Forging Ahead into the Digital Printing Frontier

The spirited converter Beau Label always has taken pride in its pioneering ways. Now, the company is pushing its printing parameters even farther with a brand new Indigo digital offset color press.

"There's nothing to think about here. This is it. It has to be done." There are few cowboy converters out there that would make such a statement about the weighty investment in the new frontier of printing—digital—especially within only hours of seeing a demo. But one that would, and did, is Vincent "V.J." Melapioni, treasurer of Beau Label, New York City.

Situated between Chinatown and Little Italy in Lower Manhattan, Beau Label is now the home of the Indigo Omnius WebStream Digital Offset Color Press, the same press displayed at Labelexpo in September of last year. Along with its digital printing technology, Beau Label has many other attributes, which include expansive narrow web flexo label and tag capabilities; a unique work environment; a stable, loyal staff; and a straight-shooter company treasurer who wears a western belt buckle reminiscent of a rodeo rider.

Melapioni, a keen businessman with a friendly smile, served as host for PFFC's tour of the label printing company. He has grown Beau Label actively since he started his post in 1985. The company now specializes in a number of narrow web applications, including pressure-sensitive labels and hangtags used by pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies. His experience helped him make the swift decision—he was in the car, riding back from Indigo's Connecticut facility to Manhattan—to buy the Indigo. "My dad was with me," V.J. recalls, "and he asked what I thought about [buying the press]."

But it wasn't only Melapioni's "go-get-'em" attitude that led to the decision. He reports that, after seeing the press, he knew he wanted the Indigo system specifically. "We had looked at some other digital presses. For instance, we saw a small, tabletop-like unit, and it was very limited in terms of the materials you could use. My dad knew [digital] was the way to go, but we weren't comfortable with that unit. I thought it was too limited. But with the Indigo, I knew right away."

Indigo installed the press shortly after its showing at Labelexpo. Since it's been running, it has helped Beau Label capture a larger share of the steadily increasing short-run market, says Melapioni.

"We're finding that people want higher quality and, at the same time, shorter runs. It can be very costly to set up for five hours for a ten-minute run. With this press, there are no plates involved, which means we can do what we're already doing more efficiently and for less money."

He adds that the use of the Indigo has freed up several other flexo presses for longer runs, and, ultimately, has made the company more competitive.

Melapioni notes that Beau Label hasn't told many of its customers formally about the Indigo press, but he has mentioned it to some in conversation. "When I tell them it's a digital press, they kind of pause, and then they'll ask about the quality. I tell them the quality is phenomenal, because it is. We can run 230-line screens and hold reverse six-point type open, with no trapping, out of our four-color process. With it, we also are running offset-quality labels in rolls efficiently."

A Family Function
Beau Label was incorporated in 1967 by Melapioni's father, Vincent Melapioni, but the business has been in the family longer than that. "My grandfather had an offset business," says V.J., "and when he was ready to retire, he sold it to two partners and to my father. The two partners were actually my grandfather's clients; it was a nice transition—they ran sales, and my dad ran the plant."

In 1967 the three partners started the label printing business. Melapioni says his father and his partners thought it would be something different, a niche in which they could develop. Recounts V.J., "Over the next 15 years, it did grow, then one partner passed away. Ultimately, the business went back to my father and his remaining partner, Harold Baron."

V.J. got into the business as many children of printing-shop owners do: He worked at his father's operation when he was in high school. "Originally, I set type. I used to come in summers, sweep the floors. I rewound, did some inspection, ran a letterpress. I started flexo printing on an 810 Mark Andy and worked on that as I went through college. Then I started working with Harold in the office," he explains.

Melapioni was still in college when he was asked to handle all of Beau Label's office duties. "I was in my senior year, and I was working in the office when Harold became ill. It turned out he had cancer, and within three-and-a-half months, he was gone. I was very close with him, and it was very hard to see him just wilt away."

But the Melapionis made the best out of their adversity, and 21-year-old V.J. took over the business end of things. "My dad had confidence in me. He's not an office person or into paperwork. He's a mechanical person. He always ran the plants wherever he was; that's what he did. And he gave me a shot, although he did ask me: `You're comfortable? You know what you're doing?' I told him I thought I was, and he told me, `Run it.' And with his guidance, I did."

Melapioni says he was able to finish his accounting degree by taking earlybird and night classes at NYC's Pace Univ., which is fairly close to Beau Label's newly expanded, 20,000-sq-ft plant. Like its leader, the layout of Beau Label adapts to difficult conditions. The storage, production, and office areas are split among four floors of space. It's obvious the company has made the most out of the city's space limitations. It's even made room for company mascot "Old Yeller," a Blackmouthed Southern Cur that serves as Beau's everyday welcoming committee.

Press, Prepress, and More
Besides the three-color Mark Andy press V.J. started on, Beau Label runs three Propheteer 7-in. presses, ranging from five to seven colors; two more 13-in.-wide Propheteers are six- and eight-color machines. All are equipped with die stations, dual product/dual waste rewinds, and ultraviolet coating capabilities. The eight-color press is outfitted with a corona treater made by Softal. In addition, the company operates a 13-in., one-color flexo press, a 16-in.-wide, two-color Mark Andy flexo press, as well as two flatbed letterpresses.

According to Melapioni, all the presses, including the Indigo, feature film laminating capabilities. Beau Label buys paper, film, and foil from Fasson, Raflatac, Technicote, and Spinnaker. The company uses nothing but water-based inks, provided by Water Ink Technologies and Environmental Inks & Coatings. Prepress equipment includes three Anderson & Vreeland platemakers.

In addition to its printing capabilities, Beau Label provides slitting/rewinding services with four Arpeco machines. Melapioni explains Beau's slitting/rewinding service provides value-added features, such as quality control. "One Arpeco is set up with a BST ProMark system that automates shutdown if there's a problem. The system scans bar codes, and, for instance, in pharmaceutical work with bar codes, if the wrong label is on the roll, the machine will shut down. To restart the machine, a manager needs to verify the problem and then reset it using a key."

The company also is automating the control of its invoicing system with Tailored Solutions's software Label Tracks. V.J. notes it also has helped Beau fine-tune its estimating; he says the system collects data at each press in the plant, recording makeready times, run times, and wash-up times.

A Faithful Companion
Like the most famous cowboy, The Lone Ranger, Beau Label also has a partner. Atlantic Labels is an 18,000-sq-ft plant located in Belleville, NJ, and is operated by Domingo "Dominick" Farinas.

Melapioni says Beau bought Atlantic six years ago, and he speaks very highly of its leader, Farinas. "With Dominick's machinery and mechanical background, Atlantic has been able to develop special packaging for such products as phone cards and gift certificates. The products require in-line folding and gluing. It's his ingenuity that makes these projects possible," he adds.

A wide range of services is offered at both plants, notes Melapioni, including hot stamping, silk screening, and large consecutive numbering. Atlantic's equipment roster includes one WebTron four-color press; another four-color press; five New Era presses, ranging from 12-18 in. wide; and one 7-in., three-color Propheteer that features rotary hot stamping and UV (ultraviolet) coating capabilities and is equipped with a Softal treater. Atlantic also uses an Arpeco slitter to handle its quality control and inspection.

With its new digital press, it seems Beau Label is among the first to explore the digital printing frontier, and after meeting its leader, it comes as no surprise. Melapioni exudes an honest confidence and charisma, characteristics that his customers also must notice. "I always develop a rapport, a relationship. I've had customers send me jobs without a price on them. In fact, I have a lot of people like that. I even run work for other label companies when they're on vacation."

Like his customer relationships, Melapioni also gets the most out of his employees. Beau Label employs only 32 people, one shift, five days per week, yet the small organization offers its staff a pension plan, profit-sharing, and a yearly bonus that, in essence, combines the amount of two bonuses. Little wonder that a majority of the staff has been with the company for a number of years.

Melapioni also gets the most out of the machines, noting that it's common for Beau Label to try—and to complete—almost-impossible jobs on its presses. He remembers a time when "my dad was running a project on one of our presses that the manufacturer said couldn't be done. He called them up to ask some questions about it, and they said, `You can't do that.' He said, `What are you talking about it? I'm doing it."

With history like that, it's easy to see how Beau Label took the digital plunge as fearlessly as it did. And, as Beau Label continues to push farther into the frontiers of label printing, there look to be many happy trails ahead.

Converter Info.
Beau Label Corp.
, New York, NY; 212/226-2633; beaulabel@aol.com


Supplier Info
Indigo
, The Netherlands; +31 43 356 6556; hp.com

Mark Andy, Chesterfield, MO; 636/532-4433; markandy.com

Prophteer Intl., Palatine, IL; 847/359-8988; propheteerintl.com

Softal 3DT LLC, Germantown, WI; 262/253-6700; softal3dt.com

Fasson (Avery Dennison), Painesville, OH; 800/828-0122; fasson.com

Raflatac, Scarborough, U.K.; +44 (0) 1723-583 661; raflatac.com

Spinnaker Coating, Troy, OH; 937/332-6500; spinnakercoating.com

Technicote, Miamisburg, OH; 800/358-4448; technicote.com

Water Ink Technologies, Lincolnton, NC; 800/426-4657; waterinktech.com

Environmental Inks & Coatings, Morganton, NC; 828/433-1922; envinks.com

Arpeco Ltd., Cheshire, U.K.; +44 (0) 161-406-8330; arpeco.com

BST Pro Mark, Elmhurst, IL; 630/833-9900; bstpromark.com

Tailored Solutions, Milwaukee, WI; 414/774-9997; tailored.com

Anderson & Vreeland, Bryan, OH; 419/636-5002; andersonvreeland.com/

WebTron (PCMC), Green Bay, WI; 920/494-5601; pcmc.com

New Era Converting Inc., Hawthorne, NJ; 201/670-4848; neweraconverting.com



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