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David Richards of Amberley Adhesive Labels spoke exclusively to Smithers Pira

Ahead of his presentation "IRN-BRU “Bru’s Your Clan” campaign and other labelling big brand successes with digital" at Digital Print for Packaging Europe, David Richards, Technical & Commercial Manager of Amberley Adhesive Labels spoke to Smithers Pira about developments in the labelling industry, future trends for digital print for packaging, drivers for brand adoption and more. Read the full interview below: 

Q. Please outline your current role as Commercial & Technical Manager for Amberley Adhesive Labels and your experience in the print sector.

The role forms part of the Senior Management Team here at Amberley Adhesive Labels, covering all planning and estimating of new enquiries to the business, technical support to the Customer Services team, Management of our Reprographics team and all purchasing within the business. I also head our innovations team, which gathers ideas on new materials, processes and external influences to the label industry.

Q. In your 18 years in the industry, what do you feel has been the most monumental change to drive the print industry -and specifically the labelling sector- forward?

Without a doubt the impact that digital print engines have had, allowing creative teams to really push the boundaries of labels & packaging.  This has led towards printers who only have digital capabilities or a majority of printers like ourselves where over 50% of our production is produced digitally.

Q. We’re entering in to an exciting time for digital printing. Where do you see the technology headed by 2020 with regard to packaging? 

We are already seeing much wider format digital print coming into our market plus convential/flexo 1m wide+ print customers demanding smaller quantities of flexible packaging rather than accepting the normally large minimum orders.  This gives a great opportunity for narrow web digital printers to increase their market share in these areas, as most still account for less than 3% of their sales.  New Hybrid presses, although not competing with the 1m+ guys, will bring another combination of existing and new technologies to offer serious flexibility to customers and their brands.

Q. Amberley Adhesive Labels have recently worked with some big brands to incorporate digital printing methods in to their design strategy. What do you think are the main drivers for this raise in levels of interest and adoption?

The ongoing need to produce a wider number of variants, whilst maintaining lower stock levels is a key factor in most of our customers’ requirements, but digitally printed labels & packaging is a perfect way for smaller new start-up businesses to begin.  There are so many pressures in beginning a new business, that an extremely small initial order (1 if required), fast turnaround and a low cost full proof of the actual finished design creates a less stressful purchasing experience.  The high quality image achieved from the HP Indigo presses is a major selling point, but following this up with discussions about variable data, the use of HP’s 3 colour mode “EPM” or HP’s “Mosaic” software are where we can really add value.  The bigger brands find themselves under continuous pressure to differentiate themselves from their competition, so these exciting new processes and software linked with our digital capability can help to deliver something unique.

Q. In your experience, what do you feel are the main limitations for brands and how can these be addressed by the rest of the industry?

We understand and respect that brands are very protective of their designs, so we do all we can to support the transition from conventional to digital, however it is so important for us to ensure that all stakeholders really understand the added value that digital can bring to a brand.  We are not sure it’s so much about the limitations but the confidence to make that transition, which we can say is our role in this process.  The key area we focus on, is presenting brands with the embellishment offerings that follow on from the digital print.  It doesn’t end at the digital press and as we are a key supplier to the cosmetic and personal care industry, embossing, foiling and peel & read processes are what can transform any existing label into something really special. 

Q.Your talk will cover a series of case studies demonstrating brand success, challenges and collaborations within labels as a substrate benefiting from digital print technology- What do you hope attendees will take away from your presentation?

I hope attendees will see the flexibility digital print offers us and what we can in turn, offer our customers.  The improvement in timescales of projects, the flexibility of design changes even in the middle of a large project without causing serious issues and how we can add value to a project that our customers haven’t anticipated.