By Andrew Joseph, Features EditorAutomation Hewlett-Packard Indigo Omnius SMAG Graphique
Multicolor digital press gives Quebec label producer a colorful competitive edge in a tough marketplace
Razor-thin profit margins are nothing new in the notoriously competitive label industry, but some companies manage to deal with them better than others by consistently offering excellent pricing, high-quality labels and the latest, cutting-edge printing technologies.
Specifically, companies like Ste-Julie, Que.-based Imprimerie Saint-Julie Inc.—a successful, family-operated label supplier employing 85 people at two label converting facilities specializing in flexographic and digital printing processes.
“We produce about 50 per cent of our labels on digital presses and 50 per cent on flexographic presses,” states Imprimerie’s vice-president of sales Caroline Fournier, who runs the company’s day-to-day operations along with her sister Marilène Fournier, serving as vice-president of production.
“We can also do hot-stamping, embossing, laser die-cutting and silkscreening to create labels and pouches for many different markets like the food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, industrial and supplemental foods segments,” she adds, relating the uplifting story of a company founded by their father Jean-Maurice Fournier back in 1975.
“When our father began this business, it was run out of our family home,” Caroline told Canadian Packaging magazine in a recent interview. “We’ve been operating out Ste-Julie since 1986, at the time specializing exclusively in flexographic printing primarily for the food and industrial markets.”
But as industry requirements and printing technologies continued to evolve year after year, she relates, the company found itself integrating new converting and finishing processes into its operations in order to grow its customer base—ultimately expanding into digital label printing.
In fact, Caroline notes with considerable pride that Imprimerie was in fact the first labeling company in North America to have purchased an early-generation Indigo Omnius digital press from Hewlett-Packard (HP) back in 1998.
According to Caroline, the Indigo Omnius press delivered such excellent results and performance that the company had no hesitation in purchasing two more digital HP presses a few years later,, including a model Indigo WS 4000 in 2002 and an Indigo WS 4050 system in 2004.
In 2007, Imprimerie boosted its digital printing capabilities further by investing in a new laser die-cutter—manufactured by Cartes S.r.l.—and advanced direct-to-plate and prepress workflow technologies.
Says Caroline: “Our father realized that keeping a customer happy was very important in this and any business, and so he instilled in us the notion that having great equipment will show a customer that we are committed to keeping them ahead of the competition.”
Carrying on in that proud family tradition, last year the company purchased a new-generation digital Galaxie press from SMAG Graphique, which Caroline says underlines its status as an important player in Canada’s label printing industry—a fact reinforced by the company’s growing client base not only in Quebec, but also in Ontario and British Columbia.
“The majority of our customers are involved in the advertising, supplements, food, cosmetics and wine segments,” mentions Caroline.
According to Caroline, the company’s growth in these markets is based on the underlying principle and premise of keeping things simple for its end-use customers, who are typically much more concerned with the quality of the final product rather than the process for making it.
“As a family run business, it is important for Imprimerie Ste-Julie to keep things simple,” offers Caroline. “When we work with a customer, we don’t merely look for the easy solution.
“Instead, we look for a simple solution that will best supply them with exactly what they need—whether it’s a distinctive image, label shape, a relief or embossing,” she expands. “We know it’s important for a customer to have a label that is practical, printed well and, most importantly, stands out on the store-shelf for all the right reasons.
“Keeping things simple is a process solution that has worked wonders for us—it’s important for a customer to feel that they can trust us for all of their projects.”
Caroline adds that having a dedicated research-and-development (R&D) department operating on-site offers the company a distinct competitive advantage.
“We can offer our customers a multitude of services,” she states. “If they require a special label or an idea for a project, we can satisfy their requests with an R&D department that is not only creative and innovative, but also always listens to what the customer wants.”.
“We also have the equipment that can handle all of their label needs and we are always looking to add newer and better technologies to ensure we remain not only viable in the market, but remain the industry leader.”
Adds Marilène Fournier: “With all of our technologically superior presses, we can work with any type of client—from the mom-and-pops to the large multinationals.
“The equipment we have here makes it possible to offer printed labels in one or more batches and on a wide variety of substrates from standard paper to hard-bound, self-adhesive frozen, metal or transparent,” she says, pointing out that the Indigo digital presses remain the main workhorse driving the company’s digital label production.
The seven-color WS 4000 digital label press is designed to produce cost-effective short and medium runs of high-quality labels at very high speeds, she notes, but is robust enough to handle the rigors of working over a full-out 24/7 production schedule, while the seven-color, narrow-web Indigo WS 4050 is further enhanced with features specifically targeted at label converters, including full start-to-finish capabilities, high print quality and high press utilization that is ideal for short- to mid-sized runs of full-color labels, providing high print resolution of up to 800-dpi (dots per inch).
“Customers who have used and continue to use our Indigo presses have been very happy with the results,” Marilène states. “Our customers have grown to depend our ability to stay at the forefront of label print technology, and working with Hewlett-Packard has been a very simple way for us to fulfill that expectation.”
The Fournier sisters say they have similarly high expectations for the newly-purchased eight-color, state-of-the-art Galaxie press.
“We were looking for a piece of equipment that would provide us with a value-added proposition—not only giving us excellent label production, but one that would draw customers to us like our Hewlett-Packard presses did,” relates Marilène, adding that the company was already familiar with the reliability of converting equipment manufactured by SMAG based on previous experience with its Comet generic converting machine—primarily used as a waste stripper to quickly and cleanly remove the excess substrate left behind from print runs performed on the Indigo presses.
Installed by local SMAG equipment distributor KPG Corporation, the state-of-the-art Galaxie digital press includes an unwinder, numerical feeding station, a semi-rotary flexographic unit, a hot stamping and embossing flat bed unit, a semi-rotary die-cutting unit, a flat silkscreen unit, and a slitter waste rewinder.
“As with all of our equipment, we purchased the Galaxie press to enhance a customer’s value of the printed label via SMAG’s sophisticated finishing technologies,” reveals Marilène, saying the new press has already opened up a lot of doors in a promising new market for made-in-Quebec wines and cider products.
According to SMAG, the operator-friendly Galaxie press has a very high register accuracy with a simple web path that can utilize multiple passes and combination print, while providing complete inline finishing capabilities such as hot-foil stamping, embossing, laminating, waste stripping, slitting and rewinding.
The company also employs:
• a Mark Andy 4120, 16-inch eight-color press;
• a Mark Andy 910, 10-inch, four color press;
• a Mark Andy 820 seven-inch, three-color press;
• Siegwerk Canada Inc. to supply all flexographic printinginks;
• Fasson Canada Inc., MACtac Canada Ltd., and Label Supply to provide all of the paper for the labels.
“Imprimerie has always invested heavily in the best equipment to provide a little something extra to the customer—to let them know that we are interested in serving them more effectively,” states Caroline. “We remove the concept of bureaucracy from our business, and want our customers to feel that anyone at Imprimerie will help them.
“It’s that attitude that the company continually fosters to compliment our best-in-class and our creative, talented and hard-working staff that will continue to make our company a growing success now and well into the future.”
PHOTOS BY PIERRE LONGTIN