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In-house label printing cleans up on costs

Begun as a part-time job for three brothers attending college in the early 1970s, the carpet cleaning business of Robert, Gordon and Dave Hanks has grown into a nationwide company that provides wall-to-wall products and services for the professional carpet and upholstery cleaning and restoration industries. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Bridgepoint Systems prides itself on being a prime resource for products, services and education.

Says Scot Greeno, Bridgepoint's director of manufacturing, purchasing and logistics, “Our mission is to offer comprehensive support to all of our customers, so we offer training, we formulate and bottle chemicals, we manufacture equipment and fairly recently, the company has evolved to encompass the leasing and financing of large equipment and vehicles, as well.”

In the area of chemical formulation and manufacturing, Bridgepoint oversees hundreds of stockkeeping units comprising its own brand of cleaning products, as well as private-label items, which Greeno says are known for their high-quality ingredients and performance.

Until recently, Bridgepoint relied on an outside source to provide preprinted containers for its vast array of short-run chemical products—a solution that sorely limited the company's speed-to-market capabilities and design flexibility, and tied up a large amount of warehouse space. Last March, the company installed an in-house, four-color digital label printer, the Vivo! from QuickLabel® Systems, an Astro-Med, Inc. Product Group (www.quicklabelsystems.com), to provide photo-quality labels, printed and applied on-demand and onsite.

From its humble beginnings, Bridgepoint is now helping to keep carpets and upholstery clean from California to North Carolina, with 12 company stores, 60 independent distributors under the Interlink Supply network and 300 distributors under the Hydro-Force name. From a 50,000-sq-ft, “bursting-at-the-seams” campus in Salt Lake City, Bridgepoint blends and bottles its custom chemical formulations, which include carpet cleaners, soaps, spot removers, deodorizers, protectors, restoration chemicals, wood-floor-care products and tile and grout cleaners, to name a few.

While the company offers its chemicals in package sizes that range from pints to drums, the majority of its sales come from its gallon bottles, Greeno says. He estimates that Bridgepoint produces approximately 0.5 million gal of chemicals per year, filling about 3,000 gal/day at its manufacturing facility.

Traditionally, Bridgepoint had purchased the bottles for its lower-volume products from a screen printer that decorated the containers in two colors, with designs provided by Bridgepoint's in-house graphics team. Among the disadvantages Greeno notes with the use of preprinted bottles was the amount of leadtime required for each order to accommodate the screen printer's prepress, screen production and printing schedules. “Even though the costs associated with this process were hidden, they were substantial in terms of the lack of response time we could give our customers and our product development folks,” he says.

Given that the company has a just-in-time chemical delivery leadtime of one day from local suppliers, having to wait from three weeks for standard bottles to two months for private-label bottles was a frustrating obstacle. “Swings in demand were very difficult to deal with,” Greeno says. “We were very inflexible in terms of our production plans.” And inevitably, he adds, a batch of product would never fill the same number of bottles, resulting in too few or too many containers at the end of a run.

Another concern was the lack of shelf presence the two-color-printed bottles commanded at the retail level. Due to cost considerations with screen printing, two colors were the maximum Bridgepoint's graphics department had to work with, resulting in simple, copy-heavy, industrial designs.

In March 2005, Bridgepoint began evaluating alternatives to the use of screen-printed bottles. Once it settled on the use of adhesive labels, it quickly zeroed in on QuickLabel's thermal-printing technology, which met its requirements for speed (up to 3,000 labels/day), a label output size up to 18 in. long and reliability. Its only reservation with the equipment was its resolution. However, while Bridgepoint was considering its options, QuickLabel released its first four-color, 600-dpi, photo-quality printer, the Vivo!

“In order to project a quality image for our products, we wanted to be able to produce a high-resolution label,” says Greeno. “When the Vivo! came out, we saw some samples, and it knocked our socks off.”

The floor-standing Vivo! is an electrophotographic printer that uses four imaging drums to print text, graphics and bar codes in four process colors directly from a PC at a speed of 2 in./sec. While Bridgepoint's graphics department uses its own label-design software, it uses the QuickLabel® print-management program suite and Vivo! Windowsdriver to upload completed designs to the Vivo! printer, where they are then stored until needed.

Turned loose with four-color design capabilities at their disposal, Bridgepoint's graphics group did an overhaul of the labeling for Bridgepoint's 1-gal chemical bottles. The new labels have been designed to better differentiate product lines by using consistent graphics, and include vivid, four-color imagery, along with easily readable product dilution instructions, warnings and medical safety data sheets (MSDS) information—in both English and Spanish—as well as a bar code. According to Greeno, since implementing the new labels, there have been no problems with readability or color consistency.

The label stock, a paper-based, gloss-coated substrate supplied by QuickLabel, has proven to be durable enough to withstand the extremes to which carpet and upholstery and restoration cleaners subject it to during use, as well. In addition, the labels have shown no tendency to bleed or to lose their adhesion when they come in contact with the bottles' contents.

Bridgepoint is producing three label sizes—5¾318¾, 5310 and 5½36¾ in.—for its gallon, quart and 8- to 12-oz bottle sizes, respectively. The Vivo! can accommodate standard label widths from 3 to 8.1 in., full-bleed labels from 3 to 7.6 in. wide and lengths from 2 to 50 in.

Among the other advantages the company has realized with the new printer is the speed with which it can now turn product around. Instead of quoting its customers two- to three-month turnaround times for private-label products, it can now accommodate orders in two to three weeks, or even days, if required. “It's a huge, competitive advantage in the private-label field,” says Greeno. And Bridgepoint can now produce authentic, full-color prototypes in a little as one day, which enhances its sales opportunities.

In terms of measurable costs, because Bridgepoint can now purchase bottles as a commodity, rather than through its screen printer, it has been able to reduce its total bottling costs, including the label, by about 30 percent.

Space issues have been addressed too, with the elimination of preprinted bottles, freeing up 40 pallet locations formerly occupied by residual bottles.

Bridgepoint is also pleased with the Vivo!'s ease of use. Once label designs are loaded onto the QuickLabel interface, they become part of a drop-down menu easily accessed by bottling technicians. When the technicians get a job order, they set up the printer by ensuring the cleanliness of the machine, loading the print cartridges and labels, and printing a test label to check for registration. Then, they enter the number of labels to be printed and click “print.” Says Green, “It's that easy.”

With the Vivo! printer paying for itself within “months,” Bridgepoint is thrilled with the cost, quality and flexibility the new printer has provided. “Essentially, for the same price as a two-color, screen-printed bottle, we can now produce a four-color label, on-demand, for the same cost,” relates Greeno. “The Vivo! is a perfect combination for us. It's robust, very well-made equipment, and cost-wise, it is well-placed.”


More information is available:
QuickLabel® Systems, An Astro-Med, Inc. Product Group, 877/757-7978. www.quicklabelsystems.com.
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