Small can be beautiful. In corporate parlance, small also can be nimble, creative, flexible and smart. After a long and distinguished history serving the lower end of the U.S. sheetfed offset market, where it holds a 70 percent market share, family owned Van Son Holland Ink Corp., a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Printing Ink Van Son, has moved steadily upmarket here over the past several years. Most recently, in a strategic move designed to capitalize on its brand appeal, Van Son has streamlined its portfolio and now emphasizes the superior performance of its Vs5 Series offset inks on all large commercial multicolor as well as smaller two-color presses.
|Like offset printing, which currently supports the infrastructure of the U.S. printing industry, offset inks currently dominate the U.S. printing market|
To ensure its products reach their intended U.S. market, Van Son now represents itself as a producer of high-quality, high performance inks for every type of offset press, advertises inks designed for large offset presses and in 2004 formed the Printing Ink Council, a term it uses to describe its partnership arrangements with 21 independent ink manufacturers from the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico that distribute Van Son “VS” series inks and provide local service and support to the high-speed commercial printers who use them. In so doing, Van Son is demonstrating how creative thinking, far from being limited to new and improved ink formulations, has been critical in developing a new business model aimed at growing Van Son’s share of the U.S. large-format sheetfed offset market.
WhatTheyThink visited with Van Son’s president and general manager Joe Bendowski at Print 05 to get an update on the activities of the Printing Ink Council, discuss the latest additions to its offset line and talk about how industry trends are affecting the demand for and consumption of offset ink.
Like offset printing, which currently supports the infrastructure of the U.S. printing industry, offset inks currently dominate the U.S. printing market. As in offset printing itself, that ascendancy is being challenged – and by many of the same factors: a decline in print volumes and in the demand for print itself, the rise of alternative media, fewer establishments; in short, by a familiar litany of slings and arrows being leveled at printers whose bread-and-butter is ink-on-paper. With the advent of desktop publishing, the assault has been felt most severely at the low end of the market, where toner-based systems and larger multicolor presses have all but replaced small-format duplicators. “Small format has been declining for some time,” Bendowski says.
Small format has been declining for some time...From Van Son’s perspective, the handwriting (in ink, naturally) was on the wall.
Small-format ink sales also have been declining, while commercial four-color process inks developed for use by larger printers have maintained market share. From Van Son’s perspective, the handwriting (in ink, naturally) was on the wall. As the ink market moved toward four-color processing and from mid- to large-size printers, the challenge for suppliers was to provide their customers with products that would to enable them to compete in the changing print environment. For Van Son, whose 300 employees worldwide include no fewer than 25 working in quality control or R&D, those priorities match Van Son’s own to a “t.”
The fact that small offset is declining does nothing to diminish the advantages of printing with ink, which typically represents only about 2 percent of printing costs – a figure that belies ink’s critical role in maintaining print quality. Ink’s overall quality, efficiency and cost-effectiveness - especially on long runs - are beyond dispute. In light of changing market dynamics, Van Son’s task, according to Bendowski, was to translate ink’s inherent strengths into a new and more profitable business model. In keeping with its up-market strategy, Van Son’s revisions and additions to its offset ink portfolio emphasize maximum performance, return-on-investment and ease-of-use for printing operations of all sizes. At Print 05, Van Son highlighted a pair of products it claims deliver precisely those benefits.
|Van Son’s revisions and additions to its offset ink portfolio emphasize maximum performance, return-on-investment and ease-of-use for printing operations of all sizes.|
Van Son claims its “VS” Series of four-color commercial process and PANTONE inks for medium to large offset presses optimizes the potential of streamlined production systems to answer the growing demand for higher press speeds, shorter turnarounds, and faster makeready with no ink-related downtime. According to Bendowski, quick-drying “VS” inks feature higher pigment concentrations, low water pick-up, reduced plate wear and 4/4 perfecting capability.
Introduced in March as part of its overall strategy to simplify its oil-based product line, Van Son developed Quickson Pro for universal use on all large commercial or small two-color presses. Affordable Quickson Pro joins Van Son’s CML and Quickson PLUS products, enabling Van Son to claim that its portfolio of three oil-based inks provides an easy-to-use, cost-effective solution for every job, based on the quantity of ink needed to produce it.
The Ink Council
|We have started our own trend. We have brought together companies that normally would have been competitors in a cooperative effort.|
As interesting as the “what,” is how Van Son has gone about ensuring its users have access to the level of technical and product support required to keep their big presses running smoothly, including fast delivery of all PANTONE and custom-mixed colors. Recognizing that technical support and services are as important as the ink itself, Van Son distributes its Vs5 Series inks by means of partnerships with a number of regional printing ink manufacturers, whom Van Son collectively calls the Printing Ink Council (vs5inks.com). Each company has exclusive rights to distribute the Van Son product within its own region. Partnering with Van Son gives the regional manufacturers an opportunity to expand their businesses and to become associated with the respected Van Son name. “It’s easier to buy and sell ink than to manufacture it,” Bendowski notes. The Council holds twice-yearly meetings to discuss the ink needs and concerns of today’s quality conscious commercial printer. With the Ink Council, says Bendowski, “We have started our own trend. We have brought together companies that normally would have been competitors in a cooperative effort.” The next meeting of the Printing Ink Council will take place in Miami in February.