In Part One of The Value Proposition for Digital Package Printing, we discussed the operations (material and operations planning) and marketing benefits relating to digital printing. Recognizing the reality of this operations and marketing dual purpose for digital, we break the compelling reasons for digital printing in packaging into two tracks.
- Track 1– Utilizes digital printing capabilities where it can eliminate cost and relieve operational issues.
- Track 2 – Utilizes digital printing capabilities where it can provide marketing advantages.
I had the privilege last week of attending the Smithers Pira Conference in Atlanta on the topic of Digital Printing for Packaging. Having been on the advisory board for the conference it was rewarding to see the fruits of our labor being so well received by those in attendance. Together with Tom Cooper of RockTenn, Aditya (Andy) Dwivedi of Xeikon, Eli Israeli of HP Scitex and Sean Smyth of Smithers Pira the advisory board brought a wide range of speakers to discuss not only where digital is today but where it is headed and most importantly, what needs to be addressed by the marketplace to get it there. To guide us down this path we assembled speakers that understand supply chain optimization, packaging, graphics, color management, workflow and digital printing. Then we arranged them to weave a coherent message looking at what is currently being done with digital and what can be done.
Day one opened with digital packaging pioneer Bob Scherer of CL&D Digital who spoke eloquently on how brand owners are currently using digital printing for successful branding programs. He gave examples of working with the multiple functioning groups within a brand (marketing, operations, purchasing) to get buy-in to a program and compromises that are needed to make the most successful program. One story illustrated how compromise allowed the project to work when the engineering group had to “give a little” by allowing 1/16th of an inch to be shaved off the top and bottom of a pouch. This would allow the pouch to run two across the web and allowed the job to meet the cost objectives for the project. Initial reluctance by the engineering group gave way to compromise and a successful project.
Later in day one, Jim Goldman of Global Innovation Professionals, and former Senior Supply Chain Manager for Coke, spoke on how supply chains within a brand are viewed and how digital printing could aid in the reduction in process steps and even entire process channels. Jim’s talk was extremely interesting and I would like to focus on two of his points in this article. The first point is an echo from Bob Scherer’s discussion that a Brand Owner is really a collection of many entities; marketing, procurement, engineering, design, legal, operations, QA, finance, sales, packaging and others. Jim highlighted that each group has different motivations and different metrics they are measured against. This makes it difficult to modify a part of the supply chain that crosses over many different parts of a company such as packaging.
Jim’s second point was more of an illustration. He gave two examples of how supply chain optimization occurred in the beverage industry that eliminated entire process channels. Both these examples were seen as major disruptions to the existing processes and were not embraced easily by those most immediately affected. However both are now standard practices. The first example is one that we in the printing industry can easily relate to, the use of on-site ink blending. Historically, ink manufactures would send mixed, press ready, inks to can manufacturers for use in decorating cans that were then shipped to the bottling plants. Most of the volume of an ink used in metal decorating is in the ink base, a small proportion of the ink volume is from the colorant. To reduce blended ink inventories and handling costs the process was changed so inks were blended from base and colorants to press ready inks in an ink kitchen on-site at the can manufactures facility.
The second example Jim gave centers around shipping air. Historically plastic bottles were blow molded and shipped to the bottling plant for filling. This sub-process required shipping millions of empty bottles around the country that we filled with air. In looking at the process from a broader prospective the idea of moving the blow molding process to the filling lines was born. Pushback to this idea most surely was strong. I can hear the argument now “if the bottle line goes down it will shut down the filling line, and where is the money made?” But today the practice is almost universal. Both in-house ink formulation and bottle blow molding process changes were not readily accepted by constituents at the time but are now standard operating practices. Both process changes took full process channels out of the supply chain and saved both time and money.
Just-in-time manufacturing and near-line (whole in the wall manufacturing as they call it in Europe) production of packaging materials are the initial steps to making a similar change in where packaging materials are produced. Sure there are a lot of reasons why it “can’t” be done. Just as there were reasons bottles could not be made in-line with bottling and why inks need to be mixed at the factory. But digital printing is not called a disruptive technology for nothing.
The advisory board planned on having panel discussions with the speakers at the end of each day’s presentations. Going into the conference there was much “buzz” around the recent European Coke Label Customization project and we fully expected the speaker panel to be asked for particulars on that topic. Surprisingly, day one’s panel discussion centered on brands bringing package printing in-house; it’s probability and it’s affect on package printers. Day two’s panel discussion was driven from the floor by a brand owner who had leapfrogged the idea of digital printing and went to the higher question of how can the entire process of product development and deployment be monitored and managed.
Coming out of this conference I feel a Sea Change in how the packaging supply chain is being looked at from both inside and outside of it’s own body. We used the analogy of an umbrella for how we wanted to discus digital printing for this conference. The handle of the umbrella represents the tactical uses of digital printing; the special labeling project, the new wider format web presses coming to market, the new digital die cutting systems being developed. While the top of the umbrella represents all the other things in the process that affect the handle; process management, color management, workflow, and integration with MIS and ERP systems. The top of the umbrella is represents the things that both day one and day two panel discussions were aimed at trying to understand. The big picture of where and how the supply chain will use digital printing and how the supply chain will be altered over the next decade.
For those of us who have been around digital for many years we hear the same statement over and over again, “It’s not a matter of IF we get involved, it’s a matter of WHEN”. By half way through the second day I realized that I had not heard anyone say that statement! So holding my metaphorical umbrella I closed the conference by saying we have a new mantra; Digital for packaging is NOW, the question that remains is HOW.”
This article was originally posted on WhatTheyThink.com on 6/21/13.Continue reading
Welcome to the inaugural post for WhatTheyThink’s Labels & Packaging website. The folks at WTT and I have been speaking for quite some time on the need a version of WTT that focused on the needs of those in the packaging supply chain. I am honored to be the Managing Editor of this new endeavor and will strive to bring meaningful and timely content to those in the packaging supply chain who are looking for information and intelligence in order to do their jobs better.
As the supply chain for packaging is extremely divers, we will try to address the needs of multiple disciplines from graphic design, structural design, prepress, workflow, product and project management and printing and finishing of all flavors. This is a good time to begin this effort, coming out of a drupa year there are many new products and services that are targeting the package printing marketplace, products and services that are in need of exploring and understanding. Through out this inaugural year of WTTL&P (how is that for a twitter hashtag #WTTL&P?) we will grow the content areas of the site as the needs of the readership direct. Starting with areas around design, prepress and workflow we will expand out to areas asked for by you the readers. These areas could include flexo, gravure, offset, digital and screen printing; finishing in cartons and flexible packaging; color management, in the pressroom and back to design; substrate manufacture and usage to name just a few.
In addition to the mechanical part of the packaging supply chain, WTT has done a good job in addressing business issues facing printers and suppliers and that will continue on the Packaging side of the site. Mergers and acquisitions in packaging have been increasing for the past few years and with all likelihood will continue in 2013 and beyond.
Readership will likely be a combination of users and suppliers with each group having different agendas and needs. This medium is unique and is well suited to the goals of both groups as each is hungry to reach and learn from the other. WTTL&P will be a conduit for that linkage and will strive to bring meaningful content to the readership.
A mainstay of the WTT model is a comprehensive news feed section on relevant topics to their readership. This will continue on the Packaging side bringing readers news that is compiled daily to bring the latest news and information in one place. To all the vendors and businesses in the audience, be sure to send your press releases to email@example.com in text or word format to be sure it is included on the daily news feed. I will be funneling worthy information to the site as well. Users and business owners, be sure to check the site regularly to be close to the news that affects you and your business.
This article was originally published on WhatTheyThink.com:Continue reading
Digital Solutions for Packaging at drupa 2012: Part IV A deeper look at Unmet Needs in Package Printing
This post builds on Part Three of the series and continues to expand on our new report, 2012 drupa Packaging Review – Folding Carton Report where we explore what vendors showed at drupa 2012 it is important to understand what challenges their customers are facing. Karstedt Partners in collaboration with Mike Ferrari of Ferrari Innovative Solutions has developed a series of graphic depictions to help illustrate the dynamics affecting the packaging supply chain. The first diagram shows the revised view of the packaging lifecycle for a typical product. To review, segments “A” and “B” align with special requirements, for either new product launches or promotional activity. Segments “C”, “D” and “E” focus on the management of active products. The supply chain focus is on segment “D”, the mainline or long run requirements, as this is desired business in a capital-intensive business such as packaging.
The Packaging Lifecycle – Revised View
Source: Karstedt Partners, LLC
This next graphic shows how the demand stream coming from the tails of the lifecycle diagram, quadrants A, B, C and E are driving 70% of orders but only 30% of volume and how that has shifted and is causing major problems in meeting the needs/
Impact of SKU Proliferation on Converters – The New Operational Reality
Source: Karstedt Partners
In the following illustration the yellow box represents the increased inefficiencies created through additional low volume production demands. In a capital-intensive business, profitability risk is far greater in the new model due to the extended time getting to volume runs, and the resulting overall lower capacity due to more production set-ups and greater inefficiencies.
Change in Demand Brings Inefficacies
Source: Karstedt Partners
The reality of the situation is when productivity enhancements are considered over a typical production period the overall impact on most converters is a net decline in capacity, as productivity enhancements have contributed to greater thru-put. Additional SKU proliferation, increasing demand from an improved economy, and limited options for additional productivity improvements from existing equipment and processes is straining operational capability.
The reduction in overall thru-put is also having a negative impact on profitability. This “perfect storm” is forcing converters to re-think their operational model. Converters commonly use the term “flexibility” to define what they are seeking. The perfect solution is a press that combines high productivity, print quality, converting and finishing options, media flexibility, at the lowest cost. Absent the “total solution”, converters are seeking to create a broader operational platform to manage variations in daily production demand. For years, converters have upgraded production presses, and have moved non-conforming production demand to older presses to improve productivity. Product requirements, along with changes in press technology, are creating problems around the traditional practice of being able to move demand from one press to another. Converters recognize that specific solutions are now required to manage specific requirements for print as well as converting. The needs of the customer, as well as the needs of the business, now require multiple options for printing and converting.
Series Overview: True to its history of introducing new technology to the printing world, drupa 2012 offered plenty of new things. In addition it showcased a great deal of packaging specific offerings in printing and finishing technologies. If drupa 2008 was “The Inkjet drupa” this time around it was surely “The; ‘we think we have a digital solution for packaging’ drupa”. Karstedt Partners spent 10-man days on the floor meeting with equipment suppliers, users, journalists and pundits evaluating what was being offered by vendors, and what was being asked for by users. This 4 part series of posts offers an overview of what we learned from these meetings and can share with those interested in our opinions and observations. The full 61-page report is available by clicking here.
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