The Digital IQ Series Hybrid Press: A Game Changer

Since Guttenberg invented the moveable type press in 1449 there have been incredible advances and changes to the printing and packaging industry. Gutenberg would be surprised to see how far his invention has come in the ensuing years and the technology behind it.

In recent years the demand for shorter runs (think on-time shipping) from clients has never been greater. Instead of stockpiling labels as in the past manufacturers have adopted a “just in time” shipping method like the auto industry. Customers today want consistency and the unique combination of flexo and digital helps produce the quality they want on every run. These new demands have created a change in the printing and packaging industry. Printers must now be able to supply labels and packaging with shorter turnaround times. This means that industry standards must change for the new wave of supply and demand. Investing in printers that are capable of short turnarounds with stellar imaging, color and detail are the new norm.

Century Printing and Packaging has been studying these industry trends and invested heavily in the future of digital printing. Our company made a major investment in digital-hybrid printing technology in order to meet the demands of our customers, improve the quality of the end product, cut down on waste for the environment and deliver stellar imaging. We invested in the Mark Andy Digital IQ Series hybrid press to give us more competitive space where digital printing is becoming a requirement. It allows us to use the flexibility of our flexographic knowledge accumulated from 25 years in addition to the new technology of inkjet to get vibrant colors with uv inks that provide a high level of consistency and durability.

We expect it to increase production and throughput because the Digital IQ series hybrid printer runs at a faster rate than the press we are replacing. In terms of our customers it gives them a wider range of materials that can be printed digitally and opens up opportunities for efficiency with technology that we did not have previously. Because of the consistent nature of the inkjet and the very low set up footage required.

The new technology allows us to group jobs together very easily so we can run them whether short or large for the same customer and gives us a lot of flexibility in scheduling we did not have previously. We have made a significant investment in this press to position ourselves for growth and to meet customer expectations with the highest technology possible within the industry. After four weeks of setup and a lot of manpower from Mark Andy’s staff, our press operators are feeling comfortable with the new technology. In addition to our production department needing training, our pre-press department has made this a seamless effort to deliver consistent quality and results for our clients. Both departments have worked harmoniously to produce stellar imaging and product.

It cuts down the amount of mechanical work that needs to go into adjusting a press to match the color of an existing product. Because of the 60 ft versus 150 ft. per minute and the inkjet technology versus the dry toner technology previously used the speed and throughput will help us increase the amount we can produce on a daily basis.

We are excited to show this technology to our customer base and work with their creative departments to figure out the best use for each of our customers and our partnerships.

John Baer is the Regional Sales Mgr for the digital line of Mark Andy for the Ohio Valley Region:

Why is this printer so revolutionary?

Mark Andy has been successfully manufacturing flexo and converting equipment for 75 years. We’ve been successfully converting and manufacturing machines making labels for 75 years. We introduced digital into our inventory so we could go with more proven technology to keep up with the customer requests, shorter runs, quicker turnaround times, and lean manufacturing.

Advantages of the Hybrid?

The advantage of running digital is it meets the demand for turning around labels at a faster pace with much less inventory. The days of customers ordering thousands and thousands of labels are over, they want shorter runs to use for their current orders and needs.

With digital presses you take the digital concept you have on your desktop from your marketing or pre-press team and they can manipulate the artwork and save it into a pdf or illustrator and rip the file to the digital printer and from there the operator can within minutes start the machine and print that very label.

Flexo has come a long, long way, the quality of flexo over the last twenty years with technology has been incredible. However, with digital, you are taking the ink, with dry toner, inkjet, and spraying the image onto a label directly and the human interaction is minimal. However, with flexo, you still have to fire up the press, mount the plates, mix the inks properly, and do many other steps where there is a lot of interaction between the machine and operators where mistakes can still take place. With digital printing, the only interaction is feeding the artwork from the hot file and inputting the quantity you need. The machine starts up and you are ready to print.

Now the great thing is that you have the best of both worlds because the Digital IQ machine is built off the Mark Andy evolution series press. That press is part of our P-series designs and we have been selling this technology for over a decade with industry-leading results. The Flexo P-Series was one step before digital. Mark Andy designed a servo register driven system and web handling system to get the press into the register for all the final colors you need much faster than the older flexo presses that ran line shafts. The Digital IQ has a pre-register on the press which dramatically saves on waste. You can pre-register the press before it starts to run and by having it in registration faster and after one revolution the servo kicks in and registers each print with the quality you want immediately so it’s ready to print much faster than a flexo printer.

Century has been an outstanding partner of Mark Andy for many years and we know and appreciate Ben and Neil Waldrop and all of their business over the years. Over time Ben and Neil saw there was a need to get into new markets of labels and keep producing the quality labels they have always produced. They wanted to update their technology and lead in the marketplace. So they called us and wanted something with new technology and digital. They knew this would be a significant investment but they also knew the payoff could be successful for their customers. So we went down to Greer, South Carolina, met with Ben and Neil, and took all of their artwork for all the labels they ran for a year. We did a case study and analysis, how many colors, size of the label, amount and quantity of the runs, and so forth. We compared it to our flexo presses and built a worksheet and compared running all of their stuff on a flexo press and what it would be if they ran it on the IQ Digital series. Basically, it’s going to allow them to run a lot of jobs with smaller runs, faster turnaround times, and open opportunities for increasing their portfolio with more sales into new markets.

This is cutting edge for the industry, isn’t it?

There are plenty of great machines out there in the market and they all do very nice work. Digital is becoming more and more popular every day. We are seeing a turn in the industry to digital presses. What Mark Andy has on our side is that we have been successfully producing labels for 75 years. It’s all manufactured within Mark Andy. Seven years ago we jumped into the digital world and created, or manufactured presses that are true hybrid presses. A Mark Andy hybrid press is simply a flexo press that we added digital capabilities to. So anything you can do on a standard flexo press you can do on a Mark Andy digital press and other than the IQ head made by Domino. We picked a partner in the industry that enjoyed a great reputation and performance and integrated it into the Mark Andy Flexo press.

We put their digital station in the middle of our press and still have full functionality of flexo and all converting whether decorations, die-cutting, semi-rotary die-cutting and we have this technology and a beautiful digital engine in the middle of the press that is fully integrated into the OIG system now and the operator doesn’t have to operate two systems. The marriage between the two is beautiful. Every day we are able to offer updates to our customers.

What is your service relationship with this unit for Ben and Neil?

Our services are bar-none the best in the industry. We don’t sell customers presses, we sell integrated solutions. I want to sell a customer a solution. Our service goes beyond the industry with 24/7 technical support, we have a full staff of service technicians located throughout the U.S. to get to customers faster and with less expense.

We also have our own digital expertise with our customers and help them with the press, but all of their front end and train them on how to use the programs. We train the operators and the art/pre-press departments to send to the print operators. We also have a website that is dedicated to all of the equipment we manufacture and has all of our manuals that operators can access, how to videos which we are updating daily so customers don’t have to rely so much on us and hire a new operator and need training they can go online and train. Anyone within Century Printing can have their own login for training.

Century Printing and Packaging is an ISO 9001:2015 certified company located in Greer, South Carolina. Flexographic, roll stock film, flexible packaging, digital printing, CBD, and craft beer labels are among our extensive print products and technologies. We are family-owned and operated. Call us today about all of your printing or packaging needs. Our southeast location allows us to have a two-day shipping point via FedEx or UPS ground to 80% of the U.S population and we can expedite as necessary.

Ben Waldrop
President
Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651
800.344.7509

Neil Waldrop, Century Printing & Packaging Chief Operating Officer

Neil, how did Century Printing and Packaging Begin?

My Dad and I started the label printing business while my brother Ben and Dad were already running a business related to the textile industry. I had graduated from Clemson and worked there for a couple of years then left as I was looking for something different. Dad, who had never seen a flexo press and I, who knew nothing about running a business, bought our first press for $54,0000. During the day I would make sales calls and in the afternoon and evenings, I would run the press.

In 2001 we built our current facility and we had eight employees. At the time we wondered what we were ever going to do with all this space, but since then we have filled it slam full with equipment, materials, presses, offices and we currently have 26 employees.

How have you grown in terms of production?

We’ve seen quite a change in growth and I never thought we’d ever get this big. We currently have five presses and we’re going to replace one and upgrade to a bigger, more sophisticated, higher quality, and faster press. We continue to grow and we’ve always been careful about growing too fast, but we have also taken advantage of opportunities before us. Most of the growth is just taking care of our customers and fulfilling their needs on time and solving their problems which is what we do well and enjoy. We always strive to give our customers a fair price with quality service and outcomes. One of our goals in production is to find ways to solve customer problems or challenges and make their life easier.

25 years ago did you ever think it would be on this scale?

No! I never thought we’d be doing this type of high-quality work and the volume we are currently doing. And that is to the credit of our employees, they are the ones who strive to continually improve quality and get the jobs done on time and to exceed customer expectations.

Neil, you’ve been doing this a long time, walk us through the changes you’ve seen.

The plates, the ink, and the quality of the substrates we work with today are much higher than when we started. They are easier to maintain and yet print a higher quality which allows us to provide our customers with the end results they want so their product pops off the shelf and grabs the consumer’s attention. What you see on the shelf in a product is often what sells it. Consumers don’t want to buy a bad-looking product whereas if you have an appealing label that clearly identifies what’s in the package or product it stands out from the rest of the competition.

The latest major change in the industry is digital printing. It has been around for about ten years, but within the last five years it has escalated in terms of speed, quality and the ability to print more substrates has allowed it to really explode, which has pros and cons. Some work can’t be done on flexo and has to be done on a digital press. Traditionally, digital has been a higher cost in long production runs but the prices are coming down which is why we are securing new equipment. To be competitive we’ve got to be able to produce the quality at the price our customers need.

What is the new equipment or press?

It is a Mark Andy modified press that has a flexo base, but a digital unit built in the middle of the press which allows us to use a couple of flexo stations to print or add features that do well through the flexo method, but then the digital can print the main body of work to provide high-quality images and fine line screens. It allows us to do it all in line so we don’t have multiple pieces of equipment to run it through. It will also die-cut in line. Some companies try to die cut offline, but we like to do as much as we can inline. It requires fewer people and the more you move jobs through multiple pieces of equipment the higher your scrape and the greater risk there is for problems. If you can do it all in line and come out with a great finished product on the other end that simplifies the process and boosts the quality of the finished product.

Describe your production team right now if you don’t mind.

We have a really good team that works well together and communicates. They understand that what they are doing is going to impact the people in front of and behind them. They understand that quality is critical and you are only as good as the labels you print today. Tomorrow is not a given, you’ve got to prove from order to order for the customer that you can do the work. Our team supports one another and I feel really good about it if someone is struggling and another team member is more experienced in that type of job will jump over and help them.

How has cross-training the team in production helped your business?

We have really worked hard at this for several reasons. I think if someone understands what other people in the company have to deal with and their struggles with a job it allows them to see it firsthand and appreciate their coworker’s contributions so when they are doing critical work they may feed information to the next person in a different way so they can speed up the process, eliminate mistakes and improve the finished product. It has enabled us to shift people around if we are slow in one area and minimize downtime to focus on more pressing orders. Everyone stays busy with this approach to meet our customer’s deadlines and specifications.

What are some of the things you are seeing in the future of the printing and packaging industry?

The versatility of products we can print upon continues to grow because of the quality of the inks, substrates, and the presses can handle more of them. Quite honestly, the customers want and are demanding different substrates to help their product stand out from the competition. For example, what we call “brushed steel,” is a silver-looking material that has a marking in it and looks like a raw, steel material that helps a package pop out on certain products. Being able to provide that look and feel for customers is exciting. The whole combination of bringing flexo and digital together and utilizing both to produce a well-rounded product for customers is really exciting.

What are some of the new materials that you’re excited about?

Printing on unsupported film which is used to wrap products like protein bars or small pieces of candy, snacks and natural foods is a really fast-growing market. It has its challenges as we have to understand what the customer needs from a packing standpoint. It can be a little more complicated so from a technical standpoint, I enjoy figuring out the needs of the customer, the format, and how to produce it for them. The variety of printing and packaging we are providing today is exciting. We can go into just about any store and have a good chance of seeing our product on the shelves. To me that is fun! Knowing our team produced something that is in front of everybody is exciting.

So what’s ahead for you in the future?

I think continuing to challenge myself in the industry and do things we’ve never done before personally and continuing to grow and be challenged is something that never gets old for me. The day I think I know it all I might as well quit because I won’t be challenging myself and our team and we aren’t moving forward. For me personally, I never would’ve thought 20 years ago that I’d be doing what I’m doing now. As long as I’m staying challenged, that’s what I want.

Describe the dynamic of being a family and locally owned business.

A lot of people say, “I could never work with my family.” However, we all understand as family members that anything we do suggests whether right or wrong is always for what’s right for the company. We don’t let that get in the way of success. If we disagree, we don’t hold grudges which is the key. If we have a disagreement we just hash it out and come up with a decision that’s best for the company. The key is to know that we are all thinking about the business and nothing is personal. The advantage is that we are the board and decision-makers and we can make decisions fast. If we have to turn the company in a different direction for whatever reason or take advantage of opportunities we can jump on it quickly and make the adjustments down the line faster than the competition. Other companies have to go through multiple levels which delays outcomes and we are small, nimble, and adjustable as a family-owned business. Customers can get to us directly and the same for our employees, they don’t have to go through layers of decision-makers.

So tell us about your family

I’ve got a 20-year old son who is a junior at Furman University studying music and specializing in trumpet. My daughter is a senior at Riverside H.S. and we are exploring college options. We are a very active family. I do triathlons and my wife has done them along with competitive weight lifting. Our kids are very athletic and enjoy being outdoors. We just like to stay on the move and have an active lifestyle. We enjoy the beach just hanging out and enjoying the water.

How has your training and competition as a triathlete impacted your work?

It keeps me focused. When I’m working out it’s my time to de-stress and my time if you will. I’m on a rigorous training schedule so I know when it’s family time it’s family time and I don’t answer the phone unless it’s a crisis. When I’m at church it’s church time. I think it has taught me to be in the moment and the full Iron Man has taught me to focus on what I can do in the now and don’t worry about the past or the future, but deal with what’s in front of me.

Neil, as you enter the 25th year of your company what would you say upon reflection?

It’s been a heck of a ride, a fun one. It’s been challenging, we’ve gone through economic challenges, Covid and yet we adapt and adjust to the times. We gained and unfortunately lost customers in the past, but we keep learning from it and moving forward. I do find pride that we live, work, and play in Greer. It’s a great community, people interact well and I’ve enjoyed getting to know people through the Chamber of Commerce and the business side, the personal and athletic side. We enjoy this being our home and we are proud that we are able to provide employment for 24 other local people in this community so they can provide for their families.

Neil has been a constant in our company and family. He is my brother, friend, and confidant. As we enter our 25th year in business together it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come and he has been an integral part of our growth. I’m so very proud of the work he has done and our partnership together! Being locally and family-owned means something incredibly important to us at Century Printing and Packaging.

Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651, 800.344.7509

Inflation Is Hitting Every Manufacturing Sector

Everyone is feeling the pain of inflation from rising prices in goods, materials, chemicals, fuel, and supplies. Whether you serve B2B/B2C every sector is experiencing the avalanche from inflation, supply chain disruptions, Covid19, labor shortages, and a lack of available materials. A trip to the grocery store with empty shelves or purchase limits on certain products is proof enough. It is cliche, but all of these factors have produced the “perfect storm”.

Manufacturers are scrambling to find new supply lines and vendors. Shortages from food, chemicals, lumber, metals, microchips, rubber goods, paper, laminates, and countless other goods have moved businesses from a competitive price focus to sheer availability. Shortages and availability only tighten the vise grip of competing manufacturers. Auto manufacturers are now competing with consumer electronics for computer chips. Before the storm, each had different suppliers and there was no shortage. During the storm, you may produce cars, but your computer or television producer has landed in your backyard competing for the same chips.

The printing and packaging industry is not immune to this economic reality. The supply chain gridlock and inflationary pressures have created a challenging environment for the industry. Previously fully stocked vendor’s distribution centers of paper, ink, boxes, laminate, substrate materials, and film are running empty. Lead times of these materials have drastically expanded. Shipping costs due to rising fuel prices and container shortages have only added to the inflationary pressures. These dynamics are unique because the combination of factors has impacted every aspect of business regardless of category. In the past, Wall Street cycles have come and gone, but typically it’s been one industry or just a few that have experienced serious disruption and challenges. Today, EVERY industry and business is affected by these colliding factors.

The interdependency within the global economy can best be explained by dominoes falling one over the other throughout a massive display. Everything relates to the other. Loaded ships sit in harbors and can’t get unloaded, a pandemic wiped out 700,000 people in the U.S. alone to date. Many of those were workers and paying taxes. The printing and packaging industry is experiencing supply and material increases between 7-12%, if not more. Polypropylene resin has increased 150% since January of 2020, and PET resin has risen over 20% in the same period (CDI October 2021 Report). Some Industry experts are projecting continued shortages of raw material and polymers to last through Q4 2022.

No reputable and successful business enjoys price increases. Their success is built upon providing a high-quality product/service at a competitive price backed with extraordinary customer service. These companies thrive on long-term customer relationships by exceeding customer expectations. However, there is a point at which even the strongest cannot resist anymore because they start losing money.

Craig Austin writing for PBS said: “Economists surveyed by Bloomberg in October expect inflation to slow to 3.4% next summer and hit 2.6% by the end of the year. While that would be encouraging, it’s still well above the pre-pandemic average of 1.8% and outside the Fed’s target. It’s unclear whether economists are recalibrating their expectations after the October Consumer Price Index report. Regardless, consumers should get used to the higher prices. They’re the new normal.”

Smart companies and businesses are concentrating on minimizing price increases while extending their vendor partnerships to have access to the materials and supplies they need to do their jobs. Increased costs are inevitable given the global market, but smart and reputable suppliers and manufacturers are working with their clients and suppliers to keep prices as low as they can. Material and supply shortages can be expected well into 2022. Plan way ahead to get ahead of this troubling trend. Hopefully, supply, logistics, and labor will self-correct in 2022.

At Century Printing and Packaging we have worked internally to increase efficiency and deliver the same high level of quality that helped us earn our customer’s trust during these challenging days. This combination has allowed us to only raise prices on products once this year. We are well aware of the market fluctuations and we are working with our customers and suppliers to provide solutions despite price increases to supply and rising material costs. We have been printing labels that stick, but have great eye appeal and consistently tell your brand story. We don’t mind tackling a challenging problem if it means we can help you produce something that is more appealing and of higher quality. We have produced labels and packaging for almost 25 years, so trust us to work with you as a partner instead of a job number.

Ben Waldrop, President
Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651
Tel: 800.344.7509

3 Different Proofs: Press, Digital & PDF

Printing proofs are used to insure accuracy in commercial printing applications. There are different reasons to have press, digital or pdf proof. It depends upon the type of label/package and printing application you desire. Your specific product application, point of sale, and purpose will help determine the proof you use.

A press proof is higher quality, but more expensive because of setup time and labor. Dies are selected and image plates are loaded onto the press and printed on the material the actual job surface that will be used for the entire run. The press operator must wait upon the client to approve the proof. Once approved the operator can run the order. However, if changes are made by the client the work returns to the prepress department where new plates are run to accommodate the changes. Meanwhile the press is sitting idle and the client is paying for the down time which increases the total cost of the project. Changes at the press proof stage are costly. A big advantage of the press proof is that it is printed on the actual material of your package or label so you can gauge a point of sale look and feel from it. Press proofs are great for offering new products that need a splash at the point of sale to stand out from the competition.

Digital proofs are ideal for smaller runs because the turnaround time is quicker. Digital proofs don’t require the intense setup and preparation of press proofs that require plates and dyes. The industry refers to digital proofs as GMG proofs. The digital proof is not the press so it is not made of the same material. It is a GMG laminate whereas the press proof is actual product/label surface material. Digital proofs are extremely color accurate. The digital proof is fingerprinted to the press so the color profile is very accurate. The digital proof, like the press proof, is a physical proof that has to be sent to the client, or their agent for approval. This is usually done via UPS/FedEx and upon client approval the proof returns to the press operator to use for accurate color matching.

A PDF proof is the fastest and economical way to proof a print file before going to press. The beauty of a PDF is that it can be viewed across various platforms. However, there can be many color variations on the original from the printer because of the platform, software and monitor being used to view, or print it.

If color accuracy is critical you will want more than a PDF proof. PDF’s have expedited the proof process because of their universal availability and short turn around.

Many label printing and packaging vendors produce a digital proof of all of their work for their own files and purposes. The experienced companies will be able to replicate color and design with very little down time, or change orders in regard to the proof. Customers should ask for examples/samples of various proofs the company has run for other companies with similar applications. This will provide a good picture of what this company is capable of doing and it will save the manufacturer, or customer time and money.

Ben Waldrop
President
Century Printing & Packaging
Greer, SC 29651
800.344.7509

Mosquitos & Digital Press Applications

It’s summer and the warm weather means mosquitos, chiggers, ticks, black flies and more flying, or jumping pests to bite us, and our pets. These annoying pests can carry all kinds of lovely things like malaria, Dengue, encephalitis viruses like West Nile, Chagas, and Lyme’s disease. These bloodsuckers can be a real buzz-kill {pun intended}.

These products all provide protection from these pesky little creatures, but they have different applications. Repel Max/Deep Woods Off contain the highest levels of DEET for applications when hiking, fishing, hunting, and camping in areas where there is greater exposure to the little blood biting creatures. Both Repel/Off and a variety of generics offer “light,” versions that contain less DEET. People wanting less chemical and a more natural repellent opt for products with lemon grass, cedar and citronella oils. All of these products are available in sprays, creams and body sticks. You apply them to exposed skin, and/or spray on your clothing, hats, sleeping bags, etc.

ThermaCELL is a different kind of repellent. It is similar to a citronella torch/candle, but doesn’t have an odor, or visible affect. You ignite the butane and it heats up a repellent-laced pad providing protection up to 15ft away. It comes in portable, tabletop and patio pole applications. You can use the portable in a boat, deer stand, or outside a tent to keep mosquitos away.

Each of these repellents has different applications. You wouldn’t apply Deep Woods Off/Repel Max to an infant, toddler, or small child. A hunter, angler, or hiker is going to need heavier protection because they are more exposed in their locations. A group gathered on a patio would be more likely to use a ThermaCELL than ask individuals to cover themselves in sprays.

Digital Press label applications are similar in that they can meet a variety of applications. You may need a run of labels for a craft beer, spirit, or CBD oil application. Every one is different and has different applications. While the same press can churn out the desired results it begins with the client’s goal, application and need.

The advantage of the Digital Press is high quality in shorter numbers eliminating the process of plate setups and long runs on Lithographic presses. Detail is stunning and labels that can withstand spills from oils, wet/cold applications and more duress are not only achievable, but also possible in a relative short turn around. The digital press offers a variety of industry the opportunity for high definition, consumer appealing labels that meet or exceed a diverse range of application requirements ranging from temperature, or wet, to oil, or fold out direction, or instruction flaps.

If you are a Craft Beer, or Craft Distiller, or CBD oil producer you typically need fewer runs, but still want to maintain high quality labels that perform under a variety of applications.

At Century Printing and Packaging we have a dedicated Digital One Press designed for such jobs. Contact us and let’s discuss your unique needs and design that can be delivered to spec and on time!

At Century Printing and Packaging we design and print labels that stick and stand out!

Ben Waldrop, President
Century Printing and Packaging, Inc.
Greer, SC 29651
800.344.7509