Grace Label grows ‘Field of Dreams’ with Domino N730i  

Grace Label was the first label converter in North America to add the NEW Domino N730i digital UV inkjet label press to their business. Installed in 2023, the N730i provides 1200 dpi printing at 230 ft/min. 7-Color CMYKOV+W covering 92% of the Pantone range, and white prints 76% opacity at speed. Already a Domino customer with the 600 dpi N610i installed in 2019, Grace Label’s business grew tremendously the next few years and they needed to add additional capacity. A visit to Labelexpo Americas 2022 was all it took.  It was their first glimpse of the N730i, and they decided at the trade show they wanted that press.  Now, having both the N610i and N730i in their arsenal, they call it their ‘Field of Dreams’ with these two presses, and their business continues to grow. 

We caught up with the team at Grace Label to learn more about their company and their growth utilizing digital printing. We were joined by Steve Grace (president), sons Kyle Grace (operations manager) and Ethan Grace (digital press operator), as well as Lou Thurston (account executive), Mark Brooks (account executive), Amy Bogle (customer service representative), and John Watsabaugh (digital press operator). 

Our visit was captured in this VIDEO: Grace Label & Domino

From humble beginnings, continuing to grow

Steve begins, “We’re located in Des Moines, Iowa. We’re a a medium-sized flexo and digital label printer started by my father in 1974. It started with 11 employees. Now, three generations later, we continue to grow. Being located in the Midwest, we work a lot in the food and beverage industries and we’re proud to remain independent after all these years. Although we’re not that big of a company, we have the capabilities of anybody out in the market. And our best thing we do here is that we take care of customers and we want to be able to stand toe to toe with any of the big guys and give them that higher sense of attention, that higher sense of importance to say hey, ‘we can fill your needs across the board’ and that’s the reason we got into digital in the first place.”

The addition of the NEW Domino N730i

So, what does the Grace Label team think of the new Domino N730i?  It was interesting to hear their responses, as it was evident that each person’s view is largely based on their role within the company.

Ethan begins, “For me personally, what’s exciting about having one of the first N730i presses in the world, is we get to watch the development and evolution of digital printing technology in real time.

Lou says, “It has really upped our game here at Grace Label.  Being in the digital game on our Domino N610i, we really had a solid workhorse delivering super results.  It just made it a lot easier when Steve went looking for that second press to go right back to Domino.  And with the N730i, we’ve got something that nobody else is delivering today and we couldn’t be more excited to take that to the marketplace.”

Mark adds, “From a sales perspective, Grace Label has the ability to make sure we’ve got our customers covered in any way, shape, or form. With Domino’s partnership, we’ve already had a great press. With the addition of the N730i, we’re able to enter the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical market. On top of that, we’ve got even quicker turnarounds and higher press speeds.”

Kyle says, “When it comes to scheduling, I’ve got flexo, and I’ve got the N730i, and I’ve got the N610i. And it’s really nice between the N730i and the N610i to have that flexibility between the two and I know I’m going to get great quality. And our nutraceuticals that really require that fine text works just a little bit better over on our N730i. It has been a game changer for us in that regard, and I’m getting orders out the door in a timely fashion.”

Steve provided an example of how it is a differentiator for their business. “We have a customer that required a really nice crisp white on a clear label. They had to go through their press three times to achieve the opacity that they wanted. Domino was able to do this label in one pass. So, we can sit down with a customer and just say ‘hey, we can fill your needs across the board’.”

John concludes, “The N730i runs color across the web very nicely, especially with very small graphics, very small type.  You can see type that doesn’t even look like type, and when you put a magnifier on it, you can read it. It does a beautiful job.”

Is there a ‘Domino difference’?   

Steve begins, “Yes, there is a Domino difference. They do what they say they’re going to do.  They help us out when we need help and anytime we’ve had a problem, it’s been solved and that’s why we decided to reinvest in Domino again.”  

Mark says, “The Domino difference really is capability.  It’s offering us to be very confident with our customers in our abilities to graphically meet their needs.”

Amy comments, “For me, the Domino difference truly is the quality that comes off of the press, as well as how quickly we can get the labels turned around.”

Lou adds, “The Domino difference for Grace Label is robust, high quality, high speed, quick to market with huge support from Domino. They’re not just a vendor, they’re a true business partner.”

Steve sums it up. “Domino is a great partner, and it’s nice to have somebody that’s got the technology and the service and the people that you can rely on to help you get through the next phase. With the additional capabilities of the N730i, there was really no other choice to be made.”

Domino is a leading manufacturer and distributor of digital printing and product identification solutions.  Celebrating its 46th year in business, Domino is a global organization with world headquarters in the UK, and North America headquarters in Gurnee, IL.  Domino has 25 subsidiaries, representation in over 120 countries, and over 3,000 employees worldwide.  For more information on Domino digital printing, please visit  

Domino Sales and Service Teams’ New Appointments

With the upcoming retirements of two widely loved and highly respected Domino Digital Printing North America Account Managers, Chuck Stone and Patrick LaMourie, Domino has promoted Matt Stein and hired Luke Schwan. Mary Fidge is promoted to Demo Room Manager, Max Spread joins as Key Accounts Manager, and the Service & Support Team continues to grow with the addition of James Sherrod.

Matt Stein has been promoted to Account Manager for the Midwest region and is based out of the Chicago area.  Matt joined Domino in 2018 as Demo Room Manager. “During his time in this role, he and his team have made the demo center an industry standard that has been instrumental to Domino’s success. During COVID, Matt developed a high-quality, cost-effective virtual demo platform that allowed us to continue product demonstrations during a time when travel was limited. This tool is still a key part of our success today. Matt brings to his new role passion and in-depth knowledge of the Domino inkjet portfolio that will make him a great account manager,” says Mike Barry, National Sales Manager.

Mary Fidge has been promoted to Demo Room Manager.  Mary joined Domino in June 2023 as Prepress/Press Operator and has quickly become a key contributor to the demo team and the overall business. “Combined with her previous inkjet demonstration and print production experience, Mary looks to continue the success that we have come to expect from the demo team and will work on continuous improvement. The demo team will be crucial to achieving our 2024 goals, and Mary will ensure the challenge is met,” says Mike Barry.

Luke Schwan joins Domino as Account Manager for the Central region and is based out of Texas.  Luke will be representing Domino’s digital printing products in the central US & Mexico. Says Mike Barry, “Luke comes to us with years of sales experience in the label industry working for both suppliers and label converters. We are excited in having Luke join the team and wish him success in his new role.”

Max Spread joins Domino as Key Accounts Manager and is based out of Indiana. “Max will be working to maintain and grow Domino’s presence in our largest, strategic digital printing accounts. Max comes to us with years of experience in both operations and sales working for printers/converters as well as packaging suppliers, and he will be working with the entire North American sales team,” says Mike Barry.

James Sherrod joins Domino with eight years of field service experience in both offset and flexographic technologies. Tom Grencik, Eastern Region Service Manager says, “Most recently, James was a senior PM/Field service technician for Mark Andy where he supported customers across the United States. Prior to joining Mark Andy, James spent eight years in the United States Marine Corp.  He is based in Lexington, KY and he will be supporting the N610i color press and K-series/Editor GT as part of the Eastern region service team.”  

Spotlight Interviews with each of these excellent individuals will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned!

Domino is a leading manufacturer and distributor of digital printing and product identification solutions.  Celebrating its 46th year in business, Domino is a global organization with world headquarters in the UK, and North America headquarters in Gurnee, IL.  Domino has 25 subsidiaries, representation in over 120 countries, and over 3,000 employees worldwide.  As of June 2015, Domino is a Brother Group Company.  For more information on Domino, please visit  

Baldwin Technology Expands U.S. Manufacturing Capabilities, Adds Sales Resources to Meet Growing Print and Packaging Demands

ST. LOUIS, Missouri — February 6, 2024— Baldwin Technology Co. Inc. continues to invest in resources and manufacturing capabilities to meet growing demand across multiple print, packaging and industrial markets in the Americas. This includes additions to the Americas sales team, and expansion of its LED-UV and IR manufacturing capabilities at its world-class facilities in River Falls, WI and Easton, PA.

Baldwin is a leading global manufacturer and supplier of innovative process-automation equipment, parts, service and consumables for the printing, packaging, textile, plastic film extrusion, corrugated and industrial industries. The extensive product portfolio includes equipment that drives automation, quality and productivity – including inspection, color management and registration, cleaning systems, surface treatment, spray dampening and LED-UV curing and drying.

Fueling funding for the strategic investments is Baldwin’s recent integration into BW Converting, a strategic alliance of resources and services that bring together six Barry-Wehmiller companies. Along with Baldwin, they include Paper Machine Converting Co. (PCMC), Winkler+Dünnebier (W+D), STAX Technologies, Hudson-Sharp and Northern Engraving and Machine.

To support the growth of the business and increased demand in narrow web, packaging and corrugated markets Baldwin added two new equipment sales leaders in January.

Jason Atturo (, based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is responsible for sales into the Northeast region of the U.S. and Eastern Canada. With a career spanning two decades in the print, packaging and converting space, he has a wealth of experience in the offset, flexo and corrugated industries having supported customers with their ink, substrate and equipment needs.

Barry White ( joins the team based out of Indianapolis, responsible for sales in the East Central region, covering Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio. Having served in the United States Air Force from 2000-2006, White has spent the rest of his career in the coding and marking industry in product development, field service technician and sales manager roles.

Baldwin has also strengthened its aftermarket team with the addition of two more sales leaders. Nick Harkness ( rejoins the Barry-Wehmiller family as the Aftermarket Sales Leader representing the Central Region. He previously worked for PCMC, focusing on operational excellence and operations leadership, as well as customer engagement. Harkness has expressed his excitement to be back with Barry-Wehmiller and to join the Baldwin organization, diving even deeper into the printing industry.

Baldwin has promoted Dave Gero ( from his role as a service technician to Aftermarket Sales Manager for the East Coast. With more than 20 years of experience in the field with Baldwin, and extensive product knowledge and customer relationships, the time is ripe for Gero to progress his career within Baldwin.

In addition to the recent additions to the sales team, Baldwin’s U.S. based manufacturing capabilities continue to grow. Proud to manufacture the majority of its equipment that is sold to the U.S. market domestically, the St. Louis, MO-based BW Converting brand continues to invest in its North American manufacturing footprint.

Baldwin has expanded its manufacturing capabilities for its curing and drying product lines. It is now able to manufacture IR drying systems at its flagship facility in River Falls, WI, in addition to its prior capabilities with best-in-class LED and UV systems. Baldwin is also adding an additional furnace to its UV lamp production lines in Easton, PA, to meet growing demand.

These new investments in operational capabilities are supported by local engineering teams, product management and an extensive field service team based throughout the U.S. for a company with a strong history in the market and committed to its robust domestic presence.

“It’s exciting to see the investment in the selling team and across the Baldwin business, to support the growth we are seeing in multiple markets. The ability to attract Jason, Barry, Nick and Dave to the team sets us up for further success and supports the long-term growth we expect to see.,” said Craig Black, Baldwin’s Vice President of Sales, Americas. “I look forward to seeing them contribute to Baldwin’s continued success as we have seen rapid growth in markets that we were not as well known in just a few years ago – narrow web and corrugated in particular.  When you are looking for a supplier that’s fully committed to the U.S. – sales, service support and manufacturing – make sure to reach out to my team!”


Baldwin Technology Company Inc. is a leading global manufacturer and supplier of innovative process-automation equipment, parts, service and consumables for the printing, packaging, textile, plastic film extrusion and corrugated industries. As a total solutions provider, Baldwin offers our customers a broad range of market-leading technologies, with a focus on improving the economic and environmental efficiency of production processes. Through a global footprint of 21 company-owned locations and an extensive network of partners, our customers are supported globally, regionally and locally by dedicated sales and service team members who add value by forming long-term relationships. Baldwin is privately owned by BW Forsyth Partners, a Barry-Wehmiller company. For more, visit


BW Converting Solutions is a strategic alliance of resources and services that bring together six Barry-Wehmiller companies — Paper Converting Machine Company (PCMC), Baldwin Technology Co., Winkler + Dünnebier (W+D), STAX Technologies, Hudson-Sharp, and Northern Engraving and Machine. These industry leaders offer trusted brands and innovative technologies in the design, manufacture, and service of high-performance converting and packaging machinery for the tissue, nonwovens, hygiene, bag-converting, mailing, and printing industries.

Beontag US expansion continues with USD $60m investment in new, best-in-class manufacturing facility to serve North American market 

  • New location in Dayton, Ohio, which is expected to be fully operational by August 2024, will be home to more than 200 employees. 
  • The facility, which will host GLM (Graphic and Label Materials) functions initially, will also add RFID capabilities and serve the entire North American market. 

12 December 2023, MILAN: Beontag, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of pressure-sensitive adhesives and smart tags such as RFID and NFC, has announced an agreement to take on a 200,000 square foot industrial building in Dayton, Ohio, for a best-in-class manufacturing facility to support their North American expansion.  

Beontag is set to invest more than USD $60 million in equipment, machinery, and tenant improvements over the next two years to bring this manufacturing facility to the highest international operational standards that the company is known for around the world. Boentag has committed to creating around 200 new jobs at the facility, which is expected to be fully operational by August 2024.  

The state-of-the-art factory will allow the scale up of the production volumes through the utilization of more productive machinery, such as coaters, slitters, and sheeters for roll label stock, servicing the roll converter market. In addition, RFID and Linerless operations will be integrated in the same building.  

Beontag’s investments in the North American market began in September 2022 with the acquisition of Technicote, a company specializing in the pressure-sensitive adhesives market for more than 40 years. In addition to the new Ohio facility, Beontag will soon begin the process of merging Technicote, which will become Beontag US, reinforcing the multinational’s strength and expertise to the United States market. Beontag is already one of the world’s largest manufacturers of pressure-sensitive adhesives and smart tags (RFID and NFC) with a commercial presence in more than 40 countries. 

Commenting on the new facility, Ricardo Lobo, CEO of Beontag said: “Beontag has made no secret of our ambitious plans for US Expansion – which are dependent on state-of-the-art facilities, new and innovative equipment, strong infrastructure, and a great community of people. We’re very pleased to have found that in Dayton , Ohio and wish to thank the City and State offices that have helped make this ambition possible. On behalf of everyone in our truly global business, I’m glad to say that Beontag is looking forward to sharing the innovative products that will be manufactured here, with the wider North American market – and beyond.” 

“We are excited that Beontag has chosen the Dayton Region as the home of their new Ohio facility,” said Dayton Development Coalition Executive Vice President of Regional Development Julie Sullivan. “This new facility will accommodate new equipment, technology, and employment growth.” 


PR enquiries: 

Beontag is a global business enabler that serves as one of the world’s leading providers of IoT solutions and pressure-sensitive adhesives. With operations in more than 15 countries and a footprint in over 40 markets, the multinational company offers end-to-end product capabilities for a range of industries and businesses, driving seamless communication between companies, products, and people. 

Beontag’s business is underpinned by modern manufacturing facilities, strategic investments, R&D, and a range of highly qualified teams. Furthermore, the multinational is fully committed to enabling positive impacts across the entire value chain. As a member of the UN Global Compact since 2021, Beontag offers its customers a series of increasingly sustainable products while also working towards a diverse and equitable work environment. To learn more, visit: 


Technicote, Inc., a Beontag company, was established in 1980 in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio to service local roll converters. As a privately owned company, Technicote is small enough to care and big enough to deliver solutions across the pressure sensitive industry. We deliver this with four manufacturing and distribution facilities throughout North America and three strategic business units within the pressure sensitive market. 

Forward-Looking Information 
Any forward-looking statements in this press release are based on available current market material and management’s expectations, beliefs and forecasts concerning future events impacting Beontag. You are cautioned that any such forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks and uncertainties, as well as assumptions, which, if they were to ever materialize or prove incorrect, could cause the results of Beontag to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements made in this press release speak only as of the date hereof and we disclaim any obligation, except as required by law, to provide updates, revisions, or amendments to any forward-looking statements to reflect changes in our expectations or future events. 

TLMI Assembles Direct Thermal Task Force

[NASHVILLE, TN] – On January 24, The Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute, Inc. (TLMI) held its first Direct Thermal task force meeting. The task force was formed to inform TLMI members of proposed regulations in Washington and California restricting the use of bisphenols in direct thermal products. Led by legislation expert, Bryan Vickers, and the TLMI Regulatory Affairs Committee, 18 member companies from the supply chain participated in the meeting including paper manufacturers, pressure-sensitive laminators, and converters. The task force will continue to meet every 2 months to discuss the evolution of the proposed regulations. If you are interested in learning more, please contact TLMI’s VP of Sustainability, Rosalyn Bandy

TLMI President Linnea Keen commented, “TLMI is committed to keeping its members up to date on regulations that can affect business operations. We value input from the entire supply chain as we move forward with our task force meetings.“

 Art Advertising adds Domino N610i, their first digital narrow web press 

Art Advertising, located in Jonesboro, Arkansas USA was founded in 1969, opening its doors as Art Sign Company. Transitioning into screen-printed graphics in the 1970’s, the sign division was sold off in 1980 and the company became Art Advertising focusing solely on industrial labels and other screen-printed products. The company’s quick growth across a broader range of industries necessitated moving into a new building in 1985. Over the next decade, Art Advertising’s offering would expand to include flexographic roll labels and traditional offset printing, still catering to the needs of regional, and industrial clients. In 1995, Stacy & Gary Gestring joined the business and began efforts to accelerate growth. Their customer base expanded nationwide as they continued to add new products and services. In 2007, the company relocated to its current location. Since then, they have added another 10,000 sq. ft. building to house their wide format division, bringing them full circle to be able to offer larger outdoor sign products again. Today with over 28,000 square feet of production across two facilities, Art Advertising is one of the most diversified printing companies nationwide. And they continue to grow. In December 2023, Art Advertising added their first digital narrow web press …the Domino N610i 7-color digital UV inkjet label press. 

We caught up with Art Advertising’s owners Stacy & Gary Gestring to learn more about their business, the drivers for adding digital, and why Domino. Stacy is president and oversees finance and production. Gary is vice president and oversees sales, purchasing, estimating, and HR. 

Exceeding customer expectations 

Gary begins, “We specialize in decals and labels for manufacturers. Our strength is in meeting custom requirements and outdoor durable markets. Our customers value our reliability in providing their labels and decals on time and within their high-quality requirements and specifications. Our key strength is our ability to solve our customers’ problems, whether it be a need for custom adhesives, creating decal kits, or fulfillment services. We’re committed to exceeding their expectations.” 

Why digital? Why Domino? 

Stacy says, “We have long recognized the value of digital printing for great color and ease of setup, and we are looking forward to the increased speed and variable data capabilities of the Domino. The Domino N610i is our first digital narrow web press.” 

Gary says, “We’ve been familiar with Domino for years, seeing them at trade shows and knowing their offering as a high-end piece of equipment, while hoping our increasing demand would justify having one.” Stacy adds, “Domino was on our short list for its ink durability, high-resolution print, and wide color gamut. The great communication and responsiveness of the Domino team gave us the confidence to make the final purchase decision.” 

When asked if they anticipate any changes in the type of label jobs run or projects they pursue due to the capabilities of the N610i, both Stacy and Gary show tremendous excitement. Gary says, “We are most excited by the greater efficiency and new markets we’ll be able to pursue with the Domino. We’ve been mainly focused on long term outdoor durable markets. The Domino will greatly increase our competitiveness in short term durability and consumer goods markets.” 

And Stacy is also enthusiastic on the Domino N610i maximizing their productivity, efficiency, profit, and opportunities. “We expect that the Domino will greatly reduce our production time on certain label lines, increasing productivity and improving profit margins. Our more recent investments were all in the screen department where we have the latest high speed rotary presses. Now, we anticipate the Domino N610i will bring our roll label department a huge leap forward and open up markets we’ve previously not had access to because our existing flexo equipment was too slow, or we had a cost disadvantage because we would need to outsource larger or full color roll label orders. When considering the cost justification of the Domino, we looked at both, the improved efficiency we will gain from the orders we have been running through other processes, and the potential to grow into new markets. So, we are very excited with the installation of the Domino digital press.” 

Installed, Trained, Ready to Go!


The Domino N610i was installed at Art Advertising in December 2023, and their team went through a very comprehensive training program. Stacy says, “We have been very pleased with Domino. The detailed scheduling of the install and training were impressive. When our team came back from Gurnee, they said it was the best training they have ever received on a piece of equipment. While we are just getting the Domino up and running, we are confident their team is with us, and committed to our success and growth moving forward.” 

Is there a ‘Domino Difference’? 

Gary says, “I think the Domino Difference is their people. We have felt a comfort level with the Domino team, and a trust that they’ll be with us as a true partner to a level higher than we’ve experienced.” 

Stacy concludes, “While we’ve continually added new printing technologies and production types, we are more excited about the potential the Domino N610i has to propel our company to the next level, than any equipment purchase we’ve ever made.” 

Domino is a leading manufacturer and distributor of digital printing and product identification solutions. Celebrating its 46th year in business, Domino is a global organization with world headquarters in the UK, and North America headquarters in Gurnee, IL. Domino has 25 subsidiaries, representation in over 120 countries, and over 3,000 employees worldwide. For more information on Domino digital printing, please visit 


(Gent, Belgium) HYBRID Software, developer of innovative productivity tools for labels & package printing, and ABG, market leader in finishing equipment for label converting, are pleased to announce a collaboration to streamline operations and enhance efficiency on the shop floor.   The integration between the two industry leaders is centered around three key areas that …

Accu-Label Doubles Down with Second Durst Tau RSCi

Rochester, NY – September 2023: It is incredible how quickly a single decision can change the trajectory of a business. When Accu-Label Inc., based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, installed their first Durst Tau RSCi in 2021, they quickly realized the benefits. They saw print speeds five times higher than traditional solutions, their consumable costs were …

ID Images Welcomes Dynamic Label Industry Veteran, Sofia Metz, to its Sales Team 

Brunswick, OH, Sept. 5, 2023 – ID Images, a leading company in the label industry for over 25 years, is thrilled to announce their newest addition to its team, Sofia Metz, who brings over two decades of leadership in label sales and customer support, along with a stellar reputation to her new role as National Sales Director. She was formerly the Head of Sales and Customer Service for North America at Honeywell’s Label Media Division. 

With an unwavering commitment to excellence and a proven track record in driving sales growth, Sofia is poised to take ID Images to new heights in the dynamic label industry. Having established herself as a seasoned professional throughout her successful career, she is primed to help grow and elevate the Company’s market position. 

“We are delighted to welcome Sofia Metz to the ID Images team of dedicated and solutions-driven experts,” said President and CEO, Jeffrey Fielkow. “Her extensive experience, exceptional leadership skills, and deep understanding of the industry make her an ideal fit to propel our company to higher heights.” “Sofia’s deep care for her customers and well-regarded reputation in the market as someone who consistently delivers on her promises makes her an incredible fit for our strong service culture at ID Images,” said Chief Sales Officer, Tim Mlnarik. 

Prior to joining ID Images, Sofia held pivotal roles at prominent companies in the label and packaging sector, consistently delivering remarkable results. Her innovative approach to sales strategies, paired with her ability to build strong client relationships, has garnered her a reputation for integrity and reliability. 

“I have always been impressed with the professionalism and solutions-driven attitude of ID Images,” Sofia Metz commented. “I am so proud to be able to be part of such an esteemed team, and to contribute to the growth and continued success of such a diverse and growing company.” 

About ID Images 

ID Images is an award-winning collective of 16 locations across North America, renowned for its all-encompassing label solutions that cater to a diverse range of clients across various sectors. Committed to innovation, quality, and client satisfaction, ID Images continues to push the boundaries of the label industry. To learn more, visit 

Behind the scenes at Mark Andy  

In an exclusive interview, Scott Warhover, VP Engineering at Mark Andy Inc, talks with Nick Coombes about the development work that goes on to keep the company’s technology at the forefront of narrow web printing and converting.

NC: Please tell us about your job function and the work you do at Mark Andy

SW: I’m fortunate to be involved in many aspects of what we do at Mark Andy, including the team that focuses on the development of new products, and the team designing each custom machine that we build for our customers.  Involvement in the design and technology decisions is a highlight of my job, along with managing our technology roadmap for future developments.  We have an amazing engineering team here that really thrives on the toughest challenges.

NC: What drives the R&D at Mark Andy?

SW: For the process of developing new technology and machines, of course the objective is to help our customers become more successful.  This requires a deep understanding of their needs and challenges, which of course can evolve over time.  We work with Product Management and Sales to understand what our customers say they want.  This can also involve looking beyond the immediate market situation to provide something they don’t even realize they need yet!  That’s when the fun really starts for us – when the engineering team gets to brainstorm new ideas, weigh the benefits of each, design new concepts, and then build and test prototypes.

NC: How has this changed in the time you have been here and what are the major influences?

SW: Converters today have a far higher expectation of the technology and its capabilities – high performance is a given, but this now comes with an increased interest in sustainability.

Both short-term and long-term market trends drive our work.  Long-term industry trends are the most difficult but critical to observe and predict, as they have the greatest impact on our developments.  That said, we must remain flexible enough to allow our customers to thrive through short-term trends as well.

NC: Can you give us an example of this?

SW: Yes, one of the long-term trends we have all seen developing is towards shorter runs and more proliferation of label variants, personalization, and customization.  While this has been influencing equipment development for several years, the shortages during Covid drove a short-term swing away from this, back towards fewer variants (SKUs).  Our solutions need to allow our customers to push the limits of new trends, yet still adapt to these changes.

NC: What market trends are you noticing currently?

SW: The trend still driving the most change is the continued growth of digital printing in our market space.  As with any shift in technology, there are a many new approaches fighting for a share of this market.  I believe we will see this settle down somewhat in coming years as the most productive and profitable methods become established and accepted.  Print speed, cost, and quality will continue to be the drivers here.

RFID in labels and packaging continues to see growth, and I believe this will continue for quite some time. 

And, of course, owing to challenges in the work force and the global shortage of skilled personnel, everyone continues to experience the need for technology and automation to assist those operators with less experience.

NC: How is engineering development responding to these?

SW: There are two factors to a successful digital platform.  As mentioned, the speed, cost and quality of the digital print is essential.  But beyond that, the integration of the web transport and hybrid capabilities into these platforms is what transforms them into a complete and effective production tool.  We are focusing on both.

We are also incorporating developments such as sMArtlink into our products.  This allows all machines to produce and gather productivity data, as well as store this information, provide the tools to analyze this data, and communicate it effectively with customer ERP/MIS systems.

NC: To what extent do you work with converters and brand owners on the development of new technology, and how does this work in practice?

SW: This process is key to our product development process.  Everything we do is downstream of identifying the needs obtained from the voice of the customer.  We work closely with them, both directly and through product management and sales, to identify these needs.

One recent example is the Pro Series flexo platform we are currently launching.  Some converters asked for an affordable full servo press.  Others indicated they needed either entry or mid-market digital capabilities, with the possibility of hybrid configurations.  We have taken this feedback, reviewed it in detail with the converters, and developed the first full flexo platform that can be built to run either left-to-right, or right-to-left, thereby fully enabling digital integration capabilities as well.  This merging of our customers’ needs has led us to develop something new, something beyond the original target, which allows us to offer both a full flexo solution in the Pro Series press, and a new Digital Pro 3 and Digital Pro Max which offer improved digital productivity and flexibility.

NC: Where do you see narrow web flexo in the next five to 10 years?

SW: Narrow web flexo will continue as the high productivity mainstay of production throughout this time frame.  Flexo continues to produce the lowest cost and highest speeds for long run work, and the greatest flexibility for materials and converting inline.  Our Performance Series and Evolution Series presses remain at the forefront of our highest sales volumes, and we continue to develop flexo enhancements and new machines.  Our belief in this is evident in the launch of our Pro Series flexo press this year.

NC: And where do you see digital in the same period?

SW: Digital continues to grow in this market space – we all see the cross-over point between digital and flexo continuing to rise.  From a design standpoint we continue to work on increasing production speeds and lowering per-unit costs to drive this trend further.  Variable data printing will continue to open new applications, and we will continue to see improvements in the integration of digital engines to further gains in productivity, user friendliness, and waste reduction.

NC: What, in your opinion, sets Mark Andy apart from its narrow web competitors?

SW: One thing that sets us apart is that we are truly not just a flexo company, or just a digital company.  We are print.  Given our ability to develop digital engines, and our ability to integrate digital engines, we do not see these as separate press developments from flexo.  When a customer needs a machine, regardless of the printing technology, our processes are the same.  This is a significant part of what makes us the Total Solution Partner to the industry.  Beyond this, I will add that we thrive and excel at the most challenging applications and needs, regardless of the customization required.  Our engineering team loves the challenge!