Xeikon, an innovator in digital color printing technology, is pleased to announce the first installation of its breakthrough Xeikon Cheetah digital label press, just months after the dedicated label printing solution was announced. UK-based Mercian Labels is the world’s first pilot site of the Xeikon Cheetah and has chosen this innovative, high-speed press to help it continue its double- digit growth path. Xeikon Cheetah, the most productive five-color digital label press in its class, will be installed early February at Mercian Labels’ new factory in Staffordshire, and run alongside their existing Xeikon 3000 Series digital press; as well as hotfoiling, flexo and inkjet technologies for an exceptionally Dr. Adrian Steele, Managing Director of Mercian Labels, comments: “We have chosen to adopt the latest generation of Xeikon digital label printing technology on the back of above-average growth in the digital part of our business, where we have run out of production capacity. Adding the Xeikon Cheetah will better position us for expected growth and we are confident the capacity to be quickly filled.”
Prior to the investment, Mercian Labels thoroughly evaluated other potential options available on the market. “We looked at competitive technologies from liquid toner to UV inkjet as well as the latest offers from Xeikon dry toner,” says Steele. “Every investment has to have a ROI. We like to sweat our assets, regardless of whether they are software or hardware. We are in the business of making money – not just labels. Everything has to earn its keep, and we are convinced that the Xeikon Cheetah will definitely do just that.”
“The advantages of the new press will be measurable in terms of speed and reduced running costs,” continues Steele. “As a result, we expect to take more market share from what is traditionally flexo territory as digital becomes more competitive on longer runs. What is compelling is that it will open up a larger share of the market for us. We will look closely at how digital can grasp even more jobs that used to be printed in flexo, thanks to the faster running speed and lower consumables cost. With increased capacity, the cost point also goes down. And with a genuinely different cost base to our competitors, we can improve Mercian Labels is proud of its independence when it comes to software and the benchmark the company has set in the UK for three-day lead times. “Our mantra is speed and service,” says Steele. “This means we must be very informed about and accurate with our pricing, so we can offer the benefits of the best of both digital and UV flexo technologies to our customers. As a full service label printer we see both areas growing at a similar pace for different reasons; thus our strategy is to offer the best technology for every specific demand.
Customers increasingly want to deal with one supplier for their custom packaging requirements, and not be forced to use multiple suppliers who only serve a narrow profile of work because they refuse to adopt the best of both digital and analogue worlds, and in different product areas such as cartons as well as labels. That is why we have already taken a small but significant step into digitally printed cartons, adding to our label business. This move has really connected with our customer base.”
Also important to the investment was the strong relationship Mercian Labels has with Xeikon: "This is not the first time we have entered into an R&D agreement to be an early adopter,” Steele explains. “Our long- standing and successful relationship with Xeikon is key to us as a user. We understand the technology and strategy, and how it will benefit us in the future. We wouldn’t have embarked on being the first global Xeikon Cheetah user unless I had a high degree of confidence in the platform and the relationship to get any issues sorted out quickly. You have to have faith and confidence in the strategy of the company. We think we will get to full production capacity very early based on customer demand, our talented staff and our very productive relationship with the digital printing experts at Xeikon.”
The investment fully supports Mercian Labels’ expansion following growing demand for its digital and security labelling products. Previously based in a 6.000sq ft. site in Cannock, the company’s new 24.000sq ft. factory in Staffordshire represents a significant increase in capacity. Now spread over two sites, with 50 staff and 31.000sq ft. of label and carton manufacturing capacity, the £3.4m turnover firm has a customer base of approximately 9.000 and is acquiring around 40 new customers a month. “We have experienced seven consecutive years of double-digit growth and see our future growth coming from various combinations of product innovation, market share and acquisitions. We formally completed our merger of AC Labels in Derby into the core Mercian Labels business at the end of last year and remain acquisitive,” states Steele. “The Xeikon Cheetah will solve a number of headaches for us and it can count on a very warm welcome to the Mercian family by both our production and sales teams.”
Filip Weymans, Xeikon’s Director Segment Marketing Labels & Packaging, concludes: “The Xeikon Cheetah represents the most important advancement in the digital label market in 15 years, and we are delighted that innovative operations like Mercian Labels are adopting its cutting-edge technology. Its unrivalled speed can deliver a previously unattainable mix of speed, quality and efficiency that will enable our customers to stand To showcase the new Xeikon Cheetah, Mercian Labels and Xeikon will be holding an exclusive preview event at the Mercian Labels premises in Burntwood, Staffordshire. This two-day event will take place in the afternoon of February 24th, one day before the Packaging Innovation show at Birmingham NEC; and in the afternoon of February 25th, the first day of the Easyfairs show.