Cottoning on to logistics delivers a new high-tech revenue stream

Nov 04, 2021 at 03:20 am by admin

A clever diversification is delivering stability and even growth for a newspaper industry vendor, and has enabled it to withstand and prosper through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And happily, the story also embraces one of Australia’s best retail success stories.

It starts with the 2014 acquisition by QI Press Controls’ partners Erik van Holten and Menno Jansen of EAE, a German press drives and automation specialist with activities complementary to their own.

“Our first intra-logistics order came soon after,” says QI-EAE chairman Jansen, “and now if we hadn’t had another business, turnover would have fallen by 40 per cent.”

Instead, the Netherlands-based press controls specialist is “still a healthy company” able to support its involvement in newspapers – acknowledged to be a sunset industry – with its presence in logistics growing as a result of the pandemic surge in e-commerce.

“We had to have another leg to our business, but are loyal to the printing industry,” group global sales and marketing director Erwin van Rossem tells me when we meet – for the first time for two years – at the European Printers Summit in Frankfurt.

Jansen points to some newspaper industry vendors’ diversification into packaging print, but says that opportunity wasn’t open to QI-EAE. “It’s a different, and now overcrowded, market, with specific suppliers,” he says.

A further factor is that QI’s core technology, with its small dots and markless control is less relevant to packaging, which typically has ample room for printed register and control marks.

“And I wanted to be a top-level supplier, as we are in newspaper printing,” says Jansen.

An early partner was another Dutch company, Vanderlande – with origins in Veghel and now part of Toyota Industries – which has just delivered its second system to Aussie success story Cotton On Group, now one of the country’s largest global retailers.

Control systems from QI-EAE subsidiary EAE Solutions guide Vanderlande Traysorter, a second system of which was delivered to CottonOn’s distribution centre in Avalon, Victoria, earlier this year.

Best known for its flagship CottonOn, CottonOn Kids and CottonOn Body brands, the group also owns plus Rubi, Factorie, Typo, Supré and Ceres Life, operates more than 1400 stores in 20 countries – including New Zealand, and in Asia, the US, UK, Brazil, South Africa and Uganda – with 20,000 staff.

At Avalon, following a tender for a system “capable of handling any combination of order type and delivery requirement”, Vanderlande’s scalable ‘Bombay sorter’ deals with everything from apparel, accessories and small parcels, to shoe boxes and multimedia items, “dramatically reducing time between picking items through to delivery” and improving accuracy.

EAE’s role in the piece is to deliver the control “brains” behind the system, and Jansen says even QI’s experience in camera-based analysis – the same 3D tech as it uses in the graphic arts – has been put to use to check and separate boxes.

EAC Solutions also works with other logistics developers, and numbers DHL, Ingram Micro, Levi’s, Lidl, Sportsmaster and Sydney’s The Iconic among its users.

Menno Jansen says that beyond the financial boost that has come from intra-logistics, “it’s also very motivating for those who have worked with the company for close to 30 years that we’re growing and looking for new staff”.

“And we’re still on the same turnover we had in 2019.”

Peter Coleman

Pictured: Just six operators now “induct” items on the sorter at Avalon before they are scanned and transported to one of 106 destinations

Above: Menno Jansen with Erwin van Rossem at the European Printers Summit in Frankfurt.

Sections: Print business


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