Manufacturing AUTOMATION

The evolution of short-run label printing

July 5, 2016
By Marsha Frydrychowski Resource Label Group

Why product launches and promotions have been forever changed

Jul. 5, 2016 – Product launches, market tests and promotions can be difficult, draining endeavours. With the advent of new printing technology and processes, at least procuring labels for them has gotten a bit easier. Due to the continued transformation of the label printing industry, specifically short-run label printing, brands can rightfully demand higher quality labels at a better value.

The past: costly, slow and impractical
For decades, when brands sought to launch or test new products, purchasing managers faced a tough choice. They could either purchase labels — typically, pressure-sensitive labels — in sizeable quantities or pay a high unit cost per label. Why? In years past, traditional printing of pressure-sensitive labels required the manufacture of custom printing plates for every run. Though the process of platemaking now uses efficient laser technology, it was for decades a painstaking, manually intensive process that cost significant time and money.

The bottom line was short run print orders were costly, time consuming and largely impractical, making it that much more difficult to launch, test or promote a product. Fortunately, brands can now procure product labels in small quantities at a good value.

The present: speed, savings and quality
Today, brands are benefitting from the advent of digital labels, which label manufacturers print using high-tech digital presses. Now, designs move straight from computer to press, entirely eliminating the need for expensive plate making. While the unit cost per label is still higher for small print runs than for large orders, it’s now affordable for more brands.

Digital printing not only provides a better value on short orders, it also enables cost-effective customizations. Newer presses can work with an expanded range of label materials to bring more designs to life. And variable data printing (VDP) on the latest digital presses makes it cost effective to customize individual labels within an order — a smart solution for testing messaging and graphics or even creating unique designs for each label.


The future: transformation of an industry and how it benefits brands
We’ve already seen digital label presses turn the label printing industry on its head, but the technology is still young and progressing. Newer presses come with built-in monitoring and quality control mechanisms that will improve the quality of labels for all orders. Digital presses are increasingly able to handle higher quantities in shorter timeframes, making short orders more cost-effective. In the future, digital presses will print so rapidly and cost effectively, they may start to gain use for the larger orders.

Marsha Frydrychowski has more than 15 years of experience working with consumer packaged goods companies in marketing, packaging and branding. She leads marketing efforts for Resource Label Group, a full-service label manufacturer with locations throughout Canada and the U.S.

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