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Relm West Sees Explosive Growth with Durst Technology

Rochester, NY – June 2024
For Relm West, based in Lakewood Washington, the goal isn’t to be a national juggernaut. Rather, Joe Beers, owner, says “we’re more interested in people who know you, and value the proposition we bring to the table. Our motto is ‘fast moving, easy going.’ We try to be the ‘easy button’ and turn things faster [for our customers] while maintaining good quality.”

With a focus on labels and flexible packaging for small to mid-sized brands — about 90% of which are for the food and beverage vertical — having equipment that hits both the needed speed and the required quality targets is critical to ensuring every customer ultimately wants to keep coming back.

Beers says that with today’s digital equipment, “quality is just kind of a given, but on the productivity side of it, we can’t maintain our lead times, efficiencies, and costs without it.” But it’s not just speed he’s talking about. He also notes that uptime is just as critical, since a machine that isn’t running isn’t getting jobs out the door. So when equipment does go down or need maintenance, having a partnership he can trust is as critical to keeping his business operational as the productivity. “We want to feel comfortable that [any equipment partners are] going to stand behind their machine,” he says. “If we have a problem, we know we’re not going to be haggling with them.”

And Durst, he says, checks that box, also bringing the ability to troubleshoot remotely for even faster response times for many issues, which he notes has been a promise Durst has lived up to. “We’ve probably had a tech in here five times for routine maintenance, and things we needed to get fixed,” Beers says. “The service has been great — the problems have all been very minimal, but when they do happen, [Durst] really owns them. Sometimes you have a maintenance contract and you’ll fight with [vendors] about who’s really responsible for something.” But Durst, he stresses, is always fast to jump in and just get it taken care of.


Evaluating the Options

Backing up a bit, Beers says that his shop was running a digital toner press previously that had good quality and service, but the productivity wasn’t what he needed it to be. So he made the decision to start looking into other options, examining all the manufacturers in the space. “We sent them all the exact same 10 labels, and brought them all back for evaluation,” Beers says. “And we found that the Durst Tau was the highest quality reproduction of the images we were using, in part because they are a 1,200 dpi press versus the others, that were mostly 600 dpi. And their cost of production seemed right in line with everyone else. So we thought, given those two things, and what they said about their productivity, that it was the right choice for us.”

Ultimately, Beers invested in the Durst Tau 340 RSC E, a UV digital press that comes with a standard CMYK configuration, with orange, violet, green, white optional inks. It is a field upgradable unit, so Relm West Labels will be able to adjust as its needs change, although Beers says that his long-term goal is to get so much work he completely fills that press, and then has to install a second.

This one, however, was installed in February 2022, and, Beers says, it has lived up to all of his expectations. “Just after start-up, we were able to run in two hours what it used to take us eight,” he says. “I think [after installed the Durst,] we ran one order on the old press because we were concerned about color, and then we color matched it and never ran that press again.”

And it’s not just speeding up the current work — Beers says that in the two years the Durst Tau has been operational, he has seen his digital sales increase 63%, and he still has room to grow. Productivity, he says, has also been everything Durst claimed when he purchased the press. Ink costs have also actually been lower than originally estimated because the press is far more efficient with ink than he was expecting. “We thought we were going to be paying around $0.30 per 1,000 square inches for ink, and we’ve been paying around $0.19. And that’s almost half of what we were paying for our ink and consumables on the previous press as well. Those lower running costs really allows us to keep our prices competitive.”

The end result is that Beers is moving a lot more jobs to the digital press from his analog flexo press. Originally, he says, he expected to move jobs to the digital press that were under 5,000’ in length, but in reality he is finding it is economical to move jobs as high as 10,000’ when things like setup times and the cost of plates are all factored in.

To that end, Beers says that about half the growth his digital department has seen has been jobs that have been moved to the Durst from the flexo line because it was just more efficient and cost effective. But the other half has been both from the ability to capture more work from some of his existing clients, as well as opening up doors with new clients he couldn’t previously bid for.

And Beers isn’t slowing down. Just recently, he says, they have started experimenting with printing on both sides of the labels and tags, since the Durst has the capability to re-register. “We knew it could do it, we just hadn’t gotten to it before,” he says. “There is a long list of things we want to try with [the Durst], but we’ve just started experimenting.” One example he gives is some recent prototyping producing some of the flexible packaging work Realm West produces, which is “pretty interesting,” he says. “We’re now able to print for customer, hand-form their packages, and then send them the samples, which we were never able to do before. So [the Durst] is definitely opening up some new markets for us.”

So what advice does Beers have for other printers considering investing in a digital inkjet press? First, he says, “talk to the current owners of Durst presses about the costs of their operation, and their real life experiences. That was really important to me when I was looking at it. I talked to a couple of people who were operating them, and I talked to people that were operating the other machines we were looking at. And I think it’s valuable just to hear the voice of the people who are running them, and the realities of it.”

In the end, Relm West has been pleased with their decision to invest in Durst technology, with the press exceeding all of their high expectations across the board. And as they continue to find new ways to use the digital printing technologies to better serve their customer base, they will only continue to see the volume and margins of jobs climb higher and higher.

Courtesy of Packaging Impressions

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