As a result of a merger in 2008 with Cape Town-based BarCape, Spec Systems is currently led by a young, dynamic management team – Colin Roux, Kevin van Dyk, Steven Makepeace and Nicolas Korff – and boasts extensive sales and manufacturing premises in Johannesburg and Cape Town, along with a sales and distribution centre in Durban.
Exploring fresh opportunities
Recognising changing market demands and adjusting accordingly has always been a priority and in 2012 Spec Systems became the first South African company to adopt Xeikon’s 3300 digital printing platform for full-colour, short-run label printing.
Such has been the success of the venture that a second Xeikon, this time a 3030Plus, has been added to the line-up.
In addition, a glass-fronted meeting room, called the Spec Café, has been erected adjacent to the printing area, providing a comfortable space for customers to discuss design ideas, sign off proofs or watch production in progress.
‘Over the years, blank label margins have diminished considerably so we began looking at opportunities in full-colour labels,’ comments MD, Kevin van Dyk. ‘Realising there was a gap for short-run label orders, specifically for niche products and promotions, we started investigating digital printing systems,’ he adds. ‘After assessing our options, we went for a roll-to-roll configuration built around a Xeikon 3300, plus an offline Xeikon mini D-Coat web finishing unit for UV coating, die-cutting and rewinding. What really appealed to us was the simplicity of the technology and the Xeikon ethos and, I’m happy to say, it has served us perfectly. So much so, that we fast-tracked the second purchase to cope with growing demand.’
Installed in November 2014, the 3030Plus is the fifth model in Xeikon’s 3000 Series. Featuring five colour stations (spot and CMYK), with a consistent printing speed of
15m/min, a maximum 330mm web width, and high-precision LED-array imaging technology, combining true 1 200dpi resolution at four-bit/spot, the 3030Plus is delivering premium quality printing and efficiency.
Perhaps one of the most significant advantages of this technology is its eco-friendly Xeikon ICE toner, specifically designed for printing on heat-sensitive substrates such as coextruded PE films, BOPP, PVC and PET, as well as thermal transfer labels. It also allows printing on conventional self-adhesive substrates without the need for specific priming. What’s more, ICE toner meets all applicable FDA guidelines for indirect food contact under room temperature, and for direct food contact for dry food substances containing no surface oil or fat under the same conditions.
Like other Xeikon 3000 systems, the Xeikon 3030Plus is driven by the X-800 Digital Front-End, featuring automatic printer calibration, density control and registration adjustments for excellent colour stability. Prepress functions have been boosted with Xeikon’s Colour Control software upgrade, enabling the Spec Systems team to access precise colour control definitions via a cloud-based library. Additionally, X-800 allows easy inclusion of metadata functionalities such as sequential numbers and/or barcodes and, if required, full-colour variable data printing.
‘The benefits we’re seeing with the new press are phenomenal,’ declares Kevin. ‘Brand owner feedback has been overwhelmingly positive regarding registration and print consistency. What we’re presenting as a signed-off prepress proof is what we’re delivering as a final product. There’s no compromise on quality, and production is much faster than we’d have achieved using conventional flexography,’ he adds. ‘Job turnaround is swift, and brand owners have the flexibility to make design tweaks without incurring costs and delays.’
As with the previous Xeikon installation, Spec Systems has received ongoing training and maintenance support from local distributor, Thunderbolt Solutions. Valuable round-the-clock support and coaching is also provided, when required, by Xeikon’s Belgian engineers, who have remote access to view and run the press and guide the operator.
According to Wayne Stevens, Thunderbolt MD, Spec Systems’ recent growth has been remarkable, proving the viability and consistency that Xeikon delivers to digital label printers.
Shaun Kennedy, Xeikon product manager at Thunderbolt, notes that the installation has been trouble-free, despite having to move the initial Xeikon press to new premises and add the second press in a short space of time. ‘Spec Systems’ team worked well with Thunderbolt and Xeikon to allow effective implementation of both the first and second systems. And, since the arrival of the new press, throughput volumes have grown substantially, and efficiencies have quickly accrued.
‘The use of a skilled DTP designer to run the press has been very beneficial,’ he continues. ‘This means jobs are produced exactly as the designer intended, leading to satisfied customers. Spec Systems is to be congratulated for innovation and energy, it has certainly paid off in the marketplace.’
Original label production
Setting standards and objectives from the start was imperative to the digital printing divisions’ success.
‘When we started in 2012,’ Kevin van Dyk explains, ‘we already had a top-quality in-house design studio, so the next step was to get our designers trained by Xeikon rather than converting flexo press operators to digital technology. The reason was two-fold – the digital process often requires quick tweaks and updates, so we wanted operators who understood design and production parameters; and generally designers have a flair for brand enhancement and an eagle eye for perfection!’
Now that both Xeikons are integrated into Spec Systems’ operation, the focus is on sourcing new business from small- and medium-sized enterprises in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical, personal care and cosmetic fields, via dedicated sales teams based in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
‘The design opportunities with the Xeikon 3030Plus really are endless, and the beauty of the technology is its absolute flexibility,’ asserts Kevin. ‘Today’s consumers want packaging with variety and a novelty element. Using Xeikon’s digital technology, we can supply labels from one line item upwards, and even print individual labels in one campaign. Besides our large library of standard dies, we can design original labels for special occasions and new product developments, including variable data and personalised labels.’
Summing up, Kevin remarks: ‘Our vision is to assist small- to medium-sized businesses to build their brands by delivering leading-edge, top-class labels that create and demonstrate a real point of difference.’