Needham Group eyes international expansion

NEEDHAM holds 25 per cent of the laser marking market in the UK, supplying to the automotive, aerospace, precision engineers, jewellery, medical and pharmaceutical, and gifting sectors.

The company deals with the supply chain in most of these engineering sectors, mainly for part marking and traceability purposes. The domestic ink market for coding and marking inks is estimated to be worth £300m.

While the company continues to operate the majority of its work in the ink technology sector (60 per cent), it continues to grow its laser technology arm, accounting for 40 per cent of the company's work.

For laser technology, 95 per cent of the company’s revenues come from domestic operations – the plan was to consolidate its UK position and, through distribution, grow the business overseas extensively. The company currently has four distribution partners for laser and 50 ink distributors globally.

Aled Ellis, managing director, told Packaging News growth will come from all parts of the business. Ellis said: “The lion’s share of the growth for laser will come from expanding our distributor network globally. In 10 years' time, we want to have 100 distribution partners; in three years we should achieve 25-30 partners, which will significantly increase the size of our laser business. This growth will allow us to invest in R&D, in new uses of the technology new applications.”

He said inkjet ink is the future of the market and business. Continuous inkjet is mature but the emerging market is applications in the wide-format printing.

The European market is the initial focus because of proximity, and the company already has a partner in North America, where there is “huge” opportunity.

Ellis said: “I think this year in Q2 and Q3 companies will invest in capital equipment more and that’s where we will have opportunities to grow.

“In the pandemic, it was about consolidation and preserving cash and business – a lot of uncertainty in the pandemic. In the [yet to be declared] endemic, companies will have more cash than they ever had – we will start to hopefully re-invest in laser and inkjet printing technologies.”

He added: “One of the biggest challenges facing the ink services industry for packaging is plastic. Most inks are stored and shipped in plastic containers and they can not be recycled as a lot of the inks are hazardous.

“Plastic bottles are accepted industry-wide, although we investigated foil inserts, these weren’t practical as each of the companies involved in the supply chain would have to be radically overhauled as well as the manufacturer of the printers changing the entry method for the ink from the current format.

“The challenge for us is to work with equipment manufacturers that use our packaging to come up with a more sustainable solution to the ink packaging.”


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Author: Waqas Qureshi

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