The first blog post on our new website is a shortened version of our CEO Ilkka Ylipoti's interview with Pakkaus, a magazine published by the Finnish Packaging Association. The story was written by Aino Laine.
In remote work mode for over a year, customer meetings with masks on at the loading dock and fewer business trips. This has been the daily experience in many places, including Auraprint in Turku, where people are already eagerly awaiting the return to normal routines. – The normal might change for good, however, as every sector has to consider more carefully how much face-to-face meetings are held, for example, predicts Auraprint’s CEO Ilkka Ylipoti.
Emphasis on more efficient work
New products are launched at an accelerating pace, which can be seen in the growing printing needs of customers in recent years. The development of printing technologies has created more opportunities for updating the look of products, for example. At Auraprint this has meant a significant increase in the number of customer encounters. Since last spring the number of face-to-face meetings has of course been reduced, but they have been replaced with new tools. Many customer meetings have been held remotely and meetings in person have sometimes required creative thinking – a meeting could be held outdoors on the loading dock, for example.
- Customer service is one of Auraprint's strengths, and it is a constant focal point of the company. Customer cooperation is especially important because of the nature of the provided service: all products are tailored specifically for the needs of each customer, so communication must flow effortlessly.
The company has also made equipment acquisitions over the last year to improve the efficiency and quality of production. Last spring the company brought in new plate manufacturing equipment and this year the investments in the printing room have emphasized digital printing technology. The new technology enables a more comprehensive selection of specialty colours and using metallic colours is now also possible on the digital printing side, for example. The company is also in the process of introducing their second Ravenwood Linerless machine that is used to make C-wrap labels without backing paper for ready meal packages, for example, which form one of their largest sales articles.
To support quality control, Auraprint has also introduced camera technology. Each product is checked with cameras to weed out erroneous products. The significant investment has allowed the company to improve both customer service and the quality of the work.
International cooperation brings support
Auraprint is the only Northern European partner in Concordia Labels, a cooperative company formed by European label makers. The member companies do not compete with each other but engage in technological cooperation and purchase coordination.
- Among other benefits, this cooperation bolsters our delivery reliability, meaning that our back is secured if something critical occurs in our own production.
Digital cannot replace a label
Digitalisation, the long-standing touchstone of the graphic arts industry, does not affect label companies as much as it does other operators in the industry.
- Replacing labels with something electronic is not really possible, and we see digitalisation mostly in our own production processes, says Ilkka Ylipoti.
The changing marketplace and consumer habits affect product packaging and labels, and Auraprint is very aware of these impacts. The look and information content of packages greatly influence purchase decisions on store shelves, but online the situation is different. It is interesting to see whether product packaging moves more towards multipacks where it is enough that the required information is found on the sales package and individual products no longer need to be marked.
Package markings compete for printing area
Labels have replaced a lot of direct printing onto the product itself because they are simpler to update, among other reasons. Shrink-sleeve and C wrap labels have a lot of printing area and they also grant more leeway for store display as the product information and visual look of a traditional mince meat package, for example, can be printed not only on the topside but also on the sides of the package. At Auraprint, prints can also be extended onto the adhesive side of the label, which increases the printing area even more.
The number of required markings on product packaging has increased and continues to increase. Many customers also want to include variable information to their packages. Digital presses enable small product batches, which makes them ideal for effortlessly realising campaign or competition labels, for example.
The label market takes the sorting and recycling of product packages into account in the material selections. To ensure that a product is recyclable, its label is made of an equivalent material to the package or, alternatively, the label is made of a material so different from the package that the package and the label can be easily separated from each other in the recycling process.
Return to “the new normal”
A year ago, Auraprint's sales saw a clear spike when every imaginable company began to make and bottle hand sanitizer while the consumers’ momentary penchant for hoarding increased production in the food industry. Naturally, this also increased the demand for labels, but the situation has now levelled off again.
The plight of certain sectors was also apparent in Auraprint's operations as the tickets and event wristbands made the by company are not really needed for livestreams.
The labelling needs of one customer group, micro breweries, have been significantly reduced by the diminishing demand caused by restaurant restrictions. However, micro breweries and event products form a relatively small part of our total production, says Ilkka Ylipoti.
Production at Auraprint has been running as usual even in these exceptional circumstances, but staff is longing to return to normal routines. As the COVID-19 situation eases up there will be a return to normal, but this normal is probably permanently altered and the value of face-to-face meetings will increase in the future, estimates Ylipoti.