Francois Bayzelon explains ETI technology and his company strategy
The label industry is seeing the growth of a new kind of technology that allows you to create a pressure sensitive label and print, all under the same roof. At the annual FINAT Congress in Monte Carlo, Editor of NarrowWebTech, Joanna Costello, talked with Francois Bayzelon, President and Founder of ETI Converting. What is this technology and what are the challenges in bringing it to the narrow web converting market?
What is ETI technology, and what exactly does it offer?
ETI offers converters the opportunity to approach label manufacture in a different way. The traditional production method, which almost 90% of the industry uses, is to buy the labelstock material from a supplier and then print the label on pressure sensitive material. This can result in a high waste level of material that carries added value. A good converter can restrict this waste to around 10%, but an average waste figure will be nearer to 30% – and this is expensive material.
Our approach, is to print on the material before it becomes pressure-sensitive, so that the cost of any waste relates only to the face stock, which is around one third of the price of the total sandwich. In other words, ETI technology prints first, and then makes the label afterwards.
We’re also promoting a very thin 12-micron ‘Miniliner’. This gives more material on each roll, which saves money and reduces waste.
Can you take me through this process step-by-step, please?
We supply small format converting equipment, which pre-prints the material. Then, we add the liner, and apply the silicone. Next comes the adhesive, which allows us to laminate the two together. Finally, we die cut in register with the pre-printed material, and we have a finished label! Our equipment is capable of printing offline, making linerless or pressure-sensitive labels.
So, effectively the converter is now making his own pressure sensitive material?
Yes, it is completely different from the traditional method! We combine the converting operation with the finishing operation. When you print only face stock, with no die cutting, you are not limited to any printing process – you can use any method you want: offset, rotogravure, flexo or digital.
Another advantage of printing before making the label with pressure-sensitive material, is that you can print on the reverse side of the label, just as you can with transparent film. You have no need for over lamination or UV varnish, because the printing is protected and trapped between the adhesive and the film.
So this method is not linerless?
No, but it can be. To create a linerless label, we add a small die cutter on the labelling machine and we put the linerless web onto a temporary liner. Then we laminate the label, die cut it and apply it to the product. Just after the final application, we rewind the temporary liner for re-use. Temporary liner can be used up to 20 times.
Do you think linerless labels will take off?
Linerless was an exciting topic when the solution didn’t really exist. Everyone talked about linerless. It didn’t threaten or effect business because there were little or no solutions that provided a completely linerless label. Today, there are a few good manufacturers in the market. And, now there are labelling machines that are not limited by format shape, which was the main concern in the past, but that is now solved. There is no limitation anymore for the linerless label.
With these new products on the market, people are getting worried and see it as competition. It is a conservative industry that does not like change. So we change the terminology when speak about our equipment from linerless to other terms, such as producing your own pressure-sensitive materials.
Do you have difficulty getting converters to accept your technology?
It is a little bit difficult when we present this system to a converter. The technology is new to the market. As we say in Marketing, there is ‘resistance to change’. There are no actual qualitative advantages to this system, and the label converter needs to invest in new equipment, which is fitted to his existing process.
We had a case where we talked with brand owners and showed them our technology. They asked their converters if they could produce the labels that way, but the converters weren’t interested. Instead of making the investment, the converter compromised and reduced his price to the brand owner! Some people are just not ready for this investment.
Converters have been manufacturing labels the same way for over 50 years and they are shocked when they see the new technology I present to them. Change is not easy. There are many pressures and I have compassion for the market and the people who work in it.
Will this effect your business growth?
No, because when technological advance exists, you have no choice but to go with it. We have some great equipment and we believe it is a very efficient way to make labels.
I am satisfied with the pace at which we are moving. We have our hands full right now and the market demand for this niche technology is perfect for us.
How do you convince your customers to make the investment?
Sometimes, we offer a temporary solution. We call this ‘to be green minus 15’. We dramatically reduce the thickness of the liner, down to 12- or 18-micron – this is our patented Miniliner. By doing this, there are no modifications required on the labelling machine. The PET liner is stronger than any glassine liner, there are no breaks, and the result is more labels on the roll. This solution saves transport costs and cuts downtime on the label press.
Are there environmental advantages in using ETI equipment?
With ETI equipment, you can reduce your waste and recycle the PET mini-liner. However, many people confuse sustainability and being ‘green’, with saving money. When you speak about ‘green’ to a brand owner, he always imagines a cost reduction. Whereas, in fact, they are two separate issues, and not directly related to each other – sometimes they can overlap, which is nice, but is not guaranteed.
How much of a market share do you have?
In this niche, we are the market leader. There are some imitations, but they are not successful because they are not the pioneers. You need to go into mass production to keep the sales price under control.
There are other companies moving in the same direction as ETI, for example Ravenwood and Catchpoint. We have complementary technologies. Ravenwood and Catchpoint have developed a new technology for packaging and are moving in the same direction as us. The material for the Ravenwood and Catchpoint process can also be produced on ETI equipment.
The linerless market is developing strongly in blank labels. Bizerba, for example, is doing well in this market, and is one of our best customers in Germany.
Who else is using ETI equipment successfully?
ETI is most successful in Japan, which is our biggest market at the moment. All the major Japanese companies are very concerned about sustainability and recycling. They are not just talking about – they are taking action.
We have two plants, one in Canada and one in China, and an ambitious plan to manufacture ETI equipment for the Chinese market. The Chinese people are very price orientated. If they see a way to make a label less expensive, they will jump at the chance. There are also many new players in China, who feel no obligation to follow the traditional ways of converting.
In Europe, there are many innovative converters. One, in Italy, called Nuceria Adesivi, uses ETI technology and is very successful. In France, we have sold our equipment to a converter called Grand Ouest Etiquette.
Is your company still a family business?
Yes, there are a lot of Bayzelons in the company! My son and I own 84%, my wife owns 12% and two employees own the remaining 4%. We began the company in 1999 with this new idea to produce labels. Currently, we have 65 employees in Montréal and 50 employees in China.
I founded Aquaflex System International in 1980, and it grew to become one of the largest press manufacturers in North America. I sold the company in 1992. Originally I designed ETI technology for Aquaflex, but they declined the project. I think they were worried it was too different a technology for the market!
So, what’s your strategy?
I compare it to the famous and successful ‘Cirque to Soleil’! They made their circus different. There are no animals and there is no single star. It is not the traditional circus set up at all. I think, to be successful in business, you have to do what everyone else is not doing. I asked myself: “what can I do to be different, so that my business is unique and successful?” And this is it!