On March 3, 2016, the global headquarters of Mark Andy Inc. was the setting for an energetic audience representing more than 30 converter companies that came to get a firsthand look at Mark Andy’s digital printing and finishing workflow solutions. While the unique Digital Series hybrid production system running in a simulated production operation was the centerpiece of the Open House, several very informative presentations supplemented the day’s learning experience. Presentations by Ryan Reding, general manager of WS Packaging’s Dallas plant, an early beta site for the Digital Series technology, and Mark Hanley, president of industry consultancy firm I.T. Strategies, laid the foundation for the facility tours and live equipment demonstrations. Additional tour highlights included a live demo of the Rotoflex Vericut3 offline digital and conventional web finishing solution and a tour of Mark Andy’s Lean Manufacturing operations, Mark Andy University, and the Mark Andy flexo and digital show rooms.
Attendees were welcomed by Mark Andy CEO Kevin Wilken, who gave a brief overview of the company’s history in digital printing technology, which has culminated in the development of the Digital Series production system. “We went all in about three years ago, hiring the best and the brightest to focus on R&D, combining flexo and digital printing, with inline converting and decorating. We launched the Digital Series because we are extremely confident in it and we are very proud to share this with you today.”
Mark Hanley provided a wealth of information on digital technology’s current and future potential in the label and packaging markets. He broke down the available digital technologies into four categories from tabletops to standalone production systems. Of these, hybrid modular inkjet systems, such as the Digital Series, are predicted to experience annual growth rates of 20% through 2020. “Inkjet is at least capable as electrophotography in print quality, but is greatly under-represented in the market. Mark Andy is a protagonist of inkjet and carries a lot of credibility in the market,” he stated.
Ryan Reding, general manager of WS Packaging’s Dallas and Phoenix manufacturing plants, followed this presentation with an open and candid assessment of the Dallas plant’s experience as a beta site for the Digital Series hybrid production system. The site has gone through all the system’s transitions with Mark Andy and has been running the latest iteration of the Digital Series in a production mode since early January. “We run about 35,000 to 40,000 feet per 8-hour shift, with 50 changeovers a day, at consistent speeds of 220-240 fpm, depending on the job. We have found it to be a really solid and stable piece of equipment.” Assessing the overall beta experience, Reding called it a “true partnership.”
The Mark Andy Label Factory was the centerpiece of the Open House, with the Digital Series press running continuously throughout the event, simulating the various run sizes and printing/converting combinations facing converters today. The Digital Series hybrid production system incorporates a modular design that allows for highly customizable configurations of printing and converting operations. The system in operation included corona treating and web cleaning, three flexo stations (one before and two after the UV inkjet module), a rail-mounted cold foil unit, and Mark Andy’s QCDC™ (Quick Change Die Cut™) module. During the course of 3 hours in operation, the Mark Andy Label Factory ran 12 different labels with 18 different versions/SKUs, at production speeds of over 200 fpm, resulting in 300,000 sellable labels. Job specifications included UV inkjet (CMYK and CMYK+W), alternating die sizes, flexo printing with spot and fluorescent colors, and cold foil decoration on a variety of substrates including semi-gloss, clear on clear, and white BOPP. Along with a live video stream throughout the entire event, attendees got an up-close look at the machine in operation during the facility tour. To conclude the event, a Mark Andy Label Factory Financial Plan was reviewed with attendees demonstrating a significant shift in the breakeven point between traditional flexo and a production hybrid solution.
The overall objective of the Open House was to provide converters with a firsthand look at Mark Andy’s state-of-the-art digital printing and finishing workflow. Attendees went away with plenty to consider. “I was very impressed with the event overall,” offered Dave Wagner, operations manager for PM Company in Fairfield, Ohio. “The highlight for me was the converter testimonial that provided a real-life assessment of the Digital Series hybrid system in operation. I was also impressed with the Mark Andy facility and its manufacturing flow, along with the company’s obvious commitment to customer service. I got a great education during my visit.”
“What an exciting way to kick off Mark Andy’s 70th year,” observed Wilken. “The response received from the Open House was more than we could have hoped for. Attendees appreciated the open and intimate sessions, with operations, technology, and workflow questions asked and answered. The day’s focus was on Mark Andy’s digital printing and finishing workflow offering and we feel the live demonstrations reiterated Mark Andy’s commitment to offering Business Responsive Technologies to help converters reach their full potential.”