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Berkshire Labels installs first Mark Andy P9E in Europe

Leading UK converter of high-quality labels and shrink sleeves, Berkshire Labels, has installed the first 17” (430mm) Mark Andy Performance Series P9E at its manufacturing facility in Hungerford, some 100km west of London. The P9E is the latest model in Mark Andy’s range of Performance Series flexo presses and is designed for specialist film applications as well as traditional label converting. It joins a 17” Mark Andy P7 installed in 2017 and three other 13” Mark Andy presses at Hungerford.

Renowned for his company’s policy of installing cutting-edge technology, Berkshire Labels’ Managing Director, Paul Roscoe, explained the latest investment programme. “First of all, we decided that 430mm is the best fit for our work, and once we had fully loaded our P7 it was clear we had urgent need for a second press. The P9E moves the game on though, with its independent servo driven anilox roll, which is double the size, so moves at half the speed, and gives us more flexibility and higher production speeds across all substrates.”

Considered Mark Andy’s flexo flagship, the P9E is almost 30% faster than its P7 stablemate on the same job, according to Roscoe, making it a highly efficient production tool. Chosen initially for its ability to grow Berkshire’s shrink sleeve business, the new press is in fact handling a good mix of work. Currently the volume of paper and film-based substrates used at Hungerford is roughly equal, with film growing faster, and although well equipped with digital print and converting technology, Berkshire Labels still estimates that flexo production accounts for 60% of its business.

We’ve invested heavily in Esko pre-press and installed the latest CERM platform to which all machines are linked. Everything is produced to full HD standard which allows Roscoe and his production team to choose between flexo and digital production purely on machine availability. He says that some customers specify which technique they require for their job, but most do not, and many could not tell the difference as far as quality is concerned. “Our aim was to match quality across digital and flexo and we have been successful in achieving that. It allows us to support our small start-up customers, like micro-breweries and artisan food producers, and grow with them as they become major players in the market – it’s win-win for both parties!”

Berkshire Labels’ new P9E is a highly specified model, featuring eight UV flexo print stations, Corona treatment and web cleaning, delam/relam, a crossover facility for peel/reseal, and the full ‘Filmic Pack’, which includes chilled impression drums and lightweight tension control. It also has Mark Andy’s award-winning QCDC unit and the web advance waste rewind, known colloquially as ‘snowball’. Since installation it has allowed the company to switch from 24/7 working on the P7 to double day shifts on both machines, with capacity to spare. “We saw the benefits of having two P Series immediately – in fact, a fleet of P9Es would be ideal for us and our customers! It gives us better control of scheduling and shift planning as well as making routine maintenance easier,” explained Roscoe who pointed out that his P7 was producing more than 1.3m metres/month prior to the arrival of the P9E.

With a commitment to ongoing investment, both in technology and people, Paul Roscoe has a very clear picture of how he sees the company developing. “We like to engage with all our employees and invest heavily in training and personal development. We have some of the most skilled and talented people in the industry working here and this says as much about how they feel towards the company as the investment we have made in training them. It all helps us to build and cement long-term relationships with our customers, who are fundamental to our future growth,” he added.

Currently employing 90 staff and generating an annual sales figure in excess of £11m, Berkshire Labels is well set for sustained growth. In particular it’s proud of its environmental credentials. “We have developed a number of ‘green’ alternatives to traditional labels and sleeves, and these are well-received by those customers who choose them. There is a small premium to pay at present, but this will disappear as demand and volume increases, and not all customers use price per unit as their main criterion,” he said.

If you were looking for a model medium-size label converter that is well-founded, financially secure, and equipped with the latest technology, and with a structured plan for its future, you could not find one better than Berkshire Labels. Still family owned and managed almost 40 years on, the company is well underway with its expansion programme at Hungerford having acquired adjacent buildings to its purpose-built facility that it occupied 20 years ago. It is BRC/IOP and ISO accredited and also FSC and PEFC registered.