UK trade printer Reel Appeal employs a fleet of machines to produce and embellish labels, all offline

digital labels and packaging

Combining a suite of offline finishing and converting processes is key to allowing Reel Appeal to produce a wide and varied number of label types, and has helped establish the company’s reputation over the last 16 years. This is according to the UK trade printer’s managing director, Barry Lewis, who proudly declares, ‘We’re not your average label printing company. ‘We produce work in a fairly unique way these days, whereby we Reel Appeal also utilizes two Sanjo presses from Japan, built for and imported by Edale prior to offering its own British-made presses. An Arpeco inspection, slitting, and rewinding machine is also in operation. Canada’s Arpeco is now folded into the Rotoflex line of equipment offered through Mark Andy. For Mr. Lewis, such a mix of machinery and the capabilities it brings to the business fits us lovely. ‘We’re not often running big jobs, rather constantly setting, changing, and switching between processes,’ he advises. ‘Speed might get you up and running, but it’s more important for us to make sure the job is right at 30m/min. ‘Doing lots of the smaller to mid-length run work means doing it offline and at a speed that we are comfortable with fits us lovely.’ •
will move a job from machine to machine, perhaps six or seven times depending on the specification of the work.’ Most of the company’s jobs sit between 200-2000 linear meters, meaning an all-in-one, inline production environment would not best suit Reel Appeal and its business, notes Mr. Lewis. ‘Let me have a hot foil machine, one for cold foil, a sheeter, and one for re-registering. They are all different machines that do different jobs in slightly different ways, but together allow us to produce labels in lots of different ways. We find this setup works best for us as every label is different. Being a trade printer, it also means we can more easily produce some of the weird and wonderful finishes and embellishments that our customers can’t produce themselves.’ Having onward processes and finishing is done offline has created a highly efficient production environment that is able to respond to the varied nature of the company’s work, whilst also being flexible and adaptable. ‘We have two Domino inkjet digital presses, producing work day in, day out. Across an eight-hour shift, this means all that needs to be done in that room are changing roles. Having finishing offline means we can happily take on a variety of label work by having efficient and flexible production, with machines and processes to suit. ‘It also means one operator can run several machines. For instance, we might have a job that requires three different processes, which are worked through the factory by one member of staff, who themself is versatile and adaptable. All of our staff can operate multiple machines, and move from machine to machine depending on the work in the factory at any given time. This adds another layer of flexibility to our production environment, and makes us extremely versatile.’ He adds, ‘Operating offline means all of our machines are there and ready to go as needed, and the work we run can be as straightforward or as complicated as you like. We just move it onto the required line to achieve the finished result needed. This might not work for all, but with our products being extremely varied and jobs frequently changing, having the work done offline is not a problem for us. In fact, it is a benefit.’ Capable and cost-efficient Started as a one-man operation 16 years ago, Reel Appeal is now a renowned trade printer in the UK. Not only that, it has established itself as a major player in digital label production, through the use of two Domino N610i engines. These feed the company’s variety of converting lines, including a strong representation of systems from Chinese manufacturers, such as Rhyguan. In terms of the work that can be done on such machines, these allow the production of multi-page three- and five-page peel and read labels, as well as leaflet/booklet labels up to 32 pages thick. A trio of semi-rotary die-cutting machines and two slitter rewinders from Rhyguan sit alongside four further machines from another Chinese manufacturer that accounts for two slitter rewinders, a hot foil/die-cutting machine, and a five-color flexo press. This latter machine is no longer used for flexo printing, rather provides additional rotary die-cutting capacity, but at 12 years old goes some way to dispelling the legacy myth that all Chinese equipment is poorly constructed and liable to breakdowns. ‘That perception is from days of old, and not so true these days. You might have a bearing or similar fail, but these are easily replaced and the same size as a European component, so can just be replaced easily in most instances.’ A growing number of manufacturers from China, Japan, South Korea and other countries in Asia have now established subsidiaries in Europe, in order to further their presence in the region. Rhyguan Europe, for example, operates out of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Others continue to target international growth directly from their home bases across Asia. He goes on, ‘With the price point often lower, the quality of these machines and the work they can produce makes them worthy of serious consideration if you’re looking to invest. Not everyone can afford or indeed needs high-end machinery with all the bells and whistles. For us, they have been fantastic workhorses, with the die-cutters running on average at 35-40m/min. The speed we run them at tends to be because of the shape of the label or the nature of the material being used, and is not directly related to the capability of the machines.’ Fast enough and ready With some high-end lines able to die-cut at well over 100m/min, even topping 150m/min in specific examples, such a speed could be perceived as ‘slow’. However, given the nature of production across the industry, rated speeds are often very different from the real world, as Mr. Lewis confirms. ‘The speed doesn’t need to be lightning-fast; if it keeps up with the printing it all sits together rather nicely. When you see these systems, perhaps at a trade show, more often than not they’re set up for work on an ideal job in an optimum environment. This is rarely the case in a proper production environment, where some of the time savings that can be made, like in automatically setting up the knives, don’t necessarily stack up. As we don’t do a lot of ‘short runs’, for me it is more important to have the job right and running at a slower speed, and the factory floor consistently turning overwork. Perhaps if you’re running 100,000s of linear metres of labels it makes sense, but when we’re doing a couple of thousand metres across several sorts, in different shapes and sizes, speed is not as big of a deal for us.’

* Original article published on Digital Labels & Packaging Magazine