If any company has had first hand experience of the way in which a recession can affect its business then it is flexographic press manufacturer Edale.
Prior to the last economic upheaval in the nineties, Edale was close to bankruptcy until it was rescued by the specialist investment company Butterfly Holdings in 1987.
Although investment began to flow into the company quite a number of years elapsed before Edale was finally restructured and the new blood the company desperately needed had been injected into the business.
Two recruits hired at that time have proven to be the catalyst Edale needed to gear itself up for serious recovery – the current technical director Steve Jordan and managing director James Boughton.
“Edale has had to make a long and painful transition from being virtually down and out to the position we are in today,” explains James Boughton. “We needed to design and build a new product range and focus clearly on our market strategy. This meant taking a reality check regarding what we were good at and also realising that there were sectors of the market where we faced hot competition and where the rewards we sought were not be found.”
In the last seven or eight years alone Edale has launched five new machines.
Edale has been through a period where the company has probably designed too many machines and was unclear of the direction it should take to be successful.
In 2000 came the Beta, a label printing press with up to 12 print stations and an array of extras and which operated up to a web width of 330mm.
In 2001 the Alpha was introduced, a modular flexographic printing and converting machine for labelling and packaging.
In quick succession came the Sigma followed by, what has become, one of Edale’s most successful machines – the Lambda. This machine made a considerable market impact and made inroads into the commercial security markets.
The Lambda is a highly configurable machine that prints tags, tickets, labels, can coat substrates, handle RFID applications and is a fully formed converting and finishing unit.
Latest off the Edale conveyor is the Gamma. This is a servo driven printing and converting press with high speed job changeover, pit stop colour change and a ‘plug and ‘play’ feature rich profile. the Gamma is a complete production machine capable of producing folding cartons, food sleeves, flexible packaging, shrink sleeves, metallised film, security products, tickets, tags and labels.
The Gamma is the first machine to have been produced following Edale’s strategy review in 2008. The company had, by this time, also developed a close relationship with Agfa-Gevaert, designing and manufacturing the web transport system for the Dotrix inkjet printer. This development and relationship greatly affected the business decisions taken at that review.
Led by James Boughton, the Edale team recognised that the company was selling into four distinct sectors: commercial security, flexo printing, converting and coating and digital/inkjet printing.
“We were never going to be able to compete as a mainstream label printer supplier,” says James Boughton. “That market was increasingly being driven by heavy discounting practices and cutthroat pricing. We were not going to forget our flexo roots and heritage but we decided to focus more energy and commitment into the commercial security market and on developing our relationship with Agfa which promises to deliver some amazing results.
“Agfa’s knowledge of the commercial print market is unparalleled and should lead to some remarkable cross-fertilisation. I can see our business growing considerably in the next four years. You can’t just bolt an inkjet unit onto a printing press and expect it to work and deliver quality results,” stresses James Boughton. “Both Agfa and Edale have made huge investments of time and money into getting this project right.”
Such is the focus on these key areas that, without neglecting coating and converting, Edale will only become involved in projects if they are part of substantially bigger enterprises. The days of taking on anything no matter how small or tenuous are over. Diversity has been Edale’s Achilles Heel in the past and that is set to change.
Edale has moved to new, purpose built, premises at Whiteley near Fareham, UK and this is expected to go a long way to broaden the company’s image to one that can include small private enterprises as well as multinational companies and with machine prices ranging from £75,000 to £1.5 million. Even though turnover is down by less than five percent because of the recession this has happened at a time when the company had drawn in its horns slightly in preparation for the move and new developments.
Edale exhibited jointly with Agfa at Labelexpo 2009 where label printers had an opportunity to see just how digital inkjet could benefit their businesses even though not aimed at them directly.
The impression created by James Boughton is of a company that has shed the problems of the past and is focusing like a laser on the profitable markets of the future and will be streamlining its approach still further, shedding some old niches but going full steam ahead to gain a profitable presence in its chosen markets.
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