Graphtec Digital Solutions: Coming to America With New Channel Opportunities

by Amy Weiss

The worldwide label printer market is big business — more than $1.5 billion according to VDC Research. To take advantage of that market, Japanese manufacturer Graphtec is expanding its reach into the United States with the launch of the LABELROBO full color digital label creation system. We caught up with Hiroyuki Takahata, senior director of Graphtec, to ask a few questions about the company, the exciting new launch, and plans for the future.

Tell us a little about the history of Graphtec? 

Established in 1949, Graphtec Corporation has successfully expanded and grown its business in office imaging, as well as sign, instrument and factory automation (FA) businesses with a global network. Since its formation in 1988, Graphtec cutting plotters have been very successful, maintaining leading market share in the category and continuous expansion of the product lineup to satisfy a variety of cutting requirements. 

In 2014, Graphtec entered into a new industry: the label printer business, opening its new sales company, Graphtec Digital Solutions Inc. (GDS) in the U.S. and launching its new label creation system.

Tell us about the evolution that led to the development of Graphtec Digital Solutions.

Graphtec saw there was a need for new printing systems in industries such as manufacturing, logistics and commercial printing. It began developing other new specialty printing systems that will follow the first label creation system. Graphtec also recognized an important requirement to establish a sales and marketing company dedicated to printing and digital solutions, and foresees the U.S. as a most promising market for the business.

With the hardcopy market struggling as it is, why did Graphtec choose this time to expand into the U.S?

Labels and packaging are a $300+ billion industry, and these new devices will allow Graphtec/GDS to bring its channel partners into the growing digital printer market segments. GDS will bridge the gap between high-cost industrial production printing and small, on-demand print, offering affordable, turnkey in-house solutions that improve workflow.

Is there any specific area of the label market GDS is focusing on?

Our primary areas of focus are logistics and production labels, which together make up two-thirds of the worldwide label market. Specifically, our target is Global Harmonized Standard (GHS) labels. These are attached to all products containing hazardous materials, and by the end of 2015 they will be a requirement in major countries.

Will Graphtec Digital Solutions sell only the LABELROBO products? If not, what other products will it offer?

GDS will focus on the label creation system, the LCX-1000 model initially, and will expand its specialty digital printing systems and solutions.

What is the planned sales model for the LABELROBO?

GDS will sell the label creation system through the channel, not directly to corporate users. GDS is vigorously developing partnerships with office equipment dealers who have established strong resources and expertise in selling and servicing electrophotographic printers and MFPs. Equipment financial partners as well as national service companies are also being developed. 

What type of supplies do the LABELROBO take?

Primarily toner and drum, just like MFPs. Additionally, label media and cutting blades (for the label finishing system).

Are the supplies/services a separate revenue opportunity?

Yes, definitely. This is one of the reasons this system will be very popular with office dealers.

Do the devices lend themselves to software integration? How would that be done, and what types of integrations do you see as having potential?

Most of the label design software or end-user application software relating to label creation will be supported by the system. Furthermore, as a future enhancement, there is planned integration with dealer ERPs or systems in the ecosystem (such as national service companies, leasing companies) to provide the infrastructure to automate processes in services, billing and supplies replenishment, and support business intelligence/analytics.

What makes the LABELROBO unique in the label market?

The LABELROBO is an all-in-one label printer that easily creates labels with characters and illustrations designed with a computer. It can be used at printing companies and even at production and engineering companies making equipment and components. Labels can be created quickly in the required quantity with short delivery, low cost, and minimal inventory. It can use a variety of substrates, either roll or sheet. 

The cutting tool on the LABELROBO allows a contour of any shape, eliminating the need for a cutting die and reducing the costs of label creation.

How does GDS factor into the future of the imaging industry?

Dealers can create new revenue opportunities just by widening their scope into new printing applications such as labels. Understanding print workflows in a variety of verticals should open up their opportunities to generate another annuity-based revenue stream. In other words, there are still plenty of new printing fields that require toner and equipment services for dealers. Graphtec/GDS is committed to bringing new products for the imaging industry to benefit their growth in the future.  

On the Web: Graphtec Digital Solutions