SMS Impressao Digital is a new company formed by the merger of three respected Brazilian
print groups. Unigraph, Geograph and Insight are all highly experienced in the packaging, label
and POS/POP market. Although the companies had prospered in recent years they had all
seen the same trends and pressures in their market. One trend that concerned them the most
was the movement towards lower run lengths, which meant that large portions of the
short/medium run length markets were becoming loss-making activities or (at best) break-even.

It was clear to the SMS management team that new strategies would be needed to succeed
and that digital print technologies would be required to address the challenges being faced in
the competitive and rapidly changing packaging market. Profit margins were decreasing as
quickly as run lengths. Print buyers and brand owners were demanding increased levels of product
quality, design innovation, shorter lead times as well as the ability to use variable data for
increasing numbers of jobs.

As individual businesses, each of the three SMS founders had a lot of expertise to offer. Unigraph had been successful for 15 years in the packaging industry as a service bureau
providing plates, film and digital data for the label and folding carton market.
Geograf had been a leading supplier of POS materials, displays, signage and some folding
Insight were one of the first regional printers to offer banners and posters to food retailers
and supermarkets. They already had some experience of digital print though this was with
some of the earlier inkjet devices.

The owners of the three companies knew their market had become tougher than ever before
and felt that combining the three organisations would give them the best chance of success.
SMS was born and soon it became clear that their future profitability would hinge on their ability
to implement digital press technology.

Production speed is the key

“We need more capacity at
the right quality. We need
to produce many orders of
short jobs. In Brazil the
trend is towards shorter
runs but more of them; it is
a big problem for
offset,” explained Mr
Michele, one of the SMS
owners. “We knew we
needed extra
manufacturing capacity
with speed and quality to
profit and grow in the
coming years.”

The Brazilian packaging market is changing dramatically, but has many of the same issues and
challenges faced by packaging printers in other parts of the world. Retail is becoming
increasingly competitive. Unlike other parts of the print market that are being replaced with the
electronic word, the packaging market can never be replaced. The right packaging and brand
management strategies have a direct financial return for the brands they support. The new
generation of print buyers and brand owners are facing their own ‘battle of the shelves’,
requiring frequent production of fresh new test designs. Shorter run length jobs and more of
them is a global trend that will continue to pose profitability problems for traditional press
technology while creating opportunities for those with digital presses.

SMS – working in partnership with top brands

SMS work with a number of well-known brand leaders in Latin America, such as Carrefour,
Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and others. Staying at the top of the market meant
adapting to the changing needs. If SMS could satisfy the demands of the top brands they
would continue to grow even though many other packaging printers were seeing eroding profit
margins. SMS knew that the new trends and demands in packaging would force them to invest
in a digital press and they had three main targets that they set themselves. At the outset SMS
wanted to be the first with UV digital inkjet in their market. Next they wanted speed of
production, they needed to improve capacity and needed the digital benefits that would allow
them to produce lots of short and medium run length work profitably. Thirdly, SMS needed to
improve their flexibility. They needed the flexibility to turn work around within shorter
timeframes and they needed the flexibility to offer UV-quality print on a wider variety of printed

Print buyers and brand owners in the South American market were looking for more
diversification in the types of materials they could use in their packaging. Print buyers also
knew that they could take cost out of the packaging supply chain by reducing inventories and
placing orders on a ‘just in time’ basis. The challenge for SMS was to understand which type of
digital press would have the specification and design to help them achieve all of this.

SMS decide on high-speed UV inkjet

“We looked at all the
different digital press
technologies available,” said
Mr Michele, “but the Agfa
:Dotrix was the one that
combined high speed with
UV and variable data. UV is
important because of the
wide variety of materials it
can work with – it gives us
the ability to innovate.
Solvent inks will disappear in
a few years for
environmental reasons and
performance issues; we had
to choose UV.”

Agfa arranged to take SMS to visit Gardners, a successful and progressive English printer that
was already using :Dotrix. The visit was a chance for SMS to see the :Dotrix in a genuine
production environment and SMS liked what they saw. “I saw the :Dotrix working all day long
without stopping and the owner told me it was the most important machine he had. At that point
I was happy,” said Mr Michele, “although my business partner already knew the :Dotrix was
the right choice before the visit to Gardners.”

Digital UV inkjet – the key to future success

After the visit to Gardners,
SMS went to Belgium where
they met the :Dotrix team.
With the right type of digital
press selected and personal
assurances from Agfa HQ
they knew they had made
the right decision. “I could
observe that Agfa was a
technology company
developing many new
products. I was also
impressed by the M-Press
and their inkjet technology in
general. We liked the flexibility of the Dotrix. It can work with such a variety of substrates. :Dotrix will be the
automatic choice for all the printing on vinyl and plastics,” said Mr Michele, “but it will also allow
us to remain profitable for short and medium run length work in general.”

The Agfa :Dotrix
has a full 65cm
roll width and can
1,200m²/hr with
many of its users
operating the
device on a 24hr basis. It is
roll-fed like a
normal press and
can print on
almost any
Because the
:Dotrix is built on
the chassis of a
flexo press it can
integrate easily with all the standard coaters, dryers, slitters, etc. used in the production of
traditional flexo packaging. The combination of speed, near-offset quality, UV inks and the
wide choice of printing substrates meant that SMS had reached the logical conclusion in their
quest for new production capacity.

SMS are at the start of their journey with digital UV press technology but know that they have
made the right choice. “:Dotrix is the only way to deal with the requirements for short and
medium runs. We can differentiate and make new products, we can do this with UV inks and
new substrates to make unique offerings. When this goes well we will buy another :Dotrix and
then you can interview me again,” concluded a happy Mr Michele.