When dwelling the halls at drupa in Düsseldorf, it’s easy to see that many suppliers aim at inspiring commercial printers in their quest for added value products and services. Two of such added value initiatives seem to be developing into mega-trends. First of all there are many suppliers focusing on the marriage between printed matter and interactive online media. Cross-media publishing has been around for a while, but with many announcements at the show, managing the process of parallel print and web publishing has just gotten a lot easier. The term “Marketing Automation” pops up left and right which is truly a “customer centric” approach to the end-user challenges and requirements. Print buyers no longer separate printed matter from online content in their communication campaigns. It’s no longer a far-away dream to implement an all-encompassing and web-enabled workflow that brings together formerly disparate players. And this means true value for the end-user.
A second added-value market segment that features on the signage of many drupa booths is Packaging. The concept is rather straightforward: you have an offset press to print on paper stock, so why wouldn’t you use it to also print on cardboard stock and produce packaging? As shortsighted as this may seem at first glance, there is definitely value in this concept as long as one covers all aspects of packaging production: design (including structural design), prepress, specific finishing and, not to forget, more shop-floor logistics and more critical customers.
When analyzing the packaging opportunity, one of the main drivers is digital print. The packaging signage basically says commercial printers can also print packaging digitally, in short runs and even personalized. The trend of ever shortening run-lengths in packaging has been prominently around for some time now. The many announcements in the Digital Print battlefield are only enforcing this: larger sheet sizes and web widths (not less than 9 digital press manufacturers announce B2 size capabilities at the show) improve the overall productivity of digital print and will move the break-even point for digital printed packaging upwards.
All good news, but again, let’s not forget that behind added value for the end-user hides an entire workflow to provide specialist services to the packaging buyer all the way from box design over sample making to production (including finishing and shipping). The biggest error a printer could make is to ignore the fact that a printed package is not the end-result of the production process. In commercial print, the cut and folded brochure or leaflet is the end-product all right. In packaging though, the diecut pack goes through many more production and logistical steps to reach its final destination: the shop shelves. This is a fundamental difference between commercial print and packaging workflows. And it requires dedicated solutions from a partner that understands the challenges of the business. Such suppliers are also present in Düsseldorf, Esko in Hall 8b being the leader of the pack.
As a final consideration in this blog, let me ask you the following question: with all the solutions ready to deal with (very) short run package printing, will the end-user applications be able to follow? The breakthrough of digitally produced short run folding carton boxes is not limited by production technology. There is abundant proof of this by many exhibits at this year’s drupa. A breakthrough may well be inhibited by a lack of economically feasible end-user applications. Are you waiting for a cornflakes box with your name on at your breakfast table?
Jan De Roeck
Esko’s Director Solutions Management
You can also find this blog on the drupa website.