Case Study: Hodges Badge Company Converts to Cold-Foil Printing

For over 100 years, Hodges Badge Company has been a family-owned and operated business selling awards, ribbons, and rosettes for every occasion, from dog shows to academic and sporting events to corporate awards. Recently, the company approached Engineered Printing Solutions about making the leap from hot-foil stamping production to cold-foil printing. We designed and built a machine for the company, and they haven’t looked back since.

Rick Hodges, President, Hodges Badge Company

We have written in the past about the advantages of cold-foil printing over hot-foil stamping, but Rick Hodges, president of the company, summarized the benefits in a recent phone call. “With no dies to make, our lead times went from two days to two hours”. In addition, the quality of their designs went up, as the company was able to produce finer lines than they could with hot-stamping, which sometimes produces “bridging” between two lines when excess foil is applied. This is not a problem with cold-foil printing, said Hodges. Hodges also cited the cost-savings of not having to warehouse dies for future use as an additional benefit of going the cold-foil printing route.

Converting from traditional production methods to cutting-edge cold-foil printing is not without its challenges however, warned Hodges. “There is a bit of a learning curve, as digital inkjet printing requires a completely different skillset than traditional tool-and-die manufacturing,” he noted. Hodges credited EPS’ after-sales service and support for getting the badge company up to speed.

And speed is what attracted Hodges to the idea of cold-foil printing in the first place. The speed-to-market advantage of cold-foil printed products over conventionally-produced products means that there are whole new markets that Hodges Badge Company can serve that simply aren’t economically feasible using conventional methods with their tooling costs. Variable-data products and runs-of-one become viable options using cold-foil printing.

Hodges intends to hold on to its first-mover advantage when it comes to cold-foil printing. “None of my competition can match the quality, variety, and speed-to-market of our products,” he said, and he doesn’t foresee that changing any time soon.

Do you need award ribbons, medals, trophies, or other memorabilia? Contact Hodges Badge Company today. And to learn more about cold-foil printing, drop us a line!

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This industrial inkjet printer jets UV-curable adhesive that instantly bonds the cold foil to the substrate.

Case Study: Mitec Enginy Integrates Inkjet Printing into their Production Line

singlepass-printed mousetrapsMitec Enginy, a Catalan company specializing in the automation of industrial production processes, has collaborated with Engineered Printing Solutions to produce a digital ink jet printing machine to be integrated into their automation. Engineered Printing Solutions’ XD-70 printer will be used to print on wood blocks, giving their customers the quality and flexibility they are looking for.

Mitec chose Engineered Printing Solutions because of our knowledge of digital printing, experience in the industry, and the quality of our machines. Mitec CEO Albert Gratacos said “Engineered Printing Solutions is the unique company that can produce a high speed digital ink jet system and tailor it to our specific needs.” We look forward to our continued work with Mitec Enginy!

Watch these mousetraps being printed at right. You can read more about our collaboration here and here.

Want to find out more about industrial inkjet printing machines? Drop us a line!

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CPG Roundup: Latest Printing Trends in the Consumer Packaged Goods Industry (Part 2)

In Part One of this look at the challenges facing the packaging for CPG industry and the opportunities that industrial inkjet provides, we looked at trends in consumer tastes and preferences as drivers of change.  In Part Two, we look at more macro, market-level forces driving change.

Megatrends in Packaging: Is Digital the Answer?

CPG and Retail Margin Compression

Many CPGs are losing the battle for shelf space and margin growth, which is increasing pressure on suppliers such as packaging manufacturers to decrease cost. That is likely to continue, and will likely have consequences on the full value chain that’s selling into consumer packaged goods,” said Feber.

inkjetted nescafe lid

Inkjet printed consumer packaging can make your products stand out on the grocery store shelf.

In addition, a shift is taking place in terms of which companies are gaining share in categories, with small and medium-sized brands growing dramatically over the larger brands in their categories. “It’s occurring everywhere, and it’s changing the way a lot of us are positioned, in terms of our companies and the assets and who we sell to and how we design product, and it’s putting a requirement on us to become a bit more agile,” said Feber. “The more agile players will likely be the ones that pick the right winners going forward.”

He emphasized that these trends are putting downward pressure on margins. Store sales are decreasing, and that’s trickling all the way through to EBITA and return on investment capital within retail and within CPG. “It is a real challenge for the industry, which is why you see a lot of pivoting and a lot of diversification,” he said. “It’s going to continue to create a lot of pressure back on the channel on packaging, in terms of cost effectiveness, in terms of making sure packaging is really enabling a brands’ narrative and all the elements of that that are required.”

What does this mean for packaging producers?  Quite simply, they are going to have to be more agile–they have to do more with their existing machinery by increasing throughput, perhaps through automated parts handling.  Or, they have to do more with their existing production-floor footprint, which tends to favor conversion to digital product-marking due to quick changeovers and the ability to run many skus on one machine.  Or perhaps they should opt to decrease unit costs, which again tends to favor industrial inkjet solutions since there are no clichés or negatives as there are with traditional contact forms of product marking, no wasted ink in inkcups at the end of the run with inkjet, and very little ink per part.

Rapidly Changing Consumer and Customer Preference

As discussed in greater detail in Part One, Feber identified rapidly-changing consumer tastes, preferences, and expectations as a trend driving change in the packaging industry.  “If you walk into a big-box retailer or Walmart or a big grocery store, you tend to see 10 to 15 different products on the shelf of a given category. When you go to Amazon, you can see up to 2,000 different products in a category. And it’s really feeding this consumer desire for variety and customization. What you’re seeing is that the world’s changing, and consumers are desiring more,” said Feber.

Increased Pressure on Sustainability

For the first time in a long time brands are making serious commitments to make a difference, said Feber, and the consumer perception in this area has grown almost exponentially in terms of how frequently sustainability is mentioned. As a result, Feber said, regulations have continued to grow fairly rapidly across the world.

Over the past 12 to 15 months, public awareness of plastics leakage into environment has increased significantly to an all-time high. “This is one indicator of what’s really driving a lot of the sustainability sensitivity across the industry and across the world,” Feber said. “This is really going to create unprecedented change.”

Inkjet printed cosmetics packaging.

Notwithstanding the challenges facing the packaging for CPG industry, all is not gloomy, as another McKinsey report suggests, and as we feel also, given the exciting applications we are building in our facility.  Despite narrowing margins in the CPG industry, certain product categories are projected to grow at twice the rate of overall consumer spending, according to the report’s authors.   The authors singled out anti-aging creams and mineral water as particular standouts.

Furthermore, the authors point out, a more granular perspective on geography yields micro-markets with aggressive growth forecasts, an environment that lends itself to digital inkjet product-marking solutions due to the ability to carry lean inventories, to produce just-in-time when and where needed, and to customize products at end-of-line stage, allowing for variation based on regional tastes and preferences.

“Partnering with players down the channel is more important than ever. What it really means is finding the right partners within your customers’ businesses to partner with.”

—David Feber, McKinsey & Company

“Number one is the investment in R&D and innovation,” Feber said. “Some of these products change very fast, but most of them have a very slow adoption, given risk aversion to change and high volumes, and if you’re on the machine side, it’s painfully slow because all of those are magnified. So the time to start innovating is now and to push your companies to think about where you should be spending your innovation dollars.”

Second, is to create more agile processes to adjust to SKU proliferation. A lot of packaging companies are set up for efficiency and high throughput, Feber notes, but the world is slowly changing to a lot more customization and SKU proliferation. So companies are going to need to be more agile and more flexibile to play in these spaces.

We hope you enjoyed this brief look at digital inkjet and the packaging for CPG industry.

CPG Roundup: Latest Printing Trends in the Consumer Packaged Goods Industry (Part 1)

CPG packaging

Cosmetics containers are one example of CPG packaging.

The Consumer Packaged Goods industry provides a good illustration of the challenges and rewards associated with converting from analog to digital product decoration and marking.  Over the course of a two-part series, we plan to look at the challenges companies face in the marketplace and some of the solutions that digital inkjet adoption can provide through its ability to provide quick changeovers, short production runs, mass customization,  and lean inventories.  Part 1 will look at consumer trends that favor digital inkjet adoption, and Part 2 will look at supply-side challenges that drive adoption of inkjet product-decoration and -marking solutions.

But first, a few definitions.

What are Consumer Packaged Goods?

Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) is an industry term for merchandise that customers use up and replace on a frequent basis. Examples of consumer packaged goods include food, beverages, cosmetics and cleaning products.

Imagine, if you will, that over the next decade the world will gain an additional 81 Procter & Gambles or 458 equivalents of Kellogg’s. This is the sort of growth that will happen in the global consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) sector, which will nearly double in size—to $14 trillion—by 2025, from $8 trillion in 2014.

— McKinsey & Co.

According to McKinsey & Company, the Consumer Package Goods Industry is poised to nearly double in size by 2025.  This has tremendous implications for the direct-to-shape industrial product-marking industry, and this blogpost will look at some of these implications.

Already, digital inkjet is making its mark in the CPG industry, though not to the same degree in each sector.  For example, the cosmetics industry has seen digital adoption only in fits and starts, according to Cindy Cooperman, VP of Brand Global Strategic Accounts at X-Rite, a manufacturer of color measurement and management products and frequent consultant to the cosmetics industry. 

cosmetics container

Another example of CPG packaging

According to Cooperman, early attempts to harness the power of digital inkjet printing for packaging focused on personalization, but did not heed what consumers were clamoring for.  Early examples of packaging personalization centered on marking products with the end-user’s name, but In Danaher Product Identification’s latest study, Packaging and the Digital Shopper: Expectations in Health and Beauty 62 percent of shoppers did not see a value in health, beauty, and personal care items personalized with their names.  However, according to the survey, respondents did see value for products specifically customized for their skin or body type with personalized instructions; 22 percent of shoppers said they are highly likely to purchase or would like to see more customized products.  Cooperman cited mis-aligned consumer expectations regarding speed-to-market as a major stumbling block to wider adoption of digital inkjet for packaging. For instance, consumers expect packaging changes to take a mere 24 hours, but brands take 198 days to implement them (Source: Keypoint Intelligence).

“The premium personal care segment, which makes up 26% of the category, is growing at 8% while the total category is growing at 2%. On the beverage side, we continue to see growth from the premium beer category, as well as consumers trading up from mass beers to higher dollar wine, spirits and flavored malt beverages.”

—Michael Mapes

Forbes magazine looked at broad consumer trends and how the CPG industry can take advantage of them by converting to digital inkjet solutions.  In an interview with Michael Mapes, the CEO of EXAL Corporation, the largest manufacturer of aluminum containers in the Americas, Forbes contributor Jeff Fromm discussed three major trends currently shaping the CPG industry. First, says Mapes, consumers are choosing premium products across product categories, but particularly in the personal care and beverage spaces. Industrial inkjet product-marking solutions provide the premium experience with vivid package designs that are also “greener” since they use fewer raw materials—including energy—further enhancing the perception of premium value.

“The data supports that not only are consumers looking for sustainability claims, they are also voting with their wallets,” says Mapes. “Sustainable products grew at four times the rate of products without a commitment to sustainability. A McKinsey study showed that 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay 15 percent more for sustainable packaging, and Nielsen reports that 66 percent of all consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable brands. Consumers are inspecting product labels for sustainability claims and supporting the brands that are sustainability focused–even if it costs them more.” In short, it can be a “win-win” for packaging producers: cut costs and command a higher price for goods sold.

The third trend that Mapes identified in the cosmetics industry is convenience, developments such as recloseable packaging, thin-film packaging, and sprays.

In sum, these three consumer-driven trends—the demand for premium quality, sustainability, and convenience—can all be addressed by converting from more traditional forms of packaging-decoration to digital inkjet.  And these three trends are most pronounced among the Millenials, already the largest consumer group in history. According to Nielsen, Millennials are the most willing cohort to pay more for sustainability, at 75% vs. 66% of total population. “Brands that are successful with Millennials today truly understand that the package should be considered part of the marketing spend,” says Mapes.  “Packaging is the first thing the consumer sees when they pick up the product off the shelf. No other marketing spend can impact a buyer at the moment of truth in the store and throughout the life of a product. According to Nielsen, approximately 60% of decision making happens at the shelf.”

We hope you enjoyed this look at consumer trends driving change in the packaging for CPG industry.  Be sure to read Part Two of this series, which will look at microeconomic trends within the CPG industry, the challenges packaging producers face in light of declining margins and increased competition for shelf space.

Transformative Projects

Companies speak of guiding principles, vision statements and of strategic objectives. Companies proudly track significant achievements on timelines as a memorial to their evolution. I think it is important to have this perspective as Carl Sagan once said “You have to know the past to understand the present.”

Since our founding in 1985 we have important events we keep track of, most are facility expansion benchmarks required to keep pace with a continuous increase in projects moving through our shop floor. One of those transformative projects found its way back to the floor recently.

For some it seemed a bit out of place. Older technology, tattered graphics, comments like “it just looks used”. For others it marked an important point in our trajectory as an organization, a turning point that has led us down a pretty incredible path. It was here on our floor again because the client wanted to update it with the latest technology installed on the new printer recently put into production.

This was the first industrial inkjet printer we designed and built in 2009 to bring the customer into the digital manufacturing revolution.  This engineered solution was built to solve two important problems, first to cut labor cost and secondly to cut product loss….Could we design a first of its kind machine, completely unique in their industry in a way that made financial sense?

This new digital machine had to replace six separate rotary table pad printing cells that required nine full time operators running in three shifts a day, seven days a week. There was a perceived need to eliminate inefficiency of changing out inks and clichés after each 144 print count, every day. Production had flat-lined and the product margins were being squeezed by an increase in overtime pay. The project proved difficult but those challenges the team encountered changed our company and the functional teams approach and ultimately our companies’ philosophy. Our (long term) partner broke through their comfort zone and took a risk on an unproven design.

After successful factory acceptance testing the machine was put into production on the facility floor. As the initial weeks went by there was a enthusiasm from the shift staff about the level of production they were achieving. Each day they noticed output improvements and were eventually able to eliminate the weekend shifts. Worker morale improved because the difficult change-out process had been eliminated. The machine software was integrated seamlessly into the internal SAP system helping streamline the ordering process.

A year later a second printer was installed at another site. Finally a third system was ordered in 2014. Each machine took advantage of design improvement and new technologies. LED cure inks became available, resulting in a reduction of energy consumption while eliminating the need for elaborate cooling systems. There was a new smaller more efficient flow through ink management system with better control of ink viscosity

The original printer will be productive on a manufacturing floor again soon.

The machine is not viewed as an eyesore now.  It is viewed as a part of the proud legacy that shaped the direction of our company well into the future. The original project ushered in a new direction for EPS. This project was the catalyst behind the words ‘engineered’ and ‘solutions’ in our company name.

A vision is not where you are now.  A vision is where you want to be in the future. Our partner for this project had a vision and was willing to take a risk that led to completely project cost recovery in three months by reducing the number of operators, overtime and nearly all product waste.

Case Study – Industrial Printing Solutions

Engineered Printing Solutions Case Study #1:

An automotive firm required assistance in gaining efficiencies in their molding and decorating process.  They wanted to eliminate staging / moving parts around the facility, and to be able to print parts at the mold.  The part required a custom machine as the print was not only multi-color, but on multiple planes.  The customer also wanted a machine that would require as little human intervention as possible.

This required a machine that would fit in the constraints of their molding cell, capable of picking freshly molded parts from a conveyor, orienting and placing the parts onto custom tooling.  The parts were then printed and automatically removed for post-print handling / inspection / packing.

The same parts could be used for different applications, so it was also necessary to provide an efficient way to change the images.

We provided a fully automated KP-08 with multiple heads with independent pads, plus automated loading and unloading.  The unit was configured to integrate with the customer’s mold, so if one or the other components experienced a fault a “parts buffer” could accommodate any intermittent pauses, but also allowed for a full shut-down, if required.

Engineered Printing Solutions Case Study #2:

A large plastic injection molding firm asked for assistance with a change in their production requirements, based on their customer’s ordering preferences.

The facility is highly automated and parts are printed in-line.  However, the customer was seeing their market shift toward multi-color images, as well as shorter print runs on the same series of molded parts.  Their current technology allowed only single-color images, and required a minimum of 30-45 minutes for job changeovers, and more if the color had to change, as well.

We offered a solution based around our own industrial inkjet technology, which provide the following advantages:

  • No loss in throughput
  • Multi-color images
  • Less ink waste
  • Immediate curing
  • Job changeover in seconds, not minutes
  • Order entry could be done remotely, integrating with their own software
  • Parts could also be counted, bagged and bags labeled automatically

Our industrial inkjet printer was able to be easily integrated with third-party provided feeding systems as well as the bagger / label unit on the back end.

This custom solution has allowed our client to be more flexible and more responsive to their customer’s wishes, while saving labor as well as reducing waste re: parts and ink.

Let us design a custom solution for you.  Drop us a line today!
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