Saving Money

Consumables: The Critical Components

You’ve probably heard about a thousand times that your anilox rolls are the heart of your flexo press. That’s totally accurate. But there are some smaller, less costly parts that while not quite as important still have a direct impact on every label, flexible package, folding carton or corrugated container you produce. You throw some away every day. This is perfectly okay because they are consumables. But are you picking the right ones and managing them carefully? Like so many things in flexo printing, details matter.

No one approach

Two flexo shops I call on, one in the southwest and one in California, run similar volumes of pressure sensitive labels but use very different strategies that are right for their businesses. The California shop does runs that last all day or longer, while the other does many short runs each day. The long run shop buys the best doctor blades, end seals and stickyback tape he can find so he doesn’t have to stop his presses to change out consumables. One of his jobs may run for thousands of feet and occupy a press for a couple of days, but it runs without stopping unless a fresh roll of substrate needs to be loaded. In contrast, his counterpart in the southwest buys some of the least expensive blades, seals and stickyback he can find, using new ones for every job. This way he always has fresh consumables on his presses.

Provident Doctor Blades

Neither owner ever has to think about downtime because he has matched and managed his consumables to the types of work being run. This makes sense but is not the norm. Owners of many shops—perhaps too many—try to minimize consumable cost rather than choosing consumables that will yield the best results.

The Cost of Saving a Dollar

Take stickyback tape for example. Tape choice effects the way a plate and substrate prints, but this is just one level of the selection process. Once you select a tape based on its thickness and compression characteristics, there are options for saving money but they can come with problems. One is the leading edge of a tape lifting up so the plate is no longer properly attached to the cylinder. You can fix this with plate edge tape or a glue stick, assuming you caught it in time and the entire plate didn’t peel off the cylinder. But with a better tape—which might cost as much as a whole dollar per station—you can avoid stopping the press to fix the problem. Chances are, the extra dollar for a better tape is a lot less than the cost of stopping the press, fixing the problem, starting the press back up, and running a few hundred feet of substrate until the ink and color are back. When this happens those “savings” on a cheaper tape disappear quickly.

3M Pro Series

The 20% Difference

If you pay attention to all the costs of your operation, it’s not hard to compare the value of different consumables. The key difference is that the higher costs of better-quality consumables are more than balanced by reliability, consistency, and not having to factor unexpected downtime into a job. In fact, most printers I’ve worked with who have monitored all their costs over a full year found they save up to 20 percent overall by running a higher quality and slightly higher priced consumable. Their experience proves that not managing consumables effectively is false economy and may provide a fast track to lower profitability, even though you may appear to be saving money.

Look back to the printers I mentioned earlier and the consumables strategies they have adopted. Both have made smart choices by selecting the right tapes, blades and end seals for the jobs they do so they can work as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

We at Anderson & Vreeland are a little like the code reader you can buy for your car so you can tell if the problem is a $20 fix you can do yourself in a few minutes or one that will require leaving the car in the clutches of your mechanic for a day or two. By talking with business owners and production teams we can identify the challenges you face and provide solutions that are aligned with your business needs. Call us at 866-282-7697, email us at, or reach out to me or another technical sales rep so we can help you develop the consumable strategy that will help ensure you have output that will delight your customers and keep them coming back.