Industrial Inkjet Ltd – Revitalising the industry.

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Pieter Le Grange by   Pieter Le Grange
Sales and Service Agent
Telephone+27 (0)31 0351183

This article first appeared in The GAPP Magazine - Volume 9, Issue 2 on May 24th, 2019

Inkjet printing has come ahead in leaps and bounds over the past five to ten years. When it was first introduced, inkjet was only suitable for the lowest quality printing on poor quality substrates. The one factor in favour of inkjet was the fact that it is fast – very fast. However, achieving the balance between speed and quality has taken some time to perfect but, has now been achieved.

Inkjet printing is now a highly modular solution capable of handling a wide range of printing requirements. Solutions can be as simple as a single printhead right up to large devices consisting of multiple printheads in series. These heads can print everything from simple monochrome images such as barcodes, up to complex full-colour images. The print­ heads can be mounted onto a wide range of transport solutions including sheetfed and web presses, flexo presses and even finishing systems or, can be assembled into complete print units with their own paper transport solutions.

Industrial Inkjet is a UK-based company which specialises in the supply and technical support of inkjet printing solutions. The company, which was formed 14 years ago, has two separate but complementary divisions. One focuses on the supply and support of printheads and the other supplies complete print engines. The company was founded with the ex­ press aim of supplying and supporting Konica Minolta inkjet solutions in the markets outside of Japan. Over the years it has grown to incorporate other solutions but uses the leading printheads from this world leader exclusively.

Industrial Inkjet has installed more than 350 print engines and kit systems in the market around the world including around 77 installations in South Africa. This resulted in a local service, support and sales office being established three years ago. Mike Thwaites, Global Sales Manager, recently visited South Africa to attend The GAPP Print Expo – co-located with Pro Pak – and to visit South African customers. He was joined by Pieter le Grange who heads up the local office. They explained the principle behind the product and service offering supplied by Industrial Inkjet (IIJ).

For clarity, a print engine is a complete device comprising print heads, paper transport system, print controller, ink sup­ ply system and housing. IIJ manufactures print engines using Konica Minolta heads as a standard but then builds the rest of the device using best-for-application solutions from a number of suppliers, depending on the needs and production requirements of the customer or his application. Kit systems are primary printheads with ink supply which are added to an existing paper transport system and only includes limited additional systems depending on the application. IIJ can design and configure a solution to meet the specific needs of the client.

Pieter Le Grange

Pieter commented, ‘The South African market is not unique in its approach but it is well-known for running machines until they die and the solutions we offer allow printers to give their old presses – and other equipment – a new lease of life. They can add printheads to an aging transport system and repurpose a machine which has long been paid for.’

Mike Thwaites

Mike added, ‘I have even seen, in this market, that some printers have a redundant piece of equipment which is still solid but which no longer works and they have repurposed it and turned it into a printing device with a completely new future. This really is systems integration but, it is not unusual, people are learning to be quite inventive in how they can optimise what they do.’

He added, South Africa was our second biggest market last year, which is very significant and looking at our prospects for this year we fully expect that we will continue that trend. The rate of growth will, as one would expect, be slow but it will be steady and that is the important thing. This market is very much about word-of-mouth recommendation and referrals, which is something we don’t find a lot of in Europe. It is a totally different market in South Africa, even competitors are friends and they talk about their experiences. People buy from people in this market.

Pieter stated, ‘The technology and solutions are important here but even more important is the after-sales service and support. The sales cycle here can be longer but printers here need support. The confidence that IIJ has in the South African market with the opening of the office in Durban and the appointment of consultants in Johannesburg and Cape Town is growing the confidence local printers have in the company.’

IIJ is active in a number of different markets but has three strategic pillars including Labels, Security and Packaging. Mike added, ‘In this market, Pieter has had some really good success in the Security and Labels markets, which has been an unqualified success and that is where we expect to see a lot of the business in the future. The people in the security market are looking for new ways to do things to add value to their products and to add more security features to their products. Packaging is just so diverse that it is difficult to find ways to add value to an already tight production stream. However, blister packs are one area where customers are using our solutions and we are seeing a high level of growth in that area.’

IIJ has an established network of suppliers who manufacture best-in-class solutions and systems allowing it to custom-design print engines and configure kits which directly meet the needs of customers. This extends to a broad range of ink manufacturers who produce inks for all different applications including, but not limited to, food-based packaging.

Pieter commented, ‘One of the challenges in the local market is explaining the difference between simple imprinting of numbers and more complex printing requirements with variable data elements. There is a vast difference and it requires quite a bit of explanation. Once the customer has achieved that level of understanding the discussions usually become very in-depth where we are talking added-value options, which allow them to charge more for their product because it does more than simply provide a number but brings new opportunities with it.’

Despite the developments which has taken place in recent years, inkjet is still a relatively young solution in terms of its adoption in the market, but this is changing rapidly. There are a number of suppliers in the market all trying to tap into the growing potential. What is it that sets IIJ apart?

Mike responded, ‘If you ask our customers in Europe that question, we know that they will tell you that we are the company which listens. We don’t try to shoe horn a basic and standard solution into your application. When you work with us, your solution is designed and configured to meet your ex­ act requirements. It is not about price or being better than anyone else. We take a consultative approach with our clients. Sometime that does not convert into immediate sales but, with time, our clients generally come to us when they are ready to adopt a solution, because we give them solid advice. We spend a lot time educating people about inkjet.’

Post-sales service and training is key, especially in a market which is so far removed from the country of origin. Customers need to know that the equipment is reliable but, just as important is the knowledge that they have support and technical assistance in the case of something going wrong. Mike commented, ‘One of the most important aspects of our solutions is the fact that they all include full training for key operators. This is not just operational training but full day­ to-day routine maintenance to allow them to ensure that the machine operates to its full potential. We only deal with technically competent people and we will actually walk away from a sale if we feel that they cannot adequately operate and maintain a one of our machines. However, we also provide ex­ tensive follow-up training and refresher courses whenever necessary.’ If inkjet holds a certain appeal for your production requirements or, if you don’t know how inkjet could possibly increase your productivity and profitability, you need to contact IIJ. Your system may end up being one-of-a-kind but you are assured that it is backed by extensive knowledge, expertise and experience in making inkjet work for your specific requirements. Whether you want to breathe new life into an old ma­ chine or you want a completely new print engine capable of the fastest speeds, Industrial Inkjet can help you to revitalise your product offering.

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