GM Graphix rises to the occasion at The GAPP Awards 2022

With 35 years of achieving excellence – one label at a time – it’s no wonder that GM Graphix, based in the south of Johannesburg, was recognised as being “the Pinnacle of Excellence” at The GAPP Awards 2022, where the company was awarded with one Gold, three Silver and two Bronze Awards at the highly prestigious and largest print competition in the world. 

Located in Alrode, Gauteng, GM Graphix is a flexographic printing company that specialises in the design and print of self-adhesive labels, foiling, sachets, shrink sleeves and wrap-around labels. Founded by two brothers in 1989, the operation was later taken over by Pieter Massyn who brought new blood and new equipment into the business, transforming it into success that it is today. Pieter retired two years ago with his son, Henri, taking over his vision and the directorship of the firm.

‘We have seen continued growth take place from within the flexographic printing sector, which I think it is the result of companies being actively part of the circular economy and the heightened awareness of impact that packaging has on the environment,’ ruminated Coennie Boshoff, General Manager at GM Graphix.

He added that the company prints approximately 73% of its labels for the FMCG sector, with the remainder being for pharmaceuticals, with the demand for peel & reveal labels steadily increasing over the past two years.

‘We are one of the first companies that we know of to produce a peel & reveal label on a flexo press,’ boasted Anton Janse van Rensburg, GM Graphix’s Production and Planning Manager. ‘We started to produce them approximately nine years ago that included about two years of R&D just to get the curing of the release lacquer correct, but now that we have mastered it, it’s like any other job for us.’

‘Last year we started to produce 5-layer peel & reveal labels on the flexo press,’ Coennie added. ‘We supply a number of labels for export products, which require a lot of information for the markets that they go into, especially in Arabic-speaking countries. Aside from the labels requiring a lot of information, they oftentimes need to be in different languages, which is what led to us doing the necessary groundwork in order to supply these labels in 5 layers.’

Anton added, ‘When it comes to our triple layer peel & reveal labels, we’ve been able to refine them to the point of having a triple layer while utilising only two layers of material – a breakthrough for GM Graphix that we are very proud of.’

Coennie and Anton unanimously agreed that quality and service delivery distinguishes the company as a player in the industry. ‘There are three things that we always have look out for as printers: we have to look at our price, our quality and our service levels. The caveat is that you must give up one in order to achieve the other two,’ Coennie explained.

‘We are not known as being a cheap label supplier but if you want a good quality label and you want it on time – that’s who we are. We focus on providing the best looking label that one can get and we are willing to walk the extra mile and another bit, just to make sure that our customers are 100% satisfied,’ he added.

‘We are very loyal and committed to our customers because we realise that it’s a two-way street. A very positive thing for me is, when most of our customers are in the throes of introducing a new product line to the market, we will be the first supplier that they will contact to find out if we can trial and then produce the kind of labels that they are looking for. I think it’s great because it demonstrates just how much trust they have invested in us,’ Anton agreed.

As a family- and friendship-oriented business, GM Graphix’s workforce comprises of 37 employees – all of whom were brought into the company by someone already working there. Coennie believes that this approach is the reason that its staff works so well despite not having any printing experience when they start their career at GM Graphix. ‘When we bring somebody in that is in some way connected to an employee of ours, I think that they don’t want to make that person look bad, so they have the tendency to give it their all,’ he said.

‘One of our printers was previously employed as a driver who made deliveries for a company. We have another employee who did sandblasting before and has proven to have an eye for this kind of work, so he’s become very technical – and that’s just from what he’s picked up along the way. We have employees who’s been working for us for well over 20 years, who’s children have followed in their footsteps and are now also working for us,’ he added.

Training is a very important part of the business, with Anton believing that in spite of each person having a different way of carrying out tasks, the end goal – namely exceptionally printed labels – is the common denominator for everyone. ‘By training our staff we are able to help them feel comfortable with what they do in their field, in their own way of doing it, but with the same eye for quality and excellence. Because when you are comfortable with what you do, you will be more efficient and focused with the tasks that need to be carried out,’ he expounded.

The quality of the substrate being used is of great importance to GM Graphix, with Coennie saying that the print operation would rather pay more to ensure that the materials used will produce superior labels for its customers.

Anton agreed saying, ‘Another thing that gets us excited is trials, which is a very big component in the print work that we do and can last for 6-7 months in order to decide if we will change the substrate or a supplier. We like to stay on top of the quality of material given to us because that’s what will be given to the customer. The quality of the substrate that we use is an essential component for us.’

Coennie added, ‘It’s a team effort; it’s not just a GM Graphix exercise. Yes, we may print the labels and deliver them to our customers but at the end of the day, we can’t do anything if our suppliers are no good. I don’t think that our suppliers always realise just how important they are to us and how much we rely on them because we can’t do anything or achieve the kind of standards that we have without them.’

GM Graphix was awarded one Gold, three Silver and two Bronze trophies at the 2022 edition of the Awards. ‘It is such a proud moment when the blood, sweat and tears that you put into a job is recognised at an event of this nature,’ Anton stated. ‘Just to be under the same roof as your biggest competitors and companies that you have only heard of – but now have the opportunity to meet – it was an awesome feeling that can’t be described. To see the whole industry from flexo to vehicle wrapping is very humbling because you realise just how massive our industry actually is. It was nice to have everyone under one roof and to celebrate print.’

‘We decided to take every person involved in the production of our winning label entries: if a designer worked on that label, we took that designer; we took the printer that printed that label; and we took the rep who sold the label to our customer. It was sad not being able to take every single employee to the gala event so that they could see the impact that their work has – where it goes and what we are able to achieve as a company,’ Coennie elaborated.

He continued, ‘The highlight of the evening for me was feeling the excitement in the whole room, with every person being extremely proud that their work was being recognised, because everybody that attended the event was being recognised in some way or form. The other highlight was to see how people can dress up in something other than factory clothes – and to actually look quite good; to see your end product neither in your overalls nor wrapped in a roll but to stand there in your fancy clothing and seeing it displayed on a screen knowing, ‘This is what we did.’ The experience was a lot better than a team building experience for me.’

Anton interjected, ‘Everyone was proud – from the guy who washes the analogues to our directors, everyone was just, ‘That’s our stuff!’ You could see the pride in their eyes and watch them laughing and watch them jump up and down because of a label. It was absolutely magic.’

‘Recognition from the end user, the person buying the product, is very rare. The end user never picks up a product from the shelf and says, ‘This is a nice looking label.’ – it’s something that’s taken for granted,’ Coennie added. ‘My stand out moment at the Awards, however, was when Leanne Mannas said, ‘I will never look at a yoghurt container with the same eyes again,’ because aside from the waiters and waitresses, she was probably the only person at the event that isn’t in the know of what our work entails. Everybody else who was there had some idea of what goes into a label design and print.

Anton said that being a winner at The GAPP Awards 2022 has given the team a confidence boost and instilled the feeling that the sky is the limit. ‘Just to run around with the big players in the industry and compete with them has given us the confidence to abstain from saying, ‘No, we can’t produce that label,’ but to sit down with it, do the necessary R&D because our clients are loyal to us and we feel compelled to do the same by putting in our blood, sweat and tears and persevere until we have a final product to offer them.’

‘We built a display in our reception specifically for the Awards,’ Coennie pointed out. ‘We did this because when we have a meeting, specifically with a new client, we can take them to the display and say, ‘This is the kind of work that we are able to do and we received Awards for them for a reason. You don’t always need nine colours for your label, you actually just need two and perhaps a foil, to achieve the same effect and make your products stand out more.’’

‘Our industry consists predominantly of pressure and speed because everything needs to be fast. When things get to be a bit too much and I look at the Awards that we won, everything falls away and I am reminded that I am working towards something that we will be recognised for – and that’s a great feeling,’ Anton raved.

Coennie concurred adding that a week seldom goes by without the team at GM Graphix talking about The GAPP Awards. He said that while their customers and the end users are of the utmost importance, Anton and his team approach an order with the intention of producing something that can be entered into the 2024 edition of the Awards. ‘It gives us something to work towards; to be able to attend one of those events again,’ he said.

Anton has the following advice for readers considering submitting entries into the Awards: ‘We all come from different backgrounds so you should really believe in yourself and believe in the people that are working for you. Believe in yourself and submit your entries – you can only learn and grow from it but there’s nothing wrong with trying. We only won two Awards when we entered for the first time but entering in 2022 led to us winning six Awards, which we wouldn’t have gotten if we didn’t try.’

‘I would say don’t overthink it; don’t think that your entry is too simple. If you produce a job that you are proud of, you should enter it into the competition and see what happens. At the end of the day, regardless of whether or not you win, it’s an absolutely awesome experience. I am grateful that there are people driving The GAPP Awards so that we have the opportunity to brag. Sometimes we don’t realise how important these Awards are for our people,’ Coennie added.

‘It’s insane that The GAPP Awards is able to bring all of these people together and give them the recognition that they deserve. One hears about the Golden Globe Awards or the Emmy’s – these are our Golden Globe Awards. The GAPP Awards is evidence that the industry is not dying; it is however growing vastly,’ Anton chimed in.

‘It drives you. It literally drives you to be your best,’ he concluded.