- August 31, 2000, Edward Boyle, Contributing Editor
Striving to be not the biggest but the best, award-winning Premiere Labels values its customers and its suppliers, including press manufacturer Mark Andy.
What's in a name? When Premiere Labels was launched nearly a decade ago, a corporate identity was chosen to spotlight its "debut," or "premiere," as an upscale supplier of prime labels. Since that time, the Troy, OH-based converter has grown to become one of the country's "premier" suppliers of pressure-sensitive labels, winning dozens of printing awards and counting the likes of The Disney Co., Warner Brothers, Reebok, and Sears among satisfied customers.
"The name still fits," says company president Eric Magel. "When we started out, the name just seemed to reflect our entry as the new guy on the block. But we also wanted to let people know that we were a great source for prime labels, and we've proven that over the years."
With just 28 employees, Premiere is "not a big operation," notes Magel, "but we can compete with the best and the biggest - and there are a lot bigger companies out there." As evidence of this ability to compete, Magel cites the fact that Premiere Label is a frequent winner in industry label competitions.
Indeed, the walls of the 24,000-sq-ft converting facility in southwestern Ohio are lined with awards from the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA), the Tag & Label Manufacturers Institute (TLMI), and other industry trade associations. In fact, in the most recent FTA competition Premiere went home with six awards, twice as many as any other company entered.
"We specialize in top-of-the-line products," explains VP Mike Magel, who founded Star Labels in 1983 and joined his son, Eric, daughter Michelle, and son-in-law, Dave Nosker as part of Premiere's management team after selling Star to Rand McNally in 1991. "We do excellent process work."
"Some people are still in the Dark Ages in that they don't realize the quality that is available with flexo printing today," Magel says. "But we can show it to them. We've been able to match offset quality in many cases. We feel that if we can get them into our plant, show them our quality and the awards we've won, we'll get them as a customer. In fact, everyone who has come into our facility has ultimately become a customer."
Presses Meet Expectations
Premiere's product line includes p-s labels, tags, holograms, coupons, decals, badges, and booklets in up to ten colors. Converting processes include flexography, ultraviolet flexo, rotary hot foil stamping, rotary silk screen, and letterpress.
Notes Magel, "We're kind of a supermarket for labels. End-users can get just about anything they want from us."
In addition to a three-color Mark Andy 830 flexo press that helped establish the company, Premiere now operates six Mark Andy 2200s: four are 10-in. models (two 10-color and two 8-color); and two are 7-in. models (one 8-color and one 6-color). The company also has an older Mark Andy 4300 letterpress, a Newfoil hot stamping press, and a Manhasset die-cutting press. Soon to be available in the plant are a 22-in., in-house-designed four-color press and a 14-in., five-color Stork silk screen press.
"I have seen pretty much every press out there on the market, and we are really sold on Mark Andy," notes Mike Magel. "We've had the most success with them, and they do a real bang-up job with service, too."
"We grew up on Mark Andys," adds Eric. "We have high expectations regarding quality, and with the Mark Andys, that quality has always been there. They're pretty much the Cadillac [of presses], and we've been very happy with the quality and reliability."
Several of Premiere's Mark Andy 2200 presses have been custom configured to convert specialty labels. For example, one 10-in., ten-color MA 2200 and another 7-in., eight-color machine have three die-cutting stations interspersed throughout the press, including prior to the first print station.
"Part of the reason for the die station is that we can do hot stamping or holograms to start out, then we can either print or die-cut over it," notes Magel. "The die station up front is used mainly for hot stamping. It is located before the last two print stations, one of which can be used for UV coating after the hot stamping."
Silk Screen Capability
One of the Mark Andy 2200 presses also houses a Telstar three-color silk screen stack unit. To install the Telstar stations, Premiere split the 2200 press between the unwind and the first station and moved the unwind back 50 in.
The three-color rotary screen stack unit was designed to interface directly with the Mark Andy frames, with the unit bolted into existing holes as though it was an original part of the press. The unwind driveshaft was extended across the back of the screen stack. Also extended was the unwind electrical harness, using standard cables from Mark Andy.
Telstar's screen stack is independently servo-driven, and each screen has full 360-deg advance/retard running register with a print range from 12-18.25 in., says Magel. The framework of the stack incorporates mounting positions for a UV lamp downstream from each screen unit. Premiere Labels chose a three-lamp system from UV Research. The system provides curing power of 500 W/in., and the lamp housings are configured with quartz reflectors and frontal infrared cut filters for maximizing UV output, Magel adds.
He reports, "We added three Telstar Auto-Level ink pump units, also built in stack, to enhance its screen printing capabilities. The pumps are designed to maintain the proper amount of ink within the screen automatically during operation."
The press also has been configured with one of Telstar's independent screen units that attach above any two-color 2200 flexo print module. This unit gives Premiere the ability to print up to three screen colors first, plus another screen color within the flexo printing process.
New Technology, New Facility
To further enhance quality and speed delivery times, Premiere recently added a Primera digital press that Magel says can convert a small number (from just one to tens of thousands) of color process labels economically, virtually on demand. "Even some larger customers who order more than 100 million labels a year have found the new technology useful for producing product samples and test marketing new products. You also can use it as a proofing press, because you go directly from computer to print. In terms of quality, in some cases it prints better than what we can get off the full-sized presses."
Premiere operates a single shift at its 24,000-sq-ft facility. The company uses Kelleigh platemaking equipment, DuPont Cyrel plates, and inks from American Water Graphics, Water Ink Technologies, and Environmental Inks & Coatings. Substrates are supplied by Fasson, MACtac, Spinnaker Coating, 3 Sigma, and FLEXcon. Rewinding equipment is from Arpeco.
Premiere is actively looking to establish a second, satellite facility in the Sarasota, FL, area, to better serve existing and potential customers in the southeastern US. The company spent 18 months doing a market study of the Florida/Georgia area before deciding there was enough potential business to justify a local facility, and it is now in the process of choosing among four sites for a 6,500-sq-ft plant.
That new location ultimately will house many of the same flexographic capabilities as the existing site, with specialty products that require hot stamping and rotary letterpress at least initially being converted in Ohio.
The new plant will be close to Trinity Graphics, a Sarasota prepress house that supplies Premiere. Even when Trinity was located only in the U.K. and China, Premiere's Ohio facility was one of its first US customers. "I don't think there's any better color separator or platemaker in the country," says Magel. "They could do progressive proofs from flexo plates on our substrates, so we really knew what we were getting."
Suppliers Aid R&D
Magel cites a close working relationship with Trinity Graphics and other raw materials suppliers and equipment manufacturers as critical to Premiere's quality development. The converter often supplements its own R&D staff with the technical expertise of its suppliers, who in turn count on Premiere to test new materials (i.e., the printability of face-stocks) under true pressroom conditions. This reciprocal R&D arrangement works especially well with Spinnaker and 3 Sigma, both of which are located within a few miles of Premiere.
"We probably spend more time than the average company—especially a small one—does on R&D," notes Magel. "We do a lot of things to improve our existing processes, and we continue to look at new inks, products, and processes to continue to improve all aspects of our operation."
Working closely with suppliers to develop unique solutions to customer demands is just one of the company's secrets to success: "Quality, product, and service," notes Magel. "I don't know how you could do better. We turn jobs around in one day if we have to."
In fact, notes Magel, Premiere is so customer-focused that it intentionally avoids running at full capacity during its single shift, leaving one or two of the Mark Andy 2200s virtually idle so the company can accommodate unexpected rush orders more easily. Notes Magel, "The market today is so service oriented, you just have to produce for your customers. If we have to come in at night or on weekends to complete a job, we do it."
The management team that founded the company (all former Star Label employees) offers a good balance of youth and experience, according to Magel. Company president Eric Magel, for example, was a pressman at Star Label and oversaw quality control. David Nosker, VP of sales and marketing, previously worked in both sales and the pressroom, while secretary/treasurer Michelle Nosker handled customer service and accounting.
Premiere Label also boasts a well-honed press staff, with each full-time operator having no less than 15 years experience. The company holds regularly scheduled training sessions, where operators may spend a day, for example, practicing setting impressions.
Magel reports that, because of its family atmosphere and reputation for quality, Premiere is in the enviable position of having a waiting list of press operators who want to work for the company. "We tend to attract quality people," says Mike Magel.
But then what else would one expect from a company called Premiere Labels?
Mark Andy, Chesterfield, MO, USA; 636/532-4433; 800/700-MARK; markandy.com
Newfoil Machines Ltd., Oldham, Lancashire, U.K.; +44 (0) 161-627-0550; newfoilmachines.co.uk
Manhasset Machine Co., Amityville, NY, USA; 516/842-4111
Stork Rotoform, Charlotte, NC, USA; 704/921-5300; storkgroup.com
Telstar Engineering, Burnsville, MN, USA; 612/890-9440; 888/203-9677; telstareng.com
UV Research, Berea, CA, USA; 714/529-5061
Primera Technology Inc., Plymouth, MN, USA; 763/475-6676; primera.com
Kelleigh Corp. (now part of Global Graphics), Waltham, MA, USA; 781/392-1600; globalgraphics.com
DuPont Cyrel, Wilmington, DE, USA; 302/999-4566; dupont.com/cyrel
American Water Graphics, Forest City, NY, USA; 828/247-0700; awg-ink.com
Water Ink Technologies, Lincolnton, NC, USA; 704/735-8282; waterinktech.com
Environmental Inks and Coatings, Addison, IL, USA; 630/691-7779; envinks.com
MACtac, Stow, OH, USA; 330/688-1111; mactac.com
Spinnaker Coating, Troy, OH, USA; 937/332-6500
3 Sigma, Troy, OH, USA; 937/440-3400
FLEXcon Co. Inc., Spencer, MA, USA; 508/885-8200; flexcon.com
Arpeco Engineering Ltd., Mississauga, ON, Canada; 905/564-5150; arpeco.com
Trinity Graphic, Sarasota, FL, USA; 941/355-2636; trinitygraphic.com