by Danny Mertens
Arti-Bau Label Printers
We asked Monika Stefańska, the chairperson of the board, about the company's most recent purchase of the technologically advanced Xeikon PX3000 model.
Q: On its website, Arti-Bau claims to be the first digital roll label printer in the lower Silesia region. How did you achieve this position? Can you tell me how you attract your customers and how you keep your advantage in such a competitive market?
Monika Stefańska: Arti-Bau Label Printers was founded in 2012 when our first digital inkjet Jetrion 4830 UV machine proudly took place in a commercial unit of an area of 65 m2 in one of Wroclaw's residential buildings (it was replaced by us a year ago, following 7 years of use of the Xeikon PX3000 model). We started out with a lot of enthusiasm and hope for success, although at the time we did not have a single customer in reserve. The digital inkjet web press technology was still in its infancy in those days and machines were only just entering the market, most often in the form of a backup in big flexo printers. We dived into deep waters and decided to print using this technology only when we saw its huge potential on the national Polish labels market which finally gave us the right to use the title of "first digital label printer in the lower Silesia region" and perhaps in the whole of Poland (although the latter is just a presumption).
In a relatively short space of time the choice we made turned out to be a good one. Our customer base grew from one month to the next, but it was only in 2014 when we moved into our new head office which had full warehouse facilities that we were able to spread our wings. Once we could maintain full warehouse levels of the fastest moving substrates, we were able to serve our customers at very short notice, and this, combined with the knowledge and experience of our production crew, makes our product competitive. We believe, it is the quality of customer service and not the price which makes a business stand out in today’s market. We know that we can now be very reliable; our word given to our customer is the most important thing to us. It is widely known that planning production in even the most organised companies can be problematic, but our business model allows us to serve some very big entities who choose Arti-Bau because of the short delivery time we can achieve for their orders.
Q: Let's get back to the grassroots. Following the purchase of the first machine the company started to gradually conquer the digital printing market. How did the development of Arti-Bau progress?
Monika Stefańska: Our first inkjet machine quickly started to work two full shifts but we were still not fully satisfied. We were getting ready for new investments, engaging more operators and pressmen "on our way up", in order to prepare us for the delivery of a greater number of orders. In 2016, we extended our production hall where our hybrid machine proudly stood – digital and innovative on a worldwide scale, the machine also combined elements of analogue printing. Amongst other things it enabled the production of peel-off labels in digital inkjet printing technology. It was the first solution of its kind in Europe and we were then able to offer our customers a lot more than was possible until now using digital technology. In those days all labels in Poland were peel off ones, with the overprint on the side using glue or cold stamping. These were printed only by flexography printers and, in addition, at low volumes and high prices. We put our bets on the brand new concept of inkjet printing which utilises the ease of printing several files in digital technology whilst using elements of the flexo technology process. Therefore, we had a trick up our sleeve no one else did.
In 2018, we became aware that our first machine was no longer meeting market requirements in terms of quality and speed of printing. We then commenced our search for a new partner. We believed four areas were key: ease of access to service support, a good service contract and importantly the quality and the speed of printing. We opted for Xeikon as their offering delivered on each of the four factors listed above.
Q: What opportunities are available to you today thanks to the investments you mentioned?
Monika Stefańska: Today Arti-Bau has two fast printing machines and two die-cut and confectioning machines. In the company development concept to date, there is no room for additional finishing machines, they are simply not needed by us at this moment in time. Thanks to two fast and modern machines we are able to print on almost a full range of substrates which are utilised in flexo printing: BOPP film intended for PET bottle labels, as well as substrates for printing sachets and tubes. Naturally, this includes all kinds of film on silicon and foil bases, as well as paper substrates. This gives us the opportunity to serve nearly all industries which label and package their products, except for those which we exclude on technical grounds such as shrink sleeve labels due to the thickness of the ink. Having two machines of a printing width of up to 330 mm gives us additional support and provides security to our clients related to the option of moving an order run from one machine to another (in line with our workload). Xeikon’s innovative software allows us to print variable data on the label, such as text, numbers and QR codes, in a simple and intuitive manner. In the past we were only able to offer this service with two passes on the machine which was not cost-effective.
Q: What kind of customers do you serve and what kind of assistance can they expect in preparing an order?
Monika Stefańska: Nowadays more and more customers are demanding creative and quality products with short delivery times and in low volumes, so we have adopted the strategy to pamper them every step of the way - as far as is practical of course. We have a staff of three in our graphics department whose main task it to maintain continuity of production. One of their most important duties it to check whether the files sent by customers have been prepared in compliance with the artwork. Here we are in the first part of April and after delivering three thousand orders this year we have received only 10 complaints, which means that the strategy we have adopted must be working. Customers often expect a comprehensive service so we also provide support at the project preparation stage. Occasionally, at a client's request we will swap variable data on the labels which, in our opinion, makes them even more attached to our company, since not every printer has its own graphic designers and external ones can't always be reached.
Q: Looking back on recent months, how do you regard the purchase of the Xeikon PX3000 machine?
Monika Stefańska: In opting for this investment in a Xeikon digital label press we had our customers' needs in mind. Our second machine does best with relatively big volumes but we needed a piece of equipment which would offer a high quality of printing and a high speed when fulfilling orders, and at the same time, one which would be user-friendly and capable of processing a large number of files for a single order. We were also guided by our knowledge of the print heads used by Xeikon in the PX3000 model. They are "long" print heads which means that with a width of 330 mm we have only two-colour combinations which gives the opportunity for high-quality printing with full backgrounds. Thanks to these print heads the achieved size of droplets when combined with lower density ink is excellent when printing fine texts, especially on a contrasting background. A key advantage is Xeikon’s PX3000 software which allows the printing of variable data on labels, such as text, numbers or QR codes, in a simple and intuitive manner. This service would only be possible from us in the past by having two passes of the machine which was not cost-effective. To date, our experience of Xeikon’s post-sales service has also been very positive: the response is fast and the fact that the service engineers are based in our country allows them to reach us within 24hours if required.
Q: What direction are you intending to take in regards to development? How do you see the future of your company and the label printing market in general? Perhaps you would like to look at opportunities in another niche area?
Monika Stefańska: Arti-Bau is a family business that has been working with many people for many years, which in turn helps us to serve them. We understand their needs and their high levels of requirements and expectations. Our operators are experts in digital technology and the installation of new machines always goes to plan without the need for overtime. This was the case with Xeikon’s PX3000 press. The head of production is a leading technology expert whose knowledge has impressed even machine manufacturers on more than one occasion. At Arti-Bau we closely follow technology news and trends in the printing and label and packaging sectors so as not to miss any opportunity for development.
Xeikon has provided us with a modern, clever machine which has allowed us to be even more flexible. The PX3000 digital label press prints long jobs very speedily whilst maintaining cost-effectiveness even when fulfilling low-volume orders.
Today, both the world and Poland are facing difficult challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic which besides the obvious health risk has hit every sector of the economy with no warning. It has turned out to be an exceptional time for us too. It has proven to us yet again that the investment we made in 2012 in this very technology was the right thing to do because, as we know, every manufacturer, regardless of the industry sector they are in, requires labels. It is only thanks to our expedient and efficient machines we are able to plan the future and satisfy the needs of our clients, even in times of crisis. The printing technology market is developing dynamically, so I am unable to present concrete plans regarding new investments today, as very often new plans are the result of what is happening here and now. I can promise you one thing in the future: we will definitely come first again in one field or another.
Michał Kuczkowski, Xeikon, Poland Sales Manager says: “Xeikon is the only company worldwide to offer both digital technologies: toner and inkjet. Thanks to this we were able to select a model suitable for Arti-Bau's needs. We create the software for the machines ourselves, we can therefore configure optimal packages for our customers, as well as integrate their databases. Our companies have a lot in common because Arti-Bau is a fully digital printer and Xeikon has been producing solutions solely for the digital printing process for over 30 years now. This has impacted on its fast implementation and is a good sign of our continued co-operation.”