Italian company Inkmaker was founded more than 30 years ago in response to increasing job automation within the industry. Today, the Turin-based business is riding at the forefront of another wave of change that has swept the sector, following the growing impact of smart technology on the dispensing segment of the industrial ink market. Businesses that evolved have been increasingly relying on internet-connected tools that link individual pieces of equipment with a company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to help run its operations. Inkmaker, with its unique new Maestro software for dispensing units, is ahead of the competition with the help and support it can provide to customers for this new area.
"Here in Italy, and across the rest of the world, we are talking more about an industry 4.0 moment," says Christophe Rizzo, general manager at Inkmaker. "This is especially true in terms of data collection, interfacing with your machines and collecting input from the dispensing units, which is then given as statistical information to the operator, focusing on issues such as the performance of the machine. This allows a better performance from your equipment. Information can be shared with the ERP of the customer or even stored in a cloud system controlled by the client or Inkmaker."
Rizzo explains that, like in many other sectors, this growing integration of previously separate pieces of technology is rapidly changing the way things are done in his industry. As developments like artificial intelligence mature, the automation and the flow of data that companies can acquire about the real workings of their operations are increasing, much of which is useful in improving their operations. Rizzo predicts that the aforementioned developments will arrive within the ink business in just two or three years' time.
But, he adds, Inkmaker is already ahead of the curve, thanks to its early investment in a new piece of management software, Maestro. This technology has been built with a unique new programming language, structure and ERP to give Inkmaker's customers a new layout with fresh functionalities that meet any company's daily needs and requirements.
"Thanks to our new Maestro software, plus all the information we are able to collect from our dispensing units, our equipment is already able to give more information to the customer," Rizzo says. "For example, running Maestro gives them the possibility of confirming if their ink dispensing unit is fully performing or not, and what stresses there are on it, while letting them monitor the performance of each operator using it. Maestro software also guarantees the customer will have an updated dispensing unit, even if their machine is ten or 20 years old. You can continue to use these older models, even after we have installed our new software on them. This gives customers an updated system that is in line with today's requirements."
With expertise in the ink, paint and chemicals markets, Inkmaker is well-positioned to grow globally, especially if interest in its innovative software takes off. The company already has a strong position in Asia, with a production plant in the Chinese city of Shanghai and an office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Having a local workforce enables it to focus not only on these regions, but also on Asian countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, which are becoming important markets for the company in their own right. Rizzo, together with some colleagues in Asia, was recently able to buyout Inkmaker's major shareholders, and says there are still big plans ahead for the business.
"Following the management buyout, our plan is to continue to work in line with the activities that Inkmaker has previously focused on until now. This includes areas such as creating dispensing units for printing ink," he explains. "But we also want to diversify the business in the future. We will attain this by creating similar products for the paint and chemical sectors, continuing our development of new software, and to diversify and grow the company into other areas."