Columbia Label expands to better serve Northwest wine industry
Columbia Label recently installed its first of two $1 million dollar machines to help better meet the needs of Northwest wineries.
The company provides labels for more than 75 wineries, including Tagaris and Badger Mountain Vineyards, as well as specialty food clients.
Its new Indigo WS6800 Digital Press is the top digital wine label printer available to own, said Steve Hall, owner of Columbia Label. The second machine, a finishing press known as the ABG Digicon 3, will be installed in January.
“It’s one of the most sophisticated machines Hewlett-Packard has built for the West Coast wine industry,” he said.
Unlike other big-city labeling companies with skyscraper views, Columbia Label is in the heart of Eastern Washington’s wine region at 1580 Dale Ave. in Benton City. Its proximity to American Viticulture Areas such as Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills and Rattlesnake Hills make it easy for Hall’s sales team to meet with clients face-to-face.
“Some wineries are currently getting labels made 200 to 900 miles away in Seattle or the Napa area,” said Hall, who said using a company so far away means owners have to wait for a label to be mailed to see the final product. “I can’t imagine the trouble between mailing a label and seeing a label.”
Columbia Label isn’t new to the industry. Hall said his company has been making wine labels for about a decade, first with digital roll label machinery and eventually a digital wine label press.
Investing in the new Indigo, which is 25 feet long, and the ABG Digicon, which will be 35 feet long when installed, will allow the company to take on more clients and bigger jobs.
“We wanted to be more efficient,” said Hall, explaining the new press will allow embellishments such as raised text and embossing to be done in one pass. “For the Indigo, we print the label and then we’ll run it through the Digicon. (The Digicon) can hot stamp and it’s able to put a coating on the label. In a lot of labels, you see shiny spot coating.”
Hall said the new Indigo can create about 300 bottle labels per minute. The current machines in place, which are older versions of the Indigo and Digicon, run at about half that speed.
Katii Deaton, director of sales and production, said the increased efficiency will benefit customers in several ways.
“With that speed and technology and not having to do multiple passes—the price is going to follow that. We’re trying to help keep money in (winery owners’) pockets,” Deaton said. “The price looks like it’ll drop in half.”
Even when the new Digicon arrives this winter, the 2006 Indigo and 2009 Digicon are still operational and will continue to be used. Hall said they’re one of the few label companies on the West Coast that will have two Indigos and Digicons.
“We just want to be more efficient and amplify our customers’ success,” Deaton said. “Over the last few years, more and more of our public and private businesses recognize the rapid growth of the wine industry. The wineries need supporting businesses.”
Columbia Label sent a team to train with Hewlett-Packard and Hall said the buzz is already out with winery owners eager to learn about the machine and what the company can do to meet their label printing needs.
“They’re excited. We talked to one large winery and more and more wineries are getting into digital. Once we have everything in, they want to do testing with us,” Hall said. “We’re hearing that a lot lately. They’d like to come down and take a tour and see what we’re doing. And that’s pretty exciting because of lot of these companies don’t have that opportunity (to stop and take a tour) if they’re having their labels made in Portland or Seattle.”
Columbia Label expanded its facility from 9,300 square feet to 16,200 square feet to accommodate the printing machinery, which takes up about half the building’s space.
“And we have another three acres,” said Hall with a laugh.
Columbia Label has grown to 37 full-time employees, including a three-person team sent to Hewlett-Packard to train with the person who built and created the infrastructure to operate the digital machines.
“They stayed for about 10 days for operations and a week for free press, getting files ready to run,” said Hall. “They go through the entire machine—the hardware, the maintenance, and how to troubleshoot it.”
Hall said they have a contract with Hewlett-Packard to maintain the press and that technical support will fly in as needed.
Columbia Label expects the Digicon to be up and running soon after it arrives, and if all goes as planned, they could land new contracts with wineries.
“In the wine industry, word travels quickly,” he said. “Pretty soon everyone will know what we’re doing here.”