“Tout beau, tout nouveau” – Interview with Xeikon’s CEO at Labelexpo Europe
Since March 2017 Benoit Chatelard has held the position of president & CEO Digital Solutions, a division of Flint Group to which digital printing press manufacturer Xeikon belongs. In Brussels, the new head of Xeikon talked with the NarrowWebTech editor about the latest addition to the company’s product portfolio, about the latest trends within the label printing market and why Xeikon invested in UV inkjet as well as dry toner-based printing technology – and why his theme as CEO could be described as “tout beau, tout nouveau”.
You took over the position of CEO from Wim Maes in March 2017 . How have things been going since then?
Benoit Chatelard: Well, taking over a new job is always an exciting moment. So, it has gone very well. However, the most important thing is: First you have to settle yourself in, understand the company and then start making plans. So it is always a good moment to start or as in France we say: “tout beau, tout nouveau” – all new, all nice.
What were the reasons for investing in the new Panther technology with the Xeikon PX3000?
Benoit Chatelard: Well, first of all Xeikon has been involved at the forefront of electro photography for 25 years. We excel in that, and we believe on the whole that we have the best ratio of speed and quality, particularly with the other announcement of the Xeikon CX500. But at the same time, the market has particular demands for certain applications, where the UV inkjet system is more relevant. In addition, some customers buy designs for different reasons and are willing to invest in inkjet. So the prediction is, that for the next three to five years, at least, half of the industry will be electrography and, the other half inkjet. Now that we have become number two worldwide in terms of labels, we continue to expect growth, it was the right moment to invest in inkjet. So, our strategy is to invest as much in electro photography as in inkjet, considering the technology from the application side, inkjet e.g. for durables and cosmetic and electro photography for food safe applications.
You want to see Benoit Chatelard in person? This interview is available as a video online!
Do you think that inkjet will decrease then?
Benoit Chatelard: In proportion to the market, yes, but the market is growing. It is growing in the number of sold presses. We have never sold so many electro photographic (EP) presses in the market ever before and thus, at this show we are taking multiple orders. EP is growing in certain terms, but in proportion to the overall market, which is growing at about 9% per year inkjet will grow a bit faster.
What about fusion technology?
Benoit Chatelard: Very good question. We are very excited about the technology because we already demonstrated it at drupa. Now we have moved to the implementation of the concept and have had very good reactions from the market. At this show it is being demonstrated in combination with our electro photography, with the dry toner, but we also want to extend it in order to combine it with our UV inkjet machine. Then, we can supply printers a “normal” line of five, six or seven colours, which you can complement with other colours or a finishing coating. Imagine a fully automated line with up to nine stations! We believe it is a strong concept for being modular as well for further enhancing the level of automation from print to finishing. The fusion technology seems to be the right concept for the industry and as a pioneer in this regard we have to put this concept into production.
How do you see the future of the label printing market?
Benoit Chatelard: I do not have a crystal ball, but regarding the latest data, the label market is growing. More countries use packaged goods and e-commerce thus, more segmentation and a higher number of units – is increasingly being used. With digitalisation it will grow even more. Why should this change? It is moving more from conventional towards digital but both industries are growing. We believe that we have a bright future, and so we are fortunate as Xeikon to be well entrenched in that industry. It was probably one of the best decisions Xeikon made in the past few decades to apply the technology and engage with the label industry because it is still a big and growing industry!
Do you think direct digital printing is an alternative to labels?
Benoit Chatelard: I think it is not an overall alternative. It is a good solution and it started quickly although the technology still need some improvements. We are not in that business. It fits very well directly into the manufacturing process.. When you print with inkjet directly on to a corrugated board you are doing it directly onto the board. With inkjet, a non-contact technology, we are in control of the business to some extent. Self-adhesive labels operate in a particular way. It is just one of a number of segments of the label market and it is growing fast. Despite this I have no indication that it is really an alternative and a full replacement of the way we do things now.
So Xeikon does not intend to invest in this technology in the near future?
Benoit Chatelard: It is not on our radar at the moment. We are not strongly active in this segment now but we are always open to new ideas.
What can we expect for the future?
Benoit Chatelard: According to our strategy I would say: high-volume, high-quality, high- value documents for the label and packaging market. In packaging we are exploring the folding carton, this means all segments, where a web fed machine is needed. We have intentionally decided to invest in the corrugated business. If there is a new offering the next technology move will be the packaging and corrugated segment. Xeikon has also access to all companies which are part of the Flint Group. We will work with the customers of the Flint Group in order to build a specification platform that responds to the business need. We are going to have a market driven approach not a technology driven approach.
L.t.r.: Rosina Obermayer, NarrowWebTech editor interviewing Benoit Chatelard, XEO of Xeikon at Labelexpo Europe 2017 (Source: G&K TechMedia)
This interview was led by NarrowWebTech editor Rosina Obermayer during Labelexpo Europe 2017.