Digital Magazine

FTA Narrow Web Survey Says 70% to Invest in Capital in Next Year

RONKONKOMA, NY, USA—A recent Flexographic Technical Assn. (FTA) survey provides a statistical breakdown of member narrow web operations.

Label Printers: Flexo Saves Money, Delivers Quality Results
Label and tag printers that count themselves among Flexographic Technical Association members recently identified five strong demands that continue to challenge plant personnel. They are: short run lengths, fast turnaround times, lack of customer loyalty, competitive price pressures, and increased demand for high-quality graphics that rival results of offset and gravure.

These findings came to light in a recent, non-scientific survey of FTA’s narrow-web printer members. Firms fitting that designation number 325, represent 42 percent of the FTA’s printer member base and transact billions of dollars in business annually. Following compilation of the responses received, it was concluded that FTA’s typical label printer operates five to 10 presses, produces 15 jobs daily, employs 50 or more people and stages press runs that require fewer than 200,000 impressions. Average yearly business volume in the typical plant calculates out to just under $4 million.

Finding new customers is a constant concern. Participants in the poll said that maintaining margins in an overcapacity market is a very intricate process. Team building was dubbed "essential." Market demand for heavy ink coating, attainable only with UV, was cited. Balancing cost and profits was seen as a permanent requirement, much like the need to maintain a fine dot and perform in-house prepress.

"Designs are becoming more difficult," according to the sample audience of 14 percent of FTA’s label and tag printers. They described their present day task in a single charge: "Convince design and purchasing people that flexo can do the job now being done offset and that they can save money and still get very high quality results."

Demographic Snapshot
Thirteen percent of those polled said label printing accounted for 100 percent of their business. Similarly, 70 percent of the printers pointed to labels as controlling 90 percent of all revenues. Seventy-eight percent placed the ratio of label printing to dollars brought in at 70 percent or better. Eighty-three percent were confident that it was the focal point of at least half of sales volumes, and 91 percent said label printing was responsible for at least a 30 percent share of their business.

In the tag segment, 39 percent of those surveyed placed business volume at exactly 5 percent. Furthermore, 17.5 percent of the sample audience estimated tag printing at less than 3 percent of revenues. Conversely, 8.7 percent of FTA’s label and tag printers, who participated in the poll, indicated that tag production controlled more than 70 percent of the cash flow.

Of the plants surveyed, 100 percent employed more than 10 people and 91.3 percent had staffs of more than 20. The workforce at 82.6 percent of the facilities exceeded 30 and personnel numbered between 40 and 50 at 69.6 percent. More than half of the plants sampled—52.2 percent—employed somewhere between 50 and 60, while 43.5 percent of those polled employed more than 60. Only 21.7 percent of the survey audience reported having more than 90 employees, with just 17.4 percent having 100 or more workers.

Print runs averaged 75,000 labels or fewer at 57 percent of the plants contacted. Similarly, 74 percent of the print establishments cited pressruns of 100,000 labels or fewer, with 66 percent placing typical runs at less than 200,000. Only 4.3 percent of the sample audience was accustomed to print runs that topped 500,000 and a mirror image—4.3 percent—tackeled large flexo print runs of 2,000,000 or more impressions.

On the tag side, 4.3 percent of the printers said that they generally deal with pressruns of 500,000 or more impressions. More typically, 17.4 percent engaged in pressruns that never topped 100,000 impressions; and 13 percent rarely exceeded 200,000. The majority of tag printers—26 percent—indicated that they deal with orders of 25,000 impressions or fewer and 17.4 percent specialized in very short runs of less than 5,000.

Total number of presses in operation at all facilities surveyed came to 174. The vast majority of print shops—48 percent—contained between five and 10 presses, with 26 percent having 10 or more. Twenty-six percent of the establishments operated somewhere between two and five presses, while 26 percent ran 10 or more machines and 4.3 percent housed 20 or more units.

Record-setting print runs handled by these presses in the past 12 months ranged in size considerably. Research revealed that 34 percent of the FTA tag and label printers surveyed said their largest print run exceeded 10 million labels, with 26 percent reporting their largest order topped 15 million. Twenty-two percent had the top order exceeding 20 million labels, with 8.7 percent saying it exceeded 30 million. Tag and label printers who participated in the survey revealed that a typical day’s work constitutes 15 separate jobs, meaning 450 orders are filled monthly and 5,400 annually.

Standards & Controls
More plants insist on applying some form of print standards than don’t, with the ratio being 87 percent to 13 percent, according to survey findings. The most common standard program mentioned—FTA’s Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances program—was cited as being in use at 57 percent of facilities polled.

Some printers admitted to having modified FIRST guidelines to customize the program to their own operation, while others said they adopted partial elements of the entire platform. International Standards Organization (ISO) guidelines also were embraced by members of the sample audience.

Capital Budgets
Seventy percent of those surveyed planned to make capital equipment purchases within the next 12 months. Of that number, 44 percent said that they will spend in excess of $500,000. The largest single buy was earmarked at $1.5 million, with the smallest amounting to somewhere between $30,000 and $35,000.

Thirty percent of the printers polled had no plans to purchase capital equipment in the near-term, yet 28 percent of the members of that group cited a conscious decision to put off major investments for one short year.

Visit the FTA at flexography.org.

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