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John Wynne of Labels Unlimited on digital's impact on labels and packaging

Published on September 25, 2012

Cary Sherburne speaks with John Wynne, CEO of Labels Unlimited about his company and the impact he's seen in digital technology on the larger labels and packaging industry.

Cary Sherburne: Hi, I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com. And I’m here with John Wynne who is CEO of Labels Unlimited, welcome.

John Wynne: Thank you.

Cary Sherburne: So maybe you could start by telling us a little bit about your company. I understand you’ve only owned it for a relatively brief while.

John Wynne: Yeah. I bought the company at the end of 2010, so I guess about 14 months now. We are based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. We also have some warehouse facilities down in North Carolina as well. About 80% in the food and beverage industry. And we really have three segments of our business, digital platform, flexographic, and then we have a blank division.

Cary Sherburne: Blank division, what is that? 

John Wynne: Just the thermals, direct thermal and thermal transfer division, but we like to segment it for the longer run. It’s just a different business model.

Cary Sherburne: And how do you see digital really affecting what’s going on in the labels and packaging industry?

John Wynne: I think it’s been a terrific boom for the industry. Shorter lead times, clearly. Less inventory on the shelves for our customers. They can wait until the last minute to make their changes, as they always do. And at the end of the day, it’s given them an ability to get into other segments, whether it’s flexible packaging or introducing variable data printing to their customer base. So I think it’s been a terrific addition to the industry.

Cary Sherburne: So what do you see in terms of how they’re taking advantage of it in terms to vary the content? For example, regionally or maybe for different stores, different store presentations, that kind of thing.

John Wynne: Well I think it’s been, obviously terrific. It’s given all of the marketing managers, I guess, a great sense of optionality in terms of how they approach their customer base. And there is regionality, absolutely there. They can give some personalization and have those shorter runs that, perhaps, they haven’t been able to do in the past. And they can get into other markets, such as QR codes, which obviously we’re hearing more and more about each and every day. So I think there are a lot of exciting aspects that are on the table now for those Marketing Managers that previously didn’t exist.

Cary Sherburne: And one of the things that has been kind of a struggle in the commercial print side of the business is really getting the brand owners, and the designers, and the creatives to understand the possibilities of digital. But it sounds like, on the packaging side, they get the message a lot faster.

John Wynne: I think they do. Once you discuss some of the challenges that can exist with the flexographic printing, then I think they quickly can see some of the value that digital gets. And just like I mentioned with the Marketing Managers, the Purchasing Managers get their optionality as well when it relates to how they want to have their day-to-day orders come into their shop, or if they want the inventory held at our shop. I think that it’s just a lot of different decisions that are on the table now that they didn’t have the option for.

Cary Sherburne: Yeah, and you know sometimes people get kind of sucked into the mistake of saying, “What’s the cost per label?” Without looking at the whole picture. And it sounds like you don’t have plates, you don’t have to print the huge inventory. If you want to change the label the next printing you don’t have to make new plates.

John Wynne: No question. I mean, there’s a tremendous value added across the board. And so it takes some time, for sure, to go through each of the steps. But at the end of the day when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, it’s a nice value proposition for our customer base.

Cary Sherburne: That’s great. And so you’re seeing good growth in the labels industry, then?

John Wynne: No question, absolutely.

Cary Sherburne: That’s terrific, congratulations.

John Wynne: Thank you.

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