By Simon Eccles, Monday 21 January 2019
Sato is best known as a large international maker and seller of data collection systems (DCS) and labelling machines.
Backing this in the UK is a print services operation that recently spent £1.1m on a pair of Mark Andy Performance-series six-colour narrow-web flexo presses, replacing two 20-year-old lines from the same maker.
“Having already reaped the benefits of an existing P5 press in terms of quicker changeovers and material savings, we were keen to invest in another to further improve our operations and flexibility,” says print production manager Martin Clackett. “In addition to this, a P3 was purchased to assist our existing Mark Andy Scout in the production of labels for our hand labellers.”
Sato dates back to 1940 in Japan, originally concentrating on packaging. In 1962 its founder Yo Sato invented the world’s first hand-held price labelling gun, soon to be found in shops worldwide. In case you need to ask, as we did, the correct pronunciation is ‘Sarto’.
The DCS solutions incorporate auto-identification technologies such as barcodes, 2D codes, and RFID, with software linking and driving printers, scanners and other peripherals. The label printing systems range from small hand devices typically used by in-store shelf stackers, up to small, medium and volume printers for tags and labels. Accompanying these it offers consumables such as label blanks, ribbons and cards, and maintenance support services.
There are eight sites across Europe. The UK operation is descended from the former Nor Systems Ltd, a well-known labelling maker, acquired by Sato in 1996 and now called Sato UK Ltd. To its data and labelling products, Sato UK also offers print services, largely to customers who need pre-printed, often branded tags and labels that may then go on to be overprinted at the point of need with dates, ingredients, instructions and so on. Production is environmentally friendly, with food and pharma accreditations and offers custom design provided by the in-house studio.
Another UK acquisition was DataLase in 2016. This company developed an ink that is clear on application but turns black or coloured when exposed to laser light – it’s primarily intended to allow product marking of pre-printed labels and packs, with no need for inkjets, thermal or other print systems on the actual filling lines.
In late 2017, Sato UK opened a new headquarters building next to its existing works. It’s part of Sato’s five-year plan to boost turnover by £7m to £20m.
This incorporates a print production facility, including a temperature- and humidity-controlled cleanroom, with a positive pressure to minimise contaminants when printing products such as labels, tickets and tags.
The original building had been first occupied by Nor in 1958. The new building is half the size of the original, but with modern facilities such as air conditioning and modern waste management for reduced environmental impact. Transferring the equipment and production to the new building took several weeks, lasting into February 2018.
“The print room is separate from all other departments and employs 18 operators over eight presses,” says Clackett. “We offer labels to all sectors, from plain white to multi-colour, high-end primary labels and tags. We do our own origination onsite but have our flexo plates made by either Creation, Flexo Shop or MPH. All labels are finished online without the need for a separate finishing/rewinding section.”
Before the move Sato UK already had four Mark Andy narrow-web label presses: a modern P5, two older 2200 workhorse machines and an older entry-level Scout. It took delivery of the two new Mark Andy Performance presses in May last year.
These are a P5E and a P3 line. Both take webs of 250, 330 or 450mm width and run at up to 230m/minute as standard. The P3 has all-mechanical shaft drive while the P5E has semi-servo operation. The P5E has direct drive servos for tighter registration, the vertical die stations have been reduced in height for easier operator access, and can optionally be configured to run a maximum line speed of 305mpm. Once in the new site, they replaced the older 2200 presses. The other production kit includes two Gallus presses: a 20in EM-510 and a 16in EM-410, and two AB Graphic label converters.
Why chose two Mark Andy presses?
“Over the years, Mark Andy machinery has always had the most prominent presence in our print room and is now an approved global Sato supplier,” says Clackett. “We did not look at any other makes of press at the time of these purchases, as we knew exactly what was required.
“Having already owned a P5 press for four years we had no hesitation in purchasing another, as we had seen a huge improvement in material wastage due to the shorter web paths, faster changeover and excellent print quality. Having several operators trained on this model already, it has also allowed us to be more flexible and boost efficiency further still.
“The P3 was purchased mainly to complement our existing Mark Andy Scout in the production of smaller reels for hand labellers. During very busy times however, the P3 is used for DCS labels.”
How did the run-up go?
Pretty well, thanks to the new site. “As the two new presses were being installed and commissioned in our brand new factory, the engineers had the privilege of working with the electrical contractors already on site to run cables, etc, exactly when and where required,” says Clackett. “This arrangement worked well for both parties and resulted in a fast, smooth installation of both presses.
“As with any big project like this, there are always a few minor teething problems but Mark Andy were supportive and rectified the faults in satisfactory time.”
Sato UK does its own maintenance, he says. “We do not usually purchase service packages. We have our own small engineering department onsite that is able to carry out routine repairs and maintenance, but Mark Andy will be hired to service the presses periodically.”
How have the presses been in practice?
One year on, Clackett is pleased with the results. “The P5E has allowed us to enter the primary label market in a more aggressive way due to the outstanding print quality and run speeds achievable,” he says. “With the benefits of a Martin butt splice, Lundberg waste extraction system and a Vectra turret rewinder, we are able to finish each job online and without the need to stop the press.
“Both P5 presses have cold foil facilities for delaminate and relaminate. We do everything in-line. We don’t produce work in bulk then take it to another section to slit and rewind, we do it all online and into a box at the end of the line. We check it and send it straight on to the customer.”
“Operators like the user-friendly controls and simplicity of the press and are impressed that Mark Andy have acted to improve and upgrade certain features of the press from the previous version.”
So, would he recommend Mark Andy to other people? Yes, says Clackett, “Investing in another P5E is testament to the performance that we achieved with the original press. The P3 is also performing to our expectations.”
Web width 250/330/430mm
Max speed 230m/min (P5E optionally 305m/min)
Substrate range 12–356micron (P5E), 50–305micron (P3)
Print repeat range 140–610mm
Die repeat 610mm max
Unwind capacity 1,016mm
Rewind capacity 1,016mm
Prices P5E about £600,000, P3 about £300,000
Contact Mark Andy UK 01625 500964 www.markandy.com
Sato UK is a division of the international Sato organisation, based in Japan. In addition to manufacturing high-performance thermal printers, Sato is prominent in making handheld labellers, automatic print and applications systems and RFID technology. It mixes direct sales with a ‘prestige partner’ dealer network.
The UK operation in Harwich is descended from Nor Systems, which Sato acquired in 1996. The UK company has a £13m turnover from labelling and auto-identification systems, including print services. It has 80 staff serving a customer base mainly in retail, healthcare and restaurant sectors. Recent major investment is intended to increase turnover to £20m within five years.
During 2017-2018 Sato UK moved into a new £7m headquarters building built alongside the original building. This combines office, production and warehousing facilities. During that time it installed two new Mark Andy Performance narrow web flexo presses, a P5E and P3, replacing a pair of older 2200 presses. This offered more automation and faster changeovers. The company also runs an earlier P5 and a Scout press from Mark Andy, plus two Gallus presses and AB Graphic converters.
Why they were bought...
Sato UK previously operated four Mark Andy narrow-web flexo presses: a modern P5, two 2200 models and a Scout. The 2200s, at 20-years-old, were not as productive or efficient as the business would have liked, and the investment in a new headquarters building and production facility represented the perfect opportunity to revamp the press fleet too.
How they have performed...
According to print production manager Martin Clackett, “The P5E has allowed us to be more competitive in the primary label market, especially when combined with the Datalase product that is used for inline laser marking. The P3 has allowed us to improve lead times for our hand labeller sales by complementing our existing Mark Andy Scout.”