Custom Labels chooses Mark Andy for flexo and digital print

In a wide ranging interview, Nick Coombes spoke with New Jersey converter Custom Labels Inc about its ongoing investment in Mark Andy technology at the production facility in Fairfield

I spoke first with Abraham Rubin, CEO and President of the company:

NC: Tell us how and when it all began for Custom Labels

AR: My father was an offset printer back in the 1960s and I grew up as a print broker in the label sector.  I spent about eight years learning how to run machines and set up business in 1999 with a $100 used press that I bought off the back of a truck!  The second press cost a bit more, $38,500, but when I bought it, I had nowhere to put it and when it did go into production it had registration problems.  That’s when I became aware of what Mark Andy had to offer.

NC: What was your first Mark Andy press?

AR: It was reconditioned 4120, seven-color press and was such an improvement that I bought two more and used one for spares.  I had to buy the drying units separately, but this allowed the business to grow and for a few years all went well.  But eventually we reached a stage where the old presses could not keep up with demand and became less cost effective.  It was time to look at what new technology could offer.

NC: What did you buy?

AR: We looked at all options but decided to stay with Mark Andy and installed a 13” Performance Series P5 in 2015.  It was a revelation compared with the older presses and importantly allowed us to target the shrink sleeve market where we saw great potential for growth.  Pouches are another sector that the new press allows us to compete in.  We added a second P5 in 2018.

NC: What are you planning next?

AR: We desperately need more floorspace so a move to larger premises will help us maximize on the machine and labor capacity we have.  I’m also looking at wider web presses, maybe 22” or even 26” that can be dedicated to shrink sleeve production.  I believe we can triple sales with our current set-up if we can become more efficient.

I then spoke with Tony da Silva, VP of Sales and Product Development at the company:

NC: What’s your background in print?

TdS: I joined Custom Labels in 2020 with 40 years of international print industry experience behind me.  Abraham still runs the day-to-day business, and my task is to develop our portfolio for new markets and innovate new products.  We currently supply the personal care, household goods, agriculture, chemical, and beverage sectors, but we know there is huge potential for growth elsewhere.

NC: Tell us about the recent addition of digital print technology here

TdS: As you know, we are very pleased with our Mark Andy flexo presses so when we started to look at digital technology, we wanted to know what they could offer.  That’s when we decided that the best approach for us would be a hybrid press that combined flexo and inkjet technology, and we settled on a Digital Series HD, which was installed last year.  We like the concept of digital print with flexo embellishment options, and it’s allowed us to take the shorter runs off our P5s and produce them more cost-effectively with no loss of quality.

NC: Has it been easy to assimilate the DSHD in your production?

TdS: Yes, remarkably easy.  The inkjet engine allows us to go straight from pdf to print and CtP does the same for the flexo element that we already know well.  It’s opened new markets for us, especially jobs with multiple SKUs, and it’s equally at home running paper or film.  In fact, since the pandemic, which created supply problems with paper substrates, we’ve switched more to BOPP film, and I don’t see us going back.  In terms of efficiency, I estimate it has cut turnaround time by 50% or more and is a great complement to our existing flexo capacity.

NC: How do you view Mark Andy as a company?

TdS: As much more than a technology supplier – they are more like a business partner that we can consult and exchange information with on a two-way basis.  Whether it’s hardware or supplies, we see them as our ‘go to’ source for everything we need – we have four of their presses for a good reason!  We believe that a close cooperative partnership benefits both parties – we feed them with market information that helps with R&D, and we reap the benefits of the latest technology they develop.  Our mutual growth and success are both based on trust – and it works.

NC: How do you assess the current state of the market?

TdS: I’d say it’s still settling down after the huge effect that the pandemic had on all aspects, from consumer buying habits, to transport and mobility, to raw material supply and costs.  There is no doubt that sustainability and the environment are challenges that we will all have to overcome, so lean production, reduced waste, lower power consumption, more automation, improved training, and skill retention are all key elements in running a successful business going forward. 

NC: And looking ahead, what do you see?

TdS: I see us specializing in shrink sleeves and pouches on wider web presses.  We’ve already switched from solvent and water-based inks to UV, which suits our portfolio well.  Brand owners expect more from their packaging these days, so the growth in demand for more embellishment techniques will continue – and that’s where the scalability of Mark Andy presses is so important.  Print is a very dynamic industry – if you stand still, you are going backwards!  Custom Labels will continue to innovate new products and explore new markets sectors – it’s the only route to success.

High-resolution images/file can be found here

Picture 1: (left to right)Che Santiago, Joe Hamway (Mark Andy) and Tony da Silva with Custom Labels’ new Mark Andy DSHD hybrid press


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