Telrol Labels keeps ink wastage and preparation times to a minimum

Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, Dutch converter Telrol Labels has come a long way since current managing director Ton Jacobs acquired a two colour Mark Andy press and started printing retail labels from the garage of his Hilversum home.

The company he built tapped into the fast growing demand for tracking-tracing label solutions, firstly within the meat trade, then for fruit and vegetables, and latterly due to the e-business explosion. Now a key supplier of variable printing applications, it employs 35 staff and operates four Gallus Arsoma flexo presses – two, four, six and eight colour – from its 4,500m2 premises in Almere.

Market conditions in which Telrol operates are potentially a recipe for an ink usage headache. Firstly, the company’s rapid growth meant controlling raw material waste was increasingly important. Also, a good proportion of the press production rosters feature relatively short run jobs – about 4,000m2– with very short delivery terms. At the same time, decorative labels today feature greater colour variations and increasingly require spot-on presentation to meet stringent housestyle and pack appeal criteria.

Flexibility crucial

André Junge, technical sales manager, explains: “Buyers at food auctions, for instance, cannot predict demand levels beyond the immediate future. Yet all batches must be packed and labelled quickly – it is little use waiting for stocks to arrive whilst the produce perishes. Our ability to deliver flexibly is crucial.”

In October, 2001, answers to the ink dispensing challenges were found in a Colorsat Desktop M16, a fully automated and computerized gravimetric system, claims supplier Stork Prints. Designed for relatively low dosages and fast, precise colour recipe formulation, the system accommodates up to 16 inks and is said to have a dispensing accuracy of 0.1g. It’s ideal for Telrol, which uses nine pigments plus two varnishes, for jobs where normal parameters are within 2g.

Usual job runs require between 2-5kg of ink, although the system can dispense up to 10kg a time. The Desktop is based on IMS Windows NT software, which offers a clear and easy-to-use operator interface and powerful data management features. The required PMS colour requirement is keyed in and the system then calculates the necessary ingredients “in an instant”. Typically, 5kg batch with four components is dispensed in two minutes. The company only prints with water based inks, though the dispenser can handle all varieties.

André Junge says: “The system has brought real, measurable efficiencies. Before, we had to refer to complex tables, and recipe formulation was a slow, manual process. Now, preparation times are only a third of what they used to be. And saving up to five minutes each time makes a valuable contribution in a company like ours, where we schedule up to 15 jobs daily using the dispensing unit.”

The system has brought greater efficiencies in ink dosage to Telrol – crucial, since ink accounts for a fifth of its raw material expenditure. The software has an organized storage system of press-return ink stocks, and every time a new job is activated, the system searches the database for compatible stocks to make up the new recipe.

More return

Excess ink is retrieved from the press, weighed and details entered into the system. A bar code label is produced, applied to the return container, and scanned. The material is placed in stock. Before, much of this would have gone to waste, due to the complexity of the operations. “Since installing the Stork system, we’ve managed to use almost 3,000kg of return inks. Without it, we’d probably have achieved only half that amount. That makes a real difference to the bottom line,” says André Junge.

Telrol’s success has come from seizing the right market opportunities, controlling material usage and making the most of resources like plant space and production time. Indeed, the company has also invested in a storage system for print cylinders and press tools; just as well, since it needs room to accommodate a fifth press later this year.