Digital Drive: QTL’s Investment Opens New Opportunities in Flexible Packaging
About a decade ago, Smyrna, Georgia-based Quality Tape & Label Co. (QTL) was in a bit of a rut. Business was sagging and management needed a plan for the future. They wanted to identify what the next big thing was and get ahead of the curve on it. It was about the same time that RFID was entering the market and the thinking was that incorporating this technology could really position the company well for growth. But after looking at it closely, QTL decided not to invest in it. The search continued and what they stumbled upon next would turn out to be the company’s big break.
“Doing my research, I wasn’t sold on it,” Rob Daniels, QTL president, says of RFID. “(Then) I started looking around and saw digital printing. In 2008, we bought our very first Indigo WS2000 with zero business. I actually had to sell off property in order to buy the machine because of our financial situation. We basically put all of our eggs in one basket and said, ‘Let’s pray that digital printing takes off.’”
Slowly but surely, the initial investment did pay off. Currently, Daniels says that about 85 percent of QTL’s business is digital (the other 15 percent being flexo).
Flexible Packaging caught up with Daniels following the purchase and installation of an Indigo 20000 press in fall 2016, which it plans to use for its growing shrink sleeve, flexible packaging and labels business in the microbrewery, supplement and nutraceuticals markets, among others. Here’s what he had to say about digital printing and why his company continues to invest in it:
On the growth of QTL after acquiring digital equipment:
“It took about three years to take off. We did about 1 million impressions per year and then it got to a point where we were running it enough that we were able to upgrade to the 4500. As soon as we got that press in, it was like a light switch went on. We went from doing about 1 million impressions per year to 12 million impressions per year. Within two years, we outgrew that 4500. We sold it and bought our very first 6800. At the time we sold it, we were doing about 12.5 million impressions per year. The following year, we did 27 million impressions on our 6800. We filled that press up in a year and had to buy another one. That was about 18 months ago now that we put the second one in.”
More on why QTL got into digital printing:
“When I was doing sales, the first thing I always ran into is that people did not want to pay for plates. So that was always a big sales issue. They’d say, ‘I’ll move my business to you if you eat the plates.’ So that’s what I wanted to start doing, taking the plates out of the equation. As we started getting into it and I started learning more about digital, I realized we can offer so much more with digital print than we can with conventional print. That was one of the big things for us, taking the burden off of our flexo presses and being able to service our customers better. Now with digital, we have accounts that we guarantee 24 hours service on.”
On the impact of digital:
“We were six employees, now we’re up to 37. Over the last four years, we’ve been averaging over 30 percent growth year-over-year. With the addition of (the 20000), we expect to hit that – if not exceed that – over the next couple of years. We definitely foresee a big future in this. When I came here in 2006, we were doing about $750,000 a year in annual sales. In 2016, we hit about $7.5 million.”
Quality Tape & Label Co.
(770) 433-1235; www.qtlabel.com