By Melissa Donovan
Part 2 of 3
We continue our series on digital label printers with a look at The Label Shoppe (TLS) of Industry, CA. Referred to as Southern CA’s premium label manufacturer, it is the brainchild on Rudy Gaytan, who in 1991 was searching for a more affordable way to obtain labels.
Gaytan was president of Gaytan Foods, one of the largest co-packers of fried pork rinds West of TX—offering over 30 brands of product. The success of the business hinged on delivering orders in seven to ten days, however this window was being threatened as typical lead times for product labels were nearing three weeks.
To combat this, Gaytan purchased a local label company and moved it next door to the food plant of Gaytan Foods. The business operated with three employees out of a 1,500 square foot space. As the pork rind business grew, TLS grew along with it. New equipment meant greater label printing capacity, which led to offering label printing services to other buyers outside of Gaytan Foods.
In 2017, TLS became completely independent from Gaytan Foods and is managed by Gaytan’s eldest son Ryan and a team of dedicated individuals. Continuing to build on the principles TLS was found on—caring for customers and their needs, today the label manufacturer houses two digital presses in a 15,000 square foot facility.
It focuses on offering pressure-sensitive labels and tags as well unsupported film laminates. Over 50 percent of the business involves serving CA-based clients, another close to 25 percent in the rest of the U.S., and less than five percent is dealings with international-based customers.
Ryan Gaytan, CEO, TLS, first was introduced to digital label printing in 2002. Straight out of college and ready to work, he was dissatisfied by the plate process of analog printing. “I was frustrated by the seemingly archaic process of shooting color separations with a camera, developing film, making plates with terribly toxic chemicals, then fighting to register printing presses designed in the early stages of the cold war. I knew there had to be a better way.”
With most of the business’ runs in 5,000 labels or less, digital printing was the obvious choice. Researching options, he became familiar with the HP Inc. Indigo ws2000, however the company didn’t have a budget in place to manage the acquisition and Ryan Gaytan also was unfamiliar with the “then-mystical concept of semi-rotary tooling, nor could I reconcile separating the print engine from the finisher. My mind could only think inline at the time.”
Instead, the company purchased two slightly used flexographic presses, but as time passed it continued following digital printing’s trajectory and eventually purchased a Screen GP Americas, LLC Truepress Jet L350UV (CMYK+W) inkjet press in 2013.
“After a few-month learning curve, it was a surprisingly easy transition to digital printing with offline finishing. Our biggest issue with the first version of the Screen Truepress Jet L350UV was color matching spot colors—especially reds. We were one of the first ten units installed worldwide and perhaps the second unit in the U.S. This meant the folks at Screen were learning right alongside us. Engineers from both Kyoto, Japan and Chicago, IL were in our plant regularly for the first couple years, not because we had problems or downtime, but because we were all learning how to more efficiently use the print engine and improve future iterations,” explains Ryan Gaytan.
Five years later TLS purchased a second Truepress Jet L350UV but the Plus model, which includes O in addition to CMYK+W. “The second generation greatly improved color matching out of the box and has been a proven workhorse for us,” he says.
It’s most recent addition was the HP Indigo 6r (CMYK+W+O+V) in 2020, which utilizes HP Electroinks and an inline primer. “We entered the HP Indigo game rather late, so the technology has been mature for quite a while. Inline priming is a game changer—I’m not sure how people got by without it for so many years,” he exclaims.
Bringing a non-UV printer in house was important for TLS. “As productive as our UV inkjet machines are, their primary strength is also perhaps their biggest weakness—that they use UV inkjet technology. This limits their utility on uncoated and highly textured substrates and their use for food contact applications due to the possibility of ink migration. The HP Indigo 6r allows us to easily print on textured and uncoated materials, and when done under the right circumstances, can also print on certain food contact materials,” explains Ryan Gaytan.
100 percent of the company’s digitally printed pressure-sensitive labels are finished on a CEI Boss finisher. The equipment is outfitted with a UV full-rotary re-register flexography station, cold foil/wet laminator, self-wound laminator, and a combination semi-rotary/full-rotary die station.
When it comes to media choices, roughly 45 percent of the company’s digitally printed labels are printed on Acucote Inc. silver BOPP and 35 percent on white vision BOPP. After trial and error, TLS settled on Acucote because its silver BOPP features a smooth and consistent face, with low incidence of wrinkles or curing. The white vision BOPP offers a satin finish that makes ink laydown smooth and consistent. The remaining 20 percent of digitally printed labels are completed on a combination of Acucote and other vendors’ products.
Close to all of the Acucote product features GPX adhesive. “While it’s not a true freezer-grade product, we’ve had ‘accidental success’ with GPX performing surprisingly well outside its rated temperature range—though I am sure the fine folks at Acucote would never warrant such a use. For my money, GPX is the best all-around adhesive I’ve used in over 20 years in the label industry—and our nearly non-existent customer complaints about it back me up,” says Ryan Gaytan.
Not all of TLS’ customers require laminated labels—and sometimes the budget doesn’t allow for lamination. However, when it is needed or requested it’s usually a standard thin gauge self-wound gloss BOPP or a thin gauge self-wound matte BOPP from either Apex Pro America or QSPAC Industries Inc.
Ryan Gaytan admits that while the company was on the bleeding edge of generation two ink presses, he’s seen inkjet mature and develop over the last eight years. “Improvements in expanded gamut have helped us serve a larger demographic, while upgrades to a handful of key components and remote diagnostics have led to industry-leading uptime on our inkjet engine.”
The company’s next purchase is in on the finishing end, likely a laser die cutter, as the biggest bottleneck for TLS right now is in the finishing department. An initial quantitative analysis run by the company indicates that a laser die cutter can run at least twice as many typical jobs per day, reduce turnaround time by at least two days, and save a minimum of 50 percent on tooling costs.
“While these are compelling operational and financial reasons, our goal is to continuously improve service levels, thus keeping our customers as engaged with us as possible,” he explains.
TLS continues to remain true to its motto, always ensuring its customers’ needs are met as well and the customer is cared for. To do this is a two-fold process, first with of course the sales team, management, and operations personnel attune to client requests. Secondly, this is made much easier when trusted hardware and media are used on the shop floor.
Adding digital printing technology to its label production enables TLS to achieve this on a greater level. “Digital printing has been transformational for our business. One customer used to give us an order for 5,000 each of approximately 30 versions on a regular basis. Digital printing transformed that from nearly three full days on press to only four hours,” concludes Ryan Gaytan.
Read part one, Ultimate Satisfaction
Oct2021, Industrial Print Magazine