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Digital labels enhance sales samples

Freudenberg Household Products uses digitally printed labels to bring a retail-ready appearance to sales samples of its new Professional line of cleaning products.
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Freudenberg Household Products LP, a business unit of the Freudenberg Group, Weinheim, Germany, manufactures and markets mechanical household cleaning and laundry care products for sale in 30 countries worldwide. In the U.S., FHP is best known for its O-Cedar line of products, which includes brooms, mops, sponges, gloves, and more, that are manufactured and packaged at its U.S. facility in Northlake, IL.

Since last November, FHP has relied on Pamco Label Co. (www.pamcolabel.com) to supply labels printed digitally on a new Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com/go/graphic-arts) HP Indigo press for special promotions and for other short-run projects with quick-turnaround requirements. In particular, late last year, FHP took advantage of the digital technology to have labels printed for sales samples of its new Professional line of cleaning tools.

“The labels made the samples look like final products; the printing is outstanding,” says FHP communications manager for graphics and Web site Jennifer Shirley. “And Pamco was able to turn the labels around quickly without a huge, upfront investment. “I can’t stress how important it is for our salespeople to have really nice samples to go out on the road with and sell. It’s night and day from the samples we used to use.”

Digital broadens customer base

FHP’s long-time label supplier, Pamco, is a converter of pressure-sensitive prime labels for heath and beauty, food and beverage, and other consumer packaged goods products. Until recently, Pamco’s main printing technology was flexographic, with 20 flexo presses occupying its 55,000-sq-ft facility. In July 2007, Pamco installed the seven-color HP Indigo ws4500 digital printing press to capture new customers, such as private-label and startup companies that traditionally require short runs of labels for multiple stockkeeping units. In the past, the cost of creating flexo-press printing plates was cost-prohibitive for these types of jobs.

“The reason the digital press fits us so nicely is that it allows us to provide ‘the best of both worlds,’” explains Danny Fishbein, vice president of sales and marketing for Pamco. “For those clients who want high-end, high-volume flexo labels, we can produce those on conventional presses. But there was always a certain part of the marketplace we could not cost-effectively service. The front-end costs typically would exceed the budgets of those people doing sales samples, startups, multiple SKUs, or high-end graphics.

“Now we can service clients looking for short-run, high-SKU, high-quality labels for a myriad of things, from private-label applications and sales samples to startups and promotional products.”

The HP Indigo ws4500 is a web-fed digital printing solution that eliminates the use—and therefore, the expense—of printing plates, film, and chemistry. The press can run seven colors, including spot colors, white, and fluorescent orange, green, and violet. Says Eric Galli of Pamco’s Digital Dept., “This allows us to meet the Pantone book with great accuracy”—up to 97% of the Pantone Matching System can be duplicated, according to HP.

The press uses HP’s proprietary ElectroInk liquid-ink technology, with ink supplied in self-contained canisters that can be changed over on-the-fly within the press. To ensure accurate image registration, the press uses One-Shot Color technology, whereby all color separations are accumulated on a blanket and are laid down simultaneously on the final substrate, in “one shot.”

The HP Indigo ws4500 uses digital front end (DFE) workflow software from Esko, now EskoArtwork (www.esko.com), that includes the Kaleidoscope color management system, raster image processing (RIP), and other prepress tools. “The Esko system is very powerful,” says Galli. “There are a lot of options for automating workflows and making things much more repeatable and reliable.” Another feature of the digital press that appealed to Pamco, Fishbein says, was its variable-data printing capability, also accomplished through Esko software. Using variable-data technology, Pamco can customize or personalize labels, with options such as sequential numbering or bar coding. “This is perfect for multi-SKU applications,” explains Fishbein. After Pamco prints labels on its digital press, it uses a new Omega Systems Digicon HS converting system, supplied by AB Graphic Intl. (www.abgint.com), to finish the labels. The unit includes hot-stamp, cold-foil, UV-coating, printing, laminating, and die-cutting capabilities.

Saleable look for Professional line

For 12 years, FHP’s U.S. division has relied upon Pamco to flexo-print the majority of the labels for its 150-SKU core product line. With Pamco’s purchase of the digital press, FHP has begun moving some of its special projects and promotions to this printing process, where it makes financial sense and when quick turnaround is essential. “We need to take a look at the size and quantity of labels needed prior to making that decision,” says FHP purchasing manager Don Hansen. “If the quantity is smaller in nature, digital compares favorably with conventional printing. But if our quantities are sizeable, let’s say more than 5,000, then conventional printing is preferable.”

According to HP, the digital press is more economical than traditional printing processes for runs up to 6,500 linear feet. Fishbein concurs, although he says that “there are some clients who don’t care what it costs; they want their labels printed on the digital press because of the quality.” The ws4500 has a print resolution to 812 x 812 dpi.

For the Professional line, FHP was looking for limited label quantities—approximately 250—for sales samples of more than 20 new SKUs in a short turnaround time. “With it being an entirely new product line, we weren’t sure about the volume because we didn’t have commitments yet from our customers,” explains FHP’s Shirley. “With the digital press, Pamco was able to process the labels within a few days.” The alternative, she adds, would have been to affix mocked-up labels printed in-house at FHP to the samples.

Says Hansen, “Our sales group stresses that it is critical for them to be able to go out to their potential or existing customers with sample products that look professional. Showing customers an actual, saleable item is a much more effective sales tool than using a mockup.”

As with all printing jobs that begin on Pamco’s digital press, the Professional line can be easily moved to one of the company’s flexo presses if and when greater quantities are required. Explains Fishbein, “When we bought the digital press and the converting unit that went with it, we wanted to be able to replicate on the digital press what we can produce on the flexo presses.”

Says Shirley, “If we start out with something that’s digitally printed and then we take it to the conventional press, we have knowledge from our experience on the digital press, and we can use the digitally printed sample as a benchmark for the conventionally printed job.”

Of working with Pamco, FHP’s Hansen says he feels the converter is a genuine partner. “They truly want us to be successful,” he says. “We usually give them a standard lead time, but if we need something tomorrow, they are able to accommodate us.” (Pamco operates 24/7 to fulfill compressed turnaround times.)

Adds Shirley, “I personally appreciate that Pamco has been adding to its facility with new services. It shows that the company understands its customers’ needs. They are able to provide us with all kinds of options that make sense for our business.”

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