But this was by no means the first time that J Ryan has featured among front-runners in this and other industry awards programmes … as is evidenced by the numerous certificates adorning the walls in its reception area. Dating back over several years, these include Sappi Label Printer of the Year accolades, FTASA Print Excellence Awards, and awards from the American FTA
While J Ryan remains one of South Africa’s primary printers of litho-printed wet-glue labels, accounting for some 60% of its output, the UV flexo-printing of pressure-sensitive labels, particularly for the wine and spirits markets, represents burgeoning business for this almost 90-year-old privately-owned company.
Founded in 1923, J Ryan enjoys an enviable reputation for exceptional quality and dedicated customer service, supplying packaging and labels as well as advertising and marketing materials.
And now a new management team is intent on building on this sterling reputation to take the company to new heights.
A key appointment is Robin Legg, recently installed as MD, while John Ryan takes a step up into the CEO’s chair.
Robin brings fresh energy, as we saw back in 2008 when he was responsible for establishing SpearSystem Packaging Africa’s operation. Now he’s bringing this same dynamism and considerable label printing expertise to bear on J Ryan’s operation, having gained even further experience at a Belgian label printer since leaving Spear in early 2009.
In 2005, J Ryan made history by installing the country’s first Heidelberg Speedmaster CD102-5-L-Y-L-X similar to the one unveiled at drupa 2004.
This press, developed by Heidelberg for packaging and label printing, features large diameter cylinders for efficient paper travel and contactless transfer, resulting in mark-free paper travel and impressive speeds – 15 000 sheets/hour. It’s fitted with five printing units followed by two coating units and an intermediate drying unit between the coating units. It also sports a drying unit after the fifth printing unit for extended delivery. Hot air, IR or UV drying units can be used in various combinations enabling a spectrum of jobs to be printed in one pass. Examples of these combinations are the ability to apply UV varnish to conventional inks by sealing the job in the first coating unit and applying UV varnish in the second, or to apply Metalure inks (water-based gold and silver) in the coating unit in a flexo-type operation. This variety of applications, including iridescent water-based inks, was previously unheard of on offset presses and this press, J Ryan’s third Heidelberg Speedmaster CD, was the first in South Africa to boast five printing units followed by an intermediate drying unit and two coating units.
At the time, John Ryan was particularly excited about the printing techniques that could be completed in-line – including bronze work, metallising and scratch-off inks, to name but a few.
The next major investment, just one year later, was a Gallus EM410S eight-colour press.
Launched in 2003, the Gallus EM410S is a servo-driven press with sleeve technology for easy handling. It has taken its place at the forefront of label and package printing technology, offering an extensive range of optional units. Designed around the platform concept, it optimises multipurpose applications with high efficiency and superb ergonomics. Backwards compatibility was engineered into the design allowing the use of existing Gallus EM standard modules. This includes full rotary embossing and hot foil stamping available at any printing station using Gallus’s Plug & Print technology.
It’s also equipped with AVT video inspection equipment.
‘We get excellent quality printing from the Gallus press,’ confirms Sean Bell, the company’s technical R&D manager, who was on hand at the recent FTASA Awards ceremony to receive his company’s accolades. ‘The quality is as good as offset,’ he adds with a smile.
Now Robin and Sean have compiled a long shopping list of peripheral equipment … including inspection and rewinding equipment, a converting systems to open up new markets (for instance in-line folding carton production), and the machinery needed to produce peel and read labels. It’s going to be a case of ‘watch this space’ as these purchases are confirmed and commissioned over the coming months.
High service levels
But of course it’s more than investments in new kit that will take the company forward. ‘It takes a variety of ingredients to be successful,’ comments Robin. ‘Quality print starts and ends with people. We set the very highest standards for ourselves in meeting customers’ demands and exceeding their expectations with service and support that goes way beyond ink on paper,’ he maintains.
Apart from the latest technology, the company offers a high level of skills and top-quality print, a claim that’s underlined by its ISO 9000 status.
At the same time, the management team recognises that cost structures have not kept pace with industry trends and that this has resulted in lost volumes and the development of spare capacity.
Having acknowledged this situation, however, they’re busy setting things straight through a number of initiatives, not least the adoption of Six Sigma management philosophies for continuous improvement, and stepping up staff training.
‘We aim to become a highly-competitive producer of world-class labels – whether the customer needs long or short runs,’ Robin adds.
Another imperative is to identify a suitable BBBEE partner and to move quickly through the various levels. ‘We hope to reach a level four by March,’ Robin confirms. ‘But overall our job is to provide customers with product innovation, the highest level of service and top-quality at a competitive cost, so that we remain the printer of choice for discerning companies,’ he concludes.