Two key ingredients for business success in a tough environment
In the printing sector – much as in any other business sector – success relies increasingly on the ability to be agile and to provide business with whatever it needs for business continuity at that moment in time. The other key ingredient is partnering with the right companies to ensure your approach to business is aligned.
Hugh Davies, manager for Product Management and Business Systems for the CISMETA region at Epson Europe, starts out by emphasising the importance of relationships – between distributor, channel partner and customer.
He cites the example of the relationship between Epson and Kemtek, which goes back 20 years. “Over the years, we’ve organically grown the range that we partner on, with the most recent addition being on-demand printers to accommodate retailers’ adoption of full colour shelf talkers.”
A shelf talker is signage that appears on the shelf promoting a product, often including an image, bar code and pricing information.
Aziza Mahomed, business development and channel manager for Epson Large Format and Colourworks label printers at Kemtek, explains: “It was a natural fit because we were able to offer our existing retail customers the ability to produce on-demand colour prints for their shelf talkers, leveraging existing relationships to create new opportunities.”
Davies says: “We’re talking about relationships that have been fostered over many years, which make it easy for us to do business together. Kemtek puts a lot of effort into developing proper relationships with its customers, instead of just doing transactions. They’ve turned distribution into an active solution-providing activity, as opposed to just moving boxes out of the door.”
Keeping it green
When it comes to sustainability, the two businesses are very much on the same page. “Sustainability is a huge focus for all businesses and has become a primary consideration for customers when choosing a solution. We have a long history of sustainability focus, going back to when we built our first offices in Japan and had to clean up the surrounding environment.
“We strive to manufacture products in a cost-effective and sustainable manner. We use recyclable plastics and manufacture non-toxic inks, but the most interesting evolution has been in terms of the energy efficiency of our devices. Fifteen years ago, we used this as a selling point for our machines, as energy conservation was a global issue, but at the time, it wasn’t a focus for our SA customers. Now it’s become a primary concern in view of the country’s ongoing load-shedding status.”
As supply chains tighten and regionalised warehousing is rolled out, having a South African warehouse (opened three years ago) means that solutions can ship from China or Japan without going through Europe. Another way in which the business is reducing wastage is through its packaging. “We’re striving to use recyclable goods only in our packaging and manufacturing, closing the chain. Kemtek is very aligned with this value, with their ISO certification, their consolidated deliveries and their backup power with renewable energy in their offices. We feel we have the same goals at heart, which is to ensure that business is done in a sustainable manner across the supply chain, enabling our customers to improve their own ESG scorecard by doing business with us.”
The future of labelling
Davies believes that labelling is on the increase, the applications are just evolving. “While some traditional businesses are having to adapt as customers move to online, this is a challenge that retailers are facing globally. We’re seeing a shift towards applications such as electronic receipts and QR coding.”
He also notes an increase in the use of colour labelling, which is used by almost every vertical. “The pandemic has rejuvenated the way in which people do business and we’re almost seeing a shift back towards the cottage industry of old, with people starting their own ventures and requiring small label print runs. We’re seeing definite growth in that area.”
Retailers need to make the in-store shopping experience relevant by using things like advertising cards, sprucing up their shelf talkers and bringing more colour into the mix. Davies says: “The future is looking bright despite the current challenging times.”
Mahomed underlines the need to be agile and change with the times, and that change is happening at pace. “We need to be enabling business continuity as opposed to profiting from a downturn in the economy. There is a difference and we need to be cognisant of it.”