Cover Story: The Textile Takeover - Kornit Digital
Over the past year, Kornit Digital has been making waves in the digital textile printing market in Asia. We sat with Andy Yarrow, Kornit Digital’s president for Asia Pacific, to get updated on the company’s progress in Asia, strategy in 2020 and the sustainability movement.
The textile printing industry has been going through a transformation to adopt new technologies in order to adapt to current generations of consumers and supply chains. While textile printing is a mature market, digital textile printing takes up just 5% of the global pie.
According to a Smithers Pira report, the market value of digital textile printing is expected to grow to USD$4.90 billion in 2023 at a CAGR of 11.6%.
At the forefront of this digital movement is Kornit Digital. The company offers industrial solutions to revolutionise the supply chain, primarily in direct-to-garment (DTG), but also direct-to-fabric (DTF), which are roll-to-roll systems. It supplies its inkjet machines across 100 countries addressing the needs of designers, manufacturers and vendors across the textile printing value chain.
Headquartered in Israel and only public since 2015, the company is considered the new kid on the digital textile printing block. Today it is one of the very few companies that are dedicated to mass production, high volume industrial textile printing.
“In general, it was an amazing year of growth for Asia. In terms of our business, we make up some 12-14% in the global numbers, and it’s growing year-on-year. We grew the business significantly in all areas. We have our printers, ink revenue, and then service. Ink revenue will give you a good impression on how we're growing and how our customers are growing as a business,” said Andy Yarrow, president of Kornit Asia Pacific.
The company sold four Atlas machines, which it launched in January 2019. Utilising Kornit’s HD technology, the Atlas is a DTG system for high volume production environments. It also sold six Avalanche PolyPros, a machine designed to print specifically on dark polyester fabrics, and several roll-to-roll DTF system, including the latest system, Presto.
“We were able to sell 11 of the new products available in the region so that was excellent. We had a great year in Japan, South East Asia and Korea - which was a huge positive for us,” said Yarrow.
This was an impressive feat, considering many of the systems sold were new product introductions for Asia over the past year. Not resting on its laurels, Kornit additionally just launched the Vulcan Plus to the region, a high capacity DTG print system that can achieve approximately 50% higher throughput than the Atlas. Kornit has a full demo centre located in Hong Kong with all the latest products including workflow solutions.
Kornit expressed its great commitment to Asia, which is viewed as a real hub for textile growth. With many manufacturing countries with huge factory bases situated in the region like China and Vietnam, the growth opportunity is huge.
“We have had a good year of growth but there’s always more we can do for Asia in 2020. We are looking to grow even more in Japan, build our go-to market in China and have new partners in markets such as Korea,” said Yarrow.
Japan appears to be a major market for Kornit Digital. Yarrow highlighted the importance of keeping quality for this market: “We have to make sure we’re providing the right quality to the customers, and giving them the reliability. We have to make sure we’re continually improving our quality and up times to keep our Japanese customers happy.”
“There’s more we can do in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. We have good partners in India and Indonesia, so we had a good close at the end of the year. To say we’re not focusing on other markets in Asia is wrong,” said Yarrow, emphasising that other markets in the region are not ignored.
Yarrow added that the challenges to grow in the region vary market to market. Much like in other industries, its challenges include copycat technologies and price consciousness.
“We’re number one in the industrial space for DTG, and growing quickly in roll to roll with the introduction of Presto last year at ITMA, and people like to try and copy our technology, but the unique advantage for us is our “wet on wet process” which is a combination of our pigment inks and fixation,” said Yarrow. “We also have customers who might want to spend an entry level machine from our competitors and build up their fleet that way. Instead of having one industrial machine, they might have five or six smaller platforms, but even these customers are seeing the productivity benefits of the Kornit systems, and the added benefit of lower ink costs with our HD technology.”
Kornit primarily works through channel partners, supported by Kornit sales and technical professionals.
“We need to make sure we have the right partners across the region. We are pretty much 100% channel, so it’s important to make sure we have the right partners in the field that have the same values as our business and are able to talk to their customers that way,” said Yarrow.
“We also have to make sure to target the right customers, so going to the big players who have connection with the brands is key. It’s to make sure we’re connecting with the right people and that they connect with what we’re saying as a business, for example with our sustainability message.”
The Sustainability Movement
Although e-commerce continues to be a key driver for the digital textile industry, another vital trend is the rising awareness to sustainability.
“The direction the textile industry is headed to is digital. The industry understands the challenges of the sustainability message. People are becoming more activist and after seeing the waste from textile and fashion industries, it gives them a real cause to go after. I think what our message is saying to the market is that we understand these challenges. The most sustainable thing to wear is nothing, the next best thing is Kornit,” said Yarrow.
Sustainable printing approaches make up the core of Kornit’s company values. The entire print process with a Kornit machine is designed with environmental protection in mind, from non-hazardous water-based inks to energy-efficient equipment and raw materials to finished products.
“I think what people are seeing in terms of Kornit’s message is the real synergy with where brands are looking to go. Being more sustainable, not creating more waste, and just-in-time manufacturing. And that’s where we’ve been making a big name for ourselves in the past 12 months,” said Yarrow.
“A lot of our business comes from brands telling their factories what to produce the product on. In the next months, there’s going to be a real focus by brands on sustainability. We’re in discussions with brands to make serious investments in Asia, who are talking to us about sustainability,” Yarrow explained.
According to Yarrow, the brand targeting stems from Kornit’s headquarters, where a team of people are working and speaking with major brands: “You can imagine every single textile brand that has a message on sustainability is talking to Kornit. We don’t have the same challenges with waste and pollutants that you get with the older technologies, such as with acid and reactive inks. The message is in sustainability, when people hear our message and our unique value proposition around our pigments.”
In January 2020, Kornit’s stock price spiked up to 20%. Yarrow attributed this to the resonating of Kornit’s sustainability message amongst brands and people in the market.
Lean, Green Machines
Kornit utilises its proprietary water-based NeoPigment inks that are free of heavy metals, formaldehyde and Alkylphenol Ethoxylates (APE), making them non-hazardous, non-toxic and biodegradable.
To further reduce environmental impact, Kornit’s technologies implement a 100% waterless process in its printing systems. This eliminates external processes such as pre-treatments, steaming or washing. For example, the Kornit Presto is a one-step process of printing on fabric.
“The fact that we can print on any material this is certainly key in the roll-to-roll space, what we call the DTF or direct-to-fabric space. Being able to take a roll of material whether it’s silk, polyester or cotton and then giving it inline fixation, which means we don’t have to pretreat it, wash or steam it or anything like that afterwards is a huge advantage,” said Yarrow.
The same rings true for the DTG systems: “We load the shirt, spray down the fixation, we lay down the inks, and then dry. No one else does this. Usually you have to pre-treat, wash or sream it. And that’s really the big difference between us and competition. The process, the flexibility, and the ability to print on multiple fabrics.”
From 21 to 24 April, Kornit will be organising a huge innovation event at its headquarters in Israel where they will be sharing trends that are happening and the direction digital textiles will be headed from a global perspective to customers.
When asked about his favourite product in the Kornit portfolio: “I can’t pick one, they’re all my children!” quipped Yarrow. “But the Presto gives us the greatest opportunity. We’re using the Presto as a platform so it enables us to to bring in different inks and different chemistry, things like that to help cater to different parts of the industry. The Presto this year will be a major focus for us to get into the fashion space and we’re already in talks with some of the major brands in the market about investing in Presto. This is the year of the Presto, for sure.”
First published in Issue 01/2020 of Print Innovation Asia.