication to excellence, they’re well-positioned to meet the ever-changing pressures of the market and provide the best solutions to their customers.