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The decision to double the digital print capacity at its Leicester factory has proved to be the right choice for Soabar Ltd. The printing company’s two Konica Minolta AccurioLabel 190 presses, installed just over a year ago, have been working flat out since the start of the COVID-19 crisis to support customers, and in the process more than tripled output.
“The reliability of our two AccurioLabel presses has certainly been tested to the max in the past two months,” says managing director Phil Achurch. “We have seen demand for digital labels go through the roof, and if it wasn’t for the Konica Minolta machines, we would have struggled to support our customers during this difficult time.”
Most of the label jobs printed during the crisis are for existing clients who produce hand sanitisers, disinfectants, chlorine tablets and other hygiene products for the health sector. To meet this unprecedented level of demand, Soabar has also increased the running speed of the AccurioLabel presses in effect now giving them the capacity of three machines.
“Although we had already been ramping up in our digital department over the past year, the crisis has accelerated that process and we have very quickly gone from digital accounting for 16–17% of turnover to nearer 50% of current sales,” explains Phil.
Soabar was an early adopter of Konica Minolta’s label printing technology, installing the first bizhub Press C71cf in England in 2016. Since then, work has continued to increase on the digital side, so much so that when it came to upgrade the press last year, the company decided to install two AccurioLabel 190s, as well as a sheetfed AccurioPress 3070 for proofing, to keep up with demand and future-proof the business.
It turns out that this investment was made just at the right time. While no-one could have predicted that the coronavirus pandemic would completely change the market, Soabar is finding that it is the digital presses that are keeping them going, while work on its flexo presses has declined slightly.
“Our Konica Minolta presses are really saving the day for us and for our customers,” says production director Rob Gallagher. “We are now producing in excess of 70,000 linear metres per month, which is a three-fold increase of where we were at the beginning of the year. And there are still new inquiries coming in, so the opportunities are out there.”
The company is also well-known for supplying textile labels, swing tickets and hanger tags to the clothes industry, but work for that sector has declined in most areas – although Soabar is seeing a steady increase in demand for wash care labels and similar for the PPE market.
“Most of our work in textiles has disappeared, so without the AccurioLabel 190s picking up the speed of production, our business could have been seriously compromised,” says Phil. “It’s been a bit of a game changer for us really, and I think that as a natural consequence, there will be a lot more emphasis on the digital side of the business sooner than there would have been naturally. You could say that we’ve had a couple of years’ growth in a just couple of months.
He concludes, “It’s been a worrying time for everyone, but I sleep better at night knowing that we made the right investment and that the future of our print production is secure with Konica Minolta.”
“Konica Minolta is committed to helping our customers deliver their services during the COVID-19 crisis. We are glad that our technology is able to help Soabar keep critical supply lines running during these unprecedented times,” adds Steve Lakin, who is Konica Minolta’s Label Press Sales Consultant in the UK.
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