Guest blog by Jan De Roeck (Esko) - Packaging is all around us…
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.
Brands continue their search for packaging power
Three-quarters of all retail products are purchased on impulse, so it’s no surprise that brands are demanding attention-grabbing packaging to set their products apart from their competitors’. At drupa 2012 we can expect to see a raft of solutions for giving products that stand-out shelf appeal.
Packaging is the interface between brand owner and consumer. In this fast-moving sector, digital technology is dictating the pace of change. Packaging print providers have been working hard to overcome a number of challenges, like ensuring colour consistency – across different regions, and on different substrates printed via different processes.
Meanwhile demand for shorter run lengths is being addressed with enhancements to prepress operations, as well as greater automation to deliver faster throughput.
Despite advancements in litho to speed up makereadies, digital retains the edge when it comes to quickly delivering a job to the press, ready to print. The faster inkjet systems – which offer the added advantage of being suitable for inline integration – will help increase digital’s overall market share. And let’s not forget digital offset, which is also gaining a stronger footing in the packaging sector.
When it comes to addressing the perennial problem of counterfeit goods, coding and marking systems are winning fans, with development focusing on advanced solutions like the 2-D datamatrix barcode.
The food industry is also bolstering security, as packaging-related health scares can lead to costly product recalls and format switching.
As for next-stage development, we can expect a focus on ensuring lower energy consumption – for example, LED replacing UV curing.
What do you think the future holds for packaging? Can developers keep pace with brands’ demands for ever-more striking packaging? Read more, leave a comment and let us know!
Finishing sector all set for the drupa stage
Today, finishing is anything but an after-thought – it’s a crucial part of the print process. After all, there’s little point having a lightning-fast offset printer, or a flashy new digital system, if the finishing isn’t up to the job. For example, wasting paper in the folding process will dent profits, while even one poorly-trimmed photobook leaving the production line can damage a reputation.
Finishing machine manufacturers have been busy developing solutions that apply special touches to the print process. They’re helping print houses offer something unique to their customers, who in turn are helping brands stand out in crowded markets.
Like all cogs in the print chain, the finishing sector has been making big strides in increasing automation. This is helping printers to reduce errors in the print process, and take on more work. Finishing manufacturers are also developing solutions that make shorter print runs more cost effective, which is a major plus for the buoyant on-demand book printing market.
One reason behind the growing demand for high-performance finishing solutions is of course the greater demand for digital presses. A wide-range of offline and integrated finishing systems are meeting the varied demands of today’s print market.
And as ever, sustainability is having a big say in product development, leading to solutions like drive systems that allow individual modules to be shut down to save energy.
What’s your take on the finishing sector? Is the continued growth in digital presses the key to this market? And what kind of finishing applications are needed to help print houses deliver something specials to their customers? Find out more or have your say – leave a comment!
Expect packaging to get cosy with digital this drupa
Digital is taking an increasingly stronger hold in all print markets, and packaging is no exception. Heidelberg predicts digitally printed packaging will grow at double-digit rates, while HP anticipates that its digitally printed packaging division can take the same 10 per cent share of the market that it has in label printing.
So what makes digital so attractive? The technology has advanced rapidly, and there are no longer the same concerns about quality. And print service providers are finding the technology very useful for helping brands to extend their packaging and marketing activities. Things like on-pack promotions, personalized printing, and being able to slash waste by up to 20% are just some of the benefits fueling digital’s popularity.
Digital won’t have it all its own way on the packaging front, however. Litho press manufacturers have recognized the fast-turnaround times afforded by digital, and have responded by increasing the automation of their systems. This is helping packaging printers get through more work, and making their shorter runs more cost effective.
Indeed, packaging printers are now much more comfortable with printing a run of 100 sheets or several pallets of board. And, of course, litho offers advantages over digital in terms of inline varnishing and foiling.
Narrow web presses, once deemed suitable primarily for labels, are also getting in on the action, printing boards for lightweight and small-format cartons. And they’re being combined with inkjet technology for dating, coding and adding promotional messages.
So, while digital undoubtedly has the momentum, a complete end-to-end solution remains a challenge, especially at the finishing stage. And it’s way too early to write-off old-style presses, which are still evolving to deliver shorter production batches and meet customer demand.
Now over to you – do you think digital will reign supreme at drupa 2012? Or can the old-timer presses still show the new technologies a thing or two? Leave a comment and have your say.
Check the drupa website for extended information on this topic.