Digital Packaging: The Time is Now
It was a moment that made approximately 150 executives from nearly every corner of the package printing and converting industry pause for reflection.
“Is there potential risk for all [of] you in getting involved with digital printing?” Phil Edwards, president of PrintSure, asked the audience. “Yes, sure there’s risk. There’s business risk. On the other hand, there’s more risk if you don’t get involved with it.”
The second annual Digital Packaging Summit was in full swing and Edwards was taking part in a panel of converters discussing their experiences with digital printing. It wasn’t long ago that a healthy skepticism surrounding digital prevailed in the packaging industry, but Edwards’ comment solidified a recurring theme of the event — that digital printing isn’t a niche or novelty. It’s a tool for businesses to stay ahead of customer demand, and those who lag behind could soon be left in the dust. Finding Your Digital Fit After a highly successful debut in 2015, the Digital Packaging Summit returned to the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., from Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2016. The event, co-hosted by NAPCO Media, parent company of packagePRINTING, and nGage Events, goes beyond just providing an overview of the latest digital printing technology and its specs. Instead, attendees are actively involved in educational sessions featuring some of the foremost experts in digital package printing. They take part in case study presentations that showcase real-life peer experiences. And, they schedule one-on-one meetings with suppliers to discuss their specific needs and how digital can help solve them.
Marco Boer, VP of I.T. Strategies and co-chair of the Digital Packaging Summit, explained that one of the most important aspects of acquiring a digital asset is having an understanding of exactly what is required of it in order for it to operate profitably. “The bottom line is we are at a stage now where there are a terrific number of options available in terms of digital printing for packaging, whether it’s toner, inkjet or one of the derivatives thereof,” Boer said in his opening presentation. “You need to explore that fit. I can’t tell you that often enough. The last thing you want to do is acquire something that doesn’t really fill the capacity it needs to fill in order to make the ROI.”
In addition to the due diligence converters must work through in order to select the right technology, a great deal of consideration needs to be given to how they should best use digital technology. For example, Kevin Karstedt, CEO of Karstedt Partners and co-chair of the Summit, explained during his presentation on the folding carton segment that converters should focus on being either highly specialized or highly optimized. In other words, a decision needs to be made if they are better off producing low volumes at a high value or high volumes at a low cost.
“The people on the fence are still trying to figure out where they’re going with it, and they may be the ones that are challenged the most,” Karstedt said. “If my
competition is either highly specialized or highly optimized and I’m in the middle, how do you compete with those?”
A Wealth of Information
What immediately separates the Digital Packaging Summit from other industry events is its unique format. Unlike a trade show packed with booths, there is no equipment on display at the Summit. Instead, the goal is to build a community of thought-leaders on the topic of digital printing in packaging, and provide an opportunity for suppliers and converters to meet in a comfortable setting to discuss opportunities provided by the technology.
“You’re able to touch on every phase of what it is you have to do to get into the new technology,” George Noah, VP of Lewis Label, said. “You can’t get enough information when you’re getting ready to spend the money you spend when you’re getting into digital, and it’s all right here.”
While much of the content at the Digital Packaging Summit was geared toward the label and folding carton printing industries, throughout 2016, a number of digital solutions emerged for other packaging segments, including flexible packaging and corrugated.
Craig Gunckel, president of Enterprise Solutions at WestRock, one of the largest global manufacturers of corrugated and paperboard packaging, stated the Summit confirmed to him that digital printing is poised to make a significant mark on the industry, and keeping an open mind will help lead to successful decisions surrounding the technology.
“There are a lot of options and there are a lot of different ways to put together winning solutions both for us and for our customers utilizing digital print,” Gunckel said. “I think the key takeaway for me is I still need to be an active learner and I still need to try to figure out what the right solutions are today, tomorrow and in the future.”
Another key element of the event was that instead of focusing on product specifics and the nuances of digital technology, most of the presentations and panels focused on generating business solutions through real-life examples of the many ways converters have successfully implemented digital technology. Additionally, a focus on how digital can play a major role in solving brand owner demands and consumer trends shed light on the tangible impacts of digital technology at the retail level.
“It’s good that everything is in one place — numbers, trends and directions,” Nachum Korman, VP and GM, North America, Landa Digital Printing, said. “The best testimonial is when I saw people taking pictures with their cell phones, even when it was mentioned that they would get the presentations.”
Companies to Watch
On the final night of the Digital Packaging Summit, an awards ceremony honored the companies and attendees that stood out over the course of the event. HP received the Best Case Study Presentation award for the folding carton segment and Mark Andy received the same award for the label segment.
The final sponsor award was designated for the “Company to Watch,” in which attendees voted on which supplier at the event is worth keeping a close eye on as digital printing technology develops. Landa Digital Printing received this award with Domino, Fujifilm and KBA rounding out the runners-up.
Lastly, an attendee award was presented to the “Overall Contributing Attendee,” who stood out for an exceptional level of engagement and enthusiasm throughout the Summit. Edwards, of PrintSure, received the recognition for his active participation in the converter panel, his willingness to ask questions during general sessions and for adding some humor to the event, as he joked about his bushy white beard that he grows out each winter to perform as Santa Claus for underprivileged children.
After three full days immersed in all things digital printing, attendees left Ponte Vedra Beach with a great deal of information to sift through. But the biggest takeaway from the second annual Digital Packaging Summit, Boer said, is that not everyone’s digital needs are the same. Although there are several digital solutions available, they all need to be vetted thoroughly to ensure the right decision is made. But, waiting too long to make a decision could be detrimental as more competition joins the digital revolution.
“There are few print markets that are growing, and packaging certainly is, whether it’s digital or conventional,” Boer said. “More importantly, this is where the real high value net new customer growth is. The risk of getting into this market is entering too late. We’re no longer early, and I think all of us feel that.”
The third annual Digital Packaging Summit will return to the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club from Oct. 23-25, 2017.
For more information on the Digital Packaging Summit visit www.digitalpackagingsummit.com. If you are interested in attending or sponsoring the 2018 Digital Packaging Summit, contact Brian Ludwick at email@example.com or 719-686-9009.