Watershed Group continues to pioneer innovation in label production

Packaging Solutions

The Watershed Group, one of Ireland’s largest privately owned international labelling and packaging companies, has just completed a €3 million spend that included a move to new headquarters in Dublin and the addition of another Mark Andy P5E Performance Series flexo press.

The factory move, which was carefully planned and handled by a team of technicians from Mark Andy UK to ensure no loss of production, offers Watershed twice as much space as before, and is seen as key part of the Group’s €30 million revenue target over the next two years.

With 11 Mark Andy presses distributed across the group’s production sites in Ireland, Germany and Poland, the commitment to the American company’s technology has been fundamental to Watershed’s continuing double digit growth. ‘We decided that building close strategic partnerships is a key element of our growth strategy and aligning our business with Mark Andy continues to be the right decision. As with all partnerships, it is not been without issue, but both sides have benefitted from their commitment to work at a problem and develop the solution,’ explained Watershed’s entrepreneurial CEO Liz Waters. ‘We were the first label company to operate Mark Andy presses in Poland, Germany and Ireland and we envisage that the relationship will continue to grow,’ she added.

The decision in 2018 to install the first digital hybrid press in the UK and Ireland was part of the group’s strategy to compete in the market for premium drinks labels. This also involved the acquisition of an existing speciality drinks business, ‘The Label Factory’, which provided an instant entry into that sector.

Watershed knew that specialist technology in the shape of future proof, innovative, inkjet capability, was required to differentiate it from other label converters and offer a wider range of new and exciting print options to the customer base.

The Mark Andy Digital Series offers Watershed speed and flexibility to cater for top quality short to medium run labels across a range of substrates with inl ine finishing. According to Watershed director Patrick Murphy, ‘We know how good Mark Andy flexo quality is, so the commercial possibilities and cost saving benefits of combining flexo with the flexibility of digital inkjet in one press was too tempting to resist. The digital quality matches the flexo, and if need be, we can bypass the digital engine and run the press all flexo.’

This highlights the group’s emphasis on single pass production using a range of in line finishing and converting options, giving Watershed a major advantage for many of Ireland’s leading distilleries. One recent job involved the launch of a new gin by the Irish TV personality Graham Norton. The label, with a complex combination of print finishes, typifies the scope of the Mark Andy Digital Series press by utilising all of its added value capability including hot foil, embossing, debossing and die cutting. It is the quality and speed with which Watershed can turn projects like this from initial brief to delivery of finished product that sets them apart and gives meaning to the group’s claim to have a big company approach to growth and investment in technology, but a small company approach to building personal relationships with customers.

The latest machinery package included another Mark Andy Performance Series P5E flexo press (Watershed’s seventh), the Digital Series inkjet hybrid press based on the modular P7E platform and two Rotoflex HSI, pharmaceutical standard inspection rewinders, fitted with Eye-C technology for 100% accuracy.

The P5E is an eight colour 17” (430 mm) model fitted with full UV, turn bars, delam/relam, chilled impression rolls and the QCDC die station. The Digital Series has a 330 mm (13”) web width and is fitted with four flexo units, one with reverse print option, along with the CMYK plus white inkjet engine, laminating and QCDC-SR die station.

The two Rotoflex HSI units provide roll to roll label inspection, slitting and rewinding, in an operator friendly horizontal orientation. Their design is focused on productivity, offering considerable time and waste savings that increases efficiency in Watershed’s demanding production environment. They have a 440 mm (17.25”) web width capability, and feature Servo eDrive and URC 2.0 control for production speeds up to 305 metres per minute and crucially offer 100% inspection with the latest Eye-C technology.

According to Liz Waters, the international label business is becoming even more consolidated and it is here that she sees the advantage of production capabilities in different locations. ‘The recent installation of Label Traxx MIS has provided us with so much quality information that we can evaluate the productivity and potential of each press in each plant to give us and our brand owners complete supply chain flexibility.’

‘The analytics which we get from LabelTraxx are essential to running any multi-press operation to its maximum efficiency,’ she said, adding,’for an operation like ours, which is margin driven, live accurate data is vital.’

This addition to the group’s capability also provides the opportunity to develop an international sales team whose client base will also benefit from the commercial flexibility offered by multiple locations.

Other innovations within the group will see Watershed install a Vivo Colour Solutions system, the first in Ireland, from its partner Flint Ink – this highly accurate and versatile colour management device will help Watershed to increase productivity and reduce waste by offering fast colour matching and control. With more business acquisitions planned for 2019, Watershed Group is looking at the greater European scene for opportunities to grow and diversify.

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