The label sector continues to be a growing market and was forecast by Smithers Pira to be worth a total of $36.98 billion in 2017. This same source also predicts that growth will continue at an average rate of 4.1% per year up to 2022, making labels a $45.22 billion market by then.Together the two digital printing techniques of electrophotography and inkjet accounted for 28% of label production by value globally in 2017, although this equated to just 11% of the volume of labels produced, illustrating that the inherent nature of digital print brings distinct advantages for added-value label printing.Trends in the market are for shorter runs, shorter turnaround times and the rise of mass customization, and at Konica Minolta we see these continuing to shape the labels market going forward.Our own Konica Minolta AccurioLabel 190 press was originally designed to address exactly these needs for small to medium sized label converters, and in the space of a year there have already been more than 150 installations of this system. Since the introduction of its predecessor, the bizhub press C71cf, at Labelexpo in 2015, over 250 installations have been made. Increasingly, we are seeing the AL 190 becoming a viable solution for larger and larger label converters looking for a press to complement their high-end digital printing systems.An additional trend we have observed – both in labels and in packaging – is that brands increasingly want to add value through innovative decorative and tactile elements within the printed piece. In this regard, technology such as the digital embellishment systems of our strategic partner MGI is a ready-made opportunity for label converters to offer highly creative services and win new business. For example, MGI’s JETvarnish 3DWeb Color+ system for labels and flexible packaging produces in-line flat and 3D spot UV coating, 3D embossed varnish textures and flat and embossed foil effects; it also includes a flexo priming station for uncoated material surface management.Speed to market, short run and creative solutions, as is providing added value to customers, are becoming ever more important in the label sector, and Konica Minolta expects these trends to continue. In 2017, we were proud to announce the formation of the Professional Print Division in Europe that is based out of our European headquarters in Langenhagen, Germany, where we also have a dedicated showroom. And in the same year we also opened an industrial print office and R&D centre in Paris, France, close to the headquarters of MGI.The label market continues to be a success story for Konica Minolta. However, it’s not just about the technology. Consultancy, customer testimonials and other presentations will complement our offerings. The development of the AL190 itself is a perfect example of the close collaboration of Konica Minolta with its customers: We listened to label converters’ feedback on its predecessor, the bizhub press C71cf, and included this into our AL 190, which has been developed and manufactured in cooperation with Danish company Grafisk Maskinfabrik (GM). It is now an all-in-one device with integrated web guiding system and quality control area with viewing lights. It is capable of working in two ways: either as inline-finishing solution together with the GM DC330Mini as well as for the two devices to work as stand-alone solutions, fulfilling the need for flexibility that the market requires.We work closely to openly explore the challenges and opportunities faced by customers. Providing practical help and support, we anticipate customer needs and then turn them into innovative solutions in a collaborative, partnership approach.