by Olivia Cahoon
The benefits of digital print have an impact on a variety of manufacturing segments, including aerospace, automotive, healthcare, and packaging. While some use digital printing technology for parts or prototype creation, others invest to print to or decorate pre-manufactured products on demand and in small runs.
For example, the ability to produce in-house labels is attractive as consumers seek more personalized experiences and manufacturers create products in smaller batches in response. Recognizing this need, today’s manufacturers consider the benefits of digital printing and how it can transform their business.
Established in 2014, MKS Plastics is a lid and pail manufacturing facility in Tickfaw, LA. Three entrepreneurs founded the company after recognizing a requirement and fulfilling it. At the time, large plastics manufacturers weren’t meeting the needs of small- and mid-sized petroleum products—an industry that plays a major role in LA’s economy. Catering to that market, MKS Plastics started producing plastic pails and lids for motor oil and other industrial fluids with just eight workers.
Today, the company employs 34 full-time staff members and operates 24/7 to keep up with customer demand. It manufactures a variety of premium pails and lids. All of MKS Plastics’ pails are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic for adequate durability and strength. Premium lids are also made from HDPE, including a tear tab for a tamper evident seal and a tubular synthetic rubber gasket that creates a strong seal.
Finding a Labels Solution
Each of MKS Plastics’ pails and lids require labeling depending on the customer’s requirements. Originally, the manufacturer outsourced to a label provider that sent MKS Plastics the completed labels prior to the pails shipping to customers. As its customer base grew and the number of SKUs produced dramatically increased, ordering from outside label producers quickly became difficult for the company.
MKS Plastics strives to provide high-quality products at competitive rates and in a timely manner. While the plastic pails and lids easily met customer expectations for quality and competitive pricing, waiting for externally produced labels slowed the process considerably.
An additional issue with utilizing outsourced label suppliers was the minimum order quantity requirement, which often led to MKS Plastics requesting more labels than needed and leading it to place extra labels in storage for future orders. With a limited shelf life, the company was forced to discard labels—wasting money and materials.
“We had to find a way to way to deliver our customers’ orders more quickly,” explains Robert Killebrew, managing member, MKS Plastics. “And we came to realize that the best way to do that would be to produce the labels in house.”
Shortly after, the plastics manufacturer researched digital printing vendors. At first, Killebrew says the company was hesitant. “Our expertise is in plastics, and nobody at the company knew a thing about printing. We wondered whether we could find someone with the skills needed to operate an in-house digital label press.”
After evaluating multiple print technologies and vendors, MKS Plastics settled on the Xeikon 3030. As Xeikon’s flagship label press, the dry toner device prints at 1,200 dpi and is equipped for heat transfer label applications like those used at MKS Plastics. It handles widths from 7.9 to 13 inches with speeds up to 190 square meters per hour.
With this investment, MKS Plastics soon realized it didn’t need to recruit press operators with prior printing experience. Instead, the manufacturer staffed the new press with existing workers promoted from another department within the company. The operators underwent a week of instruction on basic press operation at Xeikon’s headquarters in Chicago, IL and a second week of hands-on training in LA.
A Need for Upgrades
Nearly a year after installing the Xeikon 3030, demand increased so dramatically at MKS Plastics that the manufacturer ordered a speed upgrade on its digital label press to double the print speed.
Before investing in the Xeikon press, the company produced pails for nearly 50 SKUs. “And in less than a year, we added another 150 SKUs,” admits Killebrew.
In the 12 months, MKS Plastics plans to acquire new equipment to substantially increase its pail manufacturing capacity and meet rapidly increasing customer demand. With the Xerox 3030 press in house, Killebrew says MKS Plastics’ customers are now getting a much faster turnaround time than ever before. “And we couldn’t have done it without Xeikon.”
MKS Plastics invested in digital printing technology with the Xeikon 3030 to bring its labeling in house. By doing so, the plastic pail and lid manufacturer reduced turnaround time while eliminating minimum quantity requirements and the need for inventory. IPM
Jul2020, Industrial Print Magazine