Links Labels & Tapes (LLT)

Support to access new machinery, creating increased capacity and capability whilst helping the business overcome challenges related to Covid-19.

SLPP Limited, trading as Links Labels & Tapes (LLT), has 40 years specialist experience in the printing and production of self-adhesive labels. Based in Bourne, the company manufactures an extensive and modern product range including multi-coloured and plain labels, flexible packaging, multi-layered labels, barcodes and variable data print, self-adhesive printed tapes and thermal ribbons. Clients are widespread in terms of sectors and geography.

Why engage with Invest to Grow?

By late 2016, LLT’s existing digital label printing press had reached its maximum capacity, being utilised extensively throughout the week and at weekends. This provided two key challenges for LLT. Firstly, it restricted the business’ capacity to meet demand, and secondly the existing machine was an older model with limited capabilities, which impacted LLT’s ability to access new markets and meet emerging demand. Due to these challenges, LLT approached the University of Derby and was awarded grant and loan funding from Invest to Grow to purchase and install a new digital label printing press; this would operate alongside the existing digital press.

Following the successful delivery of their first Invest to Grow supported project, it became evident in late 2018 that LLT’s original digital press required replacing. In addition to the machine nearing its end of life, a more advanced printing press would provide additional capabilities for LLT. As a result, the business successfully applied for a second Invest to Grow project, being awarded funding predominantly in the form of a loan. This contributed towards a significant investment from LLT, which also included two finishing machines.

What has been the impact of Invest to Grow?

Both new digital presses provided immediate benefits for LLT in terms of additional capacity and capability. For example, the first machine enabled the use of additional colours and much improved software. The second machine, together with the finishing machines, enabled images to be printed and labels to be cut in tandem. It also provided other new capabilities such as the ability to embellish labels. Furthermore, the new presses provided LLT with the capability to utilise variable data print, meaning it could change images on individual labels within the same order.

The introduction of the first new digital printing press led to a series of positive impacts for LLT. This related mainly to the business’ ability to fulfil demand, alongside increasing access to the variable data market. Reg Rudd, Chairman of LLT, commented on the impact of addressing this additional demand:

“The new machine gave us the ability to meet additional demand. In 2016 our turnover was £5m. In 2017, after we installed the first new press halfway through the year, it rose to £5.5m. This also enabled us to employ five more staff.”


A large electrical printer
Inside the large electrical printer, lots of colourful electrical wires
Outside of a very large scale printing machine.

The installation of the second new digital press occurred at the start of 2019. Unfortunately, its impact was constrained by uncertainty within the printing industry related to Brexit in 2019, and then by the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020. Despite these challenges, LLT employed an additional five staff following installation of the second digital press.

Following the initial Covid-19 national lockdown in spring 2020, LLT has experienced increased turnover each month from June 2020 to February 2021 compared to the previous year, and is confident of achieving £6m turnover in 2021.  Reg Rudd explained the important role of the Invest to Grow projects in supporting this upturn since the first lockdown:

“The investments we made as a result of Invest to Grow funding put us in a great position to capitalise on the emerging market following the first lockdown. Not only did we have greater capacity to undertake our traditional work, but we had new capabilities to capitalise on wider demand. So, whilst Invest to Grow helped us to grow the business, it also helped us through the early part of the Covid-19 crisis and put us in a great position moving forwards.”

LLT was also supported through the first lockdown by Invest to Grow agreeing to a three-month payment holiday on its loans.

In addition to the above impacts related to increased capacity and capability, Reg Rudd explained that Invest to Grow funding has also assisted LLT in other areas. These have included an increase in the efficiency of the business, achieved alongside a commitment to increase the workforce, and increased staff skills regarding the new technology.  Furthermore, the investment has enabled LLT to increase its access into key sectors, including food and drink and vaping. The variable data capability of the business has been particularly beneficial for the vaping market, whereby it is not unusual for orders to include 200-250 different label sorts aligned to specific flavours.  

By accessing Invest to Grow funding and the resultant benefits, LLT has also been able to commit to investment in order to support the growth of other aspects of the business. An example of this has been building a new warehouse to address a previous lack of space. Reg Rudd commented on this, together with the competitive terms associated with Invest to Grow’s loan:

“The funding from Invest to Grow has not only increased our product-related capability as a business, but has also supported us to develop other aspects of the company. This was further assisted by the competitive interest rate for the Invest to Grow loan.”