For the first few weeks of we featured articles focused on the corrugated packaging sector. For the next few weeks we will be focusing on the folding carton sector and will post interviews with Ben Markens of the Paperboard Packaging Council and Jay Willie of the Independent Carton Group.
To help us introduce the various packaging sectors to the growing WhatTheyThink Labels & Packaging readership we asked PRIMIR if we could pull excerpts from their 2012 study that Karstedt Partners was commissioned to write titled Packaging: Evaluation of Vertical Markets & Key Applications. This study was unique to many industry studies in that it looked at the force being placed on Brand Owners, the originator of packaging orders. Taking this focus a step further the study looked in-depth at the major vertical markets of food, beverage, household, personal care and healthcare to see what will be driving packaging demand in these verticals and thus driving the supply chain. Following are some of what we brought to PRIMIR members surrounding the folding carton sector. The full table of contents for the report can be downloaded here.
The growth in the folding carton sector is projected to mirror that of consumer products growing at a rate that matches GDP.
Insights From Converter Interviews
The research team conducted over 180 interviews with constituents all through the packaging supply chain. Following are some excerpts from those interviews with folding carton converters.
The folding carton converters indicated that they are considering moving between flexo and offset printing processes over the next five years. Discussions indicated even movement in-and-out of each process. Both sides of these movements claim high investments and prepress costs are detrimental for flexo adoption and the lower overall operating and finishing costs of flexo over offset on the opposite side.
Carton manufacturers say they need to more effectively manage production orders that are shrinking in size and increasing in frequency. They are actively seeking solutions that allow them to produce more orders while maintaining overall production volumes. This is not simply obtained by purchasing presses that have quick changeovers. This plan moves a bottleneck from one process step to another. Carton converters are searching for solutions that truly transform their operations for the better.
In discussions with a carton manufacturer who recently installed a highly automated large format sheet fed press, he states that one of the major challenges he faces is feeding the press jobs and clearing the table after it. By this he means that prepress has to have fresh printing plates ready throughout the production day, and pallets of board have to be continually loaded into the feeder to assure the press does not have to wait for raw materials. As soon as the press needs to wait for input materials, efficiency and profitability are erased. On the output end, he notes, the bottleneck soon shifts to the die cutting process, which is tuned for fewer changeovers and more volume.
Another area of wasted time and resources is the practice of maintaining inventories of finished goods for customers. In speaking with converters of all types over the years, this practice is seen as a ‘necessary evil’ that customers need and converters provide. Most say it has gotten a lot better, but it still is a major drain on profits for both the converter and ultimately the customer as well. JIT was offering relief to this practice but in reality it has marginal success. Converters still manage inventories for customers opting for ‘just-in time’ deliveries rather than ‘just-in time’ manufacturing.
For most carton manufacturers, quality is a given, there is no discussion about cutting quality to gain productivity or flexibility. The quality standpoint is one of the reasons they tend to stick with technologies they know as reliable. As mentioned earlier, there are mixed messages regarding carton press preferences shifting from offset-to-flexo to take advantage of inline processing available in narrow and mid-web flexo presses for cartons. Converters familiar with flexo printing have a first-hand understanding of the quality of high definition flexo and what is required to produce flexo quality printing. Converters that have little or no first-hand experience with flexo, believe that the cost and learning curves are too steep to make a viable transition. Suppliers interested in bringing flexo presses to the carton segment have to overcome significant inertia, which includes solid ROI data to substantiate the advantages of such systems.
Interest in digital printing is high, but participation is limited… This is not to say that carton manufacturers are not interested in digital printing, on the contrary, interest in new press offerings at drupa 2012 was high among carton converters. This segment eagerly awaits a solution that offers an alternative to running orders on equipment that is not equipped to manage them consistently and effectively.
However, digital solutions bring on a similar series of process issues, most notably what happens after printing, when coating, die cutting and folding and gluing is needed. The issue of die cutting is addressed by digital die cutting that uses lasers and special creasing methodologies. This was shown at drupa 2012 as well as other new technologies that show promise in helping to alleviate these production bottlenecks.
The interviewed carton converters believe that their customers are more ‘value-oriented’ than ‘volume-oriented,’ by a 2 to 1 margin. Sixty percent say their customers would pay a premium for products or services that address unmet needs. This corresponds to the brand owners’ response. Specifically, folding carton packaging provides the most value to their brands. Overall, 72% of brand owners say they will pay more for products or services that satisfy their unmet needs.
As part of the study Karstedt Partners interviewed 122 Brand Owners in multiple vertical sectors as well as 60 converters and industry leaders to compile comprehensive trending information that will be affecting buying decisions for the next few years. For more on the study and to become a member of PRIMIR visit them at http://www.primir.org.
Coming out of Drupa, I see history repeating itself for digital package printing. In the early 1990s Indigo entered the narrow web labels sector with their Omnius digital press which paved the way for single pass digital printing of labels. Also in those early days Xeikon, offered the DCP/32S a dry toner press and others introduced UV inkjet single pass systems. The common theme was that all these companies entered the labels market as digital printing specialists rather than label specialists. In hindsight, I think all these vendors would admit that back then they ‘didn’t know what they didn’t know’ about the labels business. In these early the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufactures) had a very limited understanding of the business dynamics driving the labels sector.
In the mid 1990s as digital label printing was gaining a slight foothold in the sector, the OEMs decided it was a good idea to bring laser die cutting into the discussion. At the time, lasers were in the early days of development for this application but showed a great deal of promise, just like the digital presses. I remember many heated discussions among vendors as to the merits of placing the laser die cutter inline with the digital press or leaving it offline as a stand-alone station – a question still being asked today. I recall seeing a very painful LabelExpo demonstration in 2004 of a MarkAndy flexo web press with the Dotrix SPICE (Single Pass Inkjet Color Engine) with laser die cutting stations added. The purpose of the demo was to show how well the “combo” would work, but problems with the laser and the rewind did not help the demo showcase a ‘solution’.
Timing is everything, and it was not viable in 2004. LabelExpo 2011 and Drupa 2012 however, featured vendors such as Jetrion among others, who showed fully integrated laser die cutting options within their new modular systems. Timely solutions, delivered to a market that is ready to adopt them into a production environment.
So what is all this talk about history? As a packaging guy this Drupa really resonated with me as “the we think we have a digital solution for Packaging” Drupa. There were so many companies showing systems that could handle “board” and they used that as license to say they are “packaging” presses. Let’s take a look at a few digital solutions that caught most of the packaging (in this case for cartons) press (pun intended). On the digital press side the obvious introductions are those of Landa, the S10 (S standing for Sheetfed) and the HPIndigo 30000 presses that have been designed from the ground up to address folding carton production.
It is clear to me that both Landa (who by the way was the father of the first digital systems and the Indigo printing system) and HP did their homework before coming out with these presses. Both companies are building on lessons learned in the days of developing digital label systems. For example, both companies used outside expertise to expand their core strengths for component development such as sheet handling. Both went to the carton marketplace to understand the needs of carton manufactures before they came to market with a machine they thought would work. And biggest of all, both seem to understand the business and manufacturing dynamics of the carton market better than their predecessors did in the label sector 10 years ago.
The next digital carton related technology that was shown was the Euclid system by startup HighCon. This system is the first of its kind digital die cutting system for short run cartons. There is a lot written about this system so I wont go into it in detail here. I do see the Euclid as a well conceived and developed first attempt at addressing the next bottleneck in the carton workflow. I also think more systems will be seen at Drupa 2016 that address this need. I expect acceptance of digital die cutting for the carton sector will progress, as the presses will, much faster than they did in the label sector. This will be partly due to the advancement in the laser technology itself, which is significant, but more so but the understanding OEMs are seeking of the marketplace they are trying to serve.
I also commend the HighCon team for understanding that this system should not just be tied to the digital printing engines, that it has a place in all of short run cartons. This is illustrated by their collaboration with Presstek and their 75DI digital offset press. This combination can be used for economical short carton runs of 500 to 20,000 impressions. This type of collaborative thinking is happening much earlier in the development cycle for cartons than it did for labels and bodes well for the evolution of the digital process for cartons.
For these reasons and for the fact that digital printing technologies (liquid toner, dry toner, Inkjet, and now nanography) have come so far over the past decade, I feel by next Drupa digital carton presses will be seen as viable production press options rather than cool new technologies that aren’t even in beta yet.
Kudos to the OEMs for learning from the past and for looking to the future…Continue reading
After our third day at Drupa we are getting more convinced that Drupa 2012 is the “we think we have a digital solution for Packaging” show. All indications we’ve seen on the showfloor predict that Drupa 2016 will be the “Digital Printing for Packaging Drupa”. What does that mean? It means that the old standbys, Xeikon, HP Indigo (with their label and narrow web machines), Jetrion, Durst, and a few others are here this year showing continuing improvements in packaging technologies for labels. These systems are still very viable solutions and will be solid workhorses for their owners for some time.
It also means that there are now a group of what I will call “the new breed” of presses that are being shown here for the first time with packaging “stars” in their developers eyes. These new breed offerings will fall into two categories, group one has all the 30 by 20 inch sheetfed systems (they are all calling B2 format, a topic for another blog) that are able to handle paperboard of up to 20 or even 24 point, which the developers are using as license to say they are “packaging” presses. These offerings are coming from Screen, MGI, Memjet (through OEMs) and some others. There will likely be some carton work done on these presses but for the most part they are commercial printer centric presses that may end up doing some small-scale carton work.
The second group are the presses that are specifically designed for their particular market segment such as Folding Carton or Flexible Packaging. This group is small in number but large in noise and potential, Landa and HP Indigo have four systems in this group, one each for Folding Cartons and Flexible Packaging. All four systems are positioned as production presses and are being targeted at packaging converters. The other similarity of this group of offerings is they are on a similar track to the market, going into beta testing in early 2013 and targets for general release are late 2013.
Our first stop on Day 2 was a visit to Fujifilm Booth where we met fellow Tweeter, Tony Karg (@TonyKarg). It was good to put a face to the tweets and have Tony show us the very interesting new B2 inkjet digital folding carton press based on their Jet Press 720 but this is a press designed specifically for Folding Cartons applications. The Jet Press line uses their own Dimatix print heads and inks, a point Tony makes as a strong point for Fujifilm. The samples I saw were quite nice. The system is slated for a 2013 release…seems to be a trend here…
Screen’s Truepress JetSX, is the only one of the “new breed” of presses that is ready to be installed today. Although not designed for packaging applications the press can handle board up to 24 pt with a CMYK water based inks. It will be interesting to see if the system gets traction in the Carton Sector, at 1,620 sheets per hour it could have some short run effectiveness.
We then visited the FFEI booth to see their joint venture with Nilpeter for the Labels and Flexible market. The unit on display was a total digital model which will be sold either by FFEI or Nilpeter depending on geographic location. This unit has a CMYK digital ink set plus a fifth unit for digital white. The system uses the Xaar 1001 heads which FFEI says have a 5 year life expectancy – with UV inks and inner pinning the print samples were impressive.
Most interesting today was a stop at HighCon, a new company with a digital die cutting system for Cartons. The HighCon Euclid uses lasers to cut the board and a special compound to make the creases. This addresses the issue with digital that lasers cannot crease. Currently in Beta, the system will be “ready for primetime” later this year. The HighCon booth got a lot of attention which tell me they are addressing a need in the carton market that is being pressed for short run efficiencies. The company sees their system going in shops that have short run needs with or without digital printing.Continue reading
WOW what a first day…
Drupa is living up to its reputation of bringing new technology to the industry. Historically companies have introduced new technologies to Drupa that will are expected to hit the market by the following Drupa (4 years out). Depending on where products are in their development cycle the 4 years could be 2 or even one year away. This is what we saw today. Unfortunately, due to flight delays our time on the floor for day one was cut to about 3 hours, but what a 3 hours! First we met an old client who is working on a new technology which will be ready to be shown in a year or two (with technology this could be twice that). This company is well under the radar of users and most technology developers as well but the promise of this new digital printing technology is quite interesting (which is a step or two before ‘promising’). I can not say much about it but we promise we will be keeping our eyes on it for you.
After seeing the ‘future’ we went to the place on the floor that seemed to be BUZZING, you guessed it, the Landa booth. Unable to catch the entire presentation by Benny Landa, due to our arrival delays, we were able to see the new presses that all the hype is surrounding. We have to say we were impressed!
The user interface strikes you right off the bat, it looks like the workstations that Jordy and Data worked at on the Enterprise. The whole front panel is the screen. The user interface is similar to a big iPad with icons that move by using one or two fingers, so clean and simple a child could operate it. Short of its sexiness, it will be up to the market to tell us if it is practical in a production environment.
We did learn that the paper handling of the S10 (S for Sheet) press designed for folding carton production, was engineered by Komori, a company who knows about sheetfed carton presses. The S10 is looking at Beta launch in 2013, and we can tell by the print samples (which they display on the wall for all to see) that there is still some work to be done from an image streaking perspective. The image intensity and density of color seems to be very good but they freely admit there is still work to be done and will hold off pushing it into the market until these issues have been addressed. We will spend more time in the Landa booth over the next four days and continue to report what we see. We have yet to report on the Flexible Packaging press, so stay tuned!
From the Landa Booth we headed to the HP Press Conference. We felt a little bad for HP – particularly the Indigo division – as they have some HUGE news of their own which has been a bit overshadowed by the Landa announcements. We had the privilege to attend their Pre-Drupa event in March to get a sneak peak of the new press line (read about it here). We have dubbed the 0000 (or ought 4) the 10000 (no comas) a 20 by 30 inch sheet fed press, the 20000 off the same engine which is a web press for the Flexible Packaging market and the 30000 for the Folding Carton market. We will be spending time in their booth the next day or two, and we will report on the latest news in detail. Don’t worry, we won’t forget to review the label press innovations based on their current engine – that should peak your interest enough to tune in tomorrow!
So, for a short day there was much to see and talk about. For up to the minute images and coverage, follow @DigitalKevin on Twitter or hashtag #DrupaPack. Be sure to continue to check out the Digital4Packaging Blog at Package Printing Magazine’s website.