Reflecting on Three Years of the Digital Packaging Summit
It’s amazing how much can change in just three years. When packagePRINTING and nGage Events first collaborated on the debut Digital Packaging Summit in 2015, our goal was to create an event for converters and suppliers to come together in an intimate environment to discuss the latest in digital printing for packaging, and to help converters better understand how to navigate their path toward adopting digital.
Looking back, that first event now seems like a 101-level introduction to digital. It was necessary at the time, but now, with three editions of the Summit under our belt, having hosted the latest event from Oct. 23-25, the conversations we’re having around digital printing in packaging have become far more complex.
For example, I never would have guessed at the debut event that in 2017 we’d be including presentations on stunning augmented reality technology, single-pass inkjet printing on corrugated, and how hybrid printing has become not just a viable printing platform, but a thriving one.
In the early days of the event, we heard from brand owners who were eager to learn how digital printing could benefit their businesses, but much like the attendees in the audience, they were just at the start of the learning curve toward understanding the technology’s impact. This year, not only did we have a panel of brand owners excited about the possibilities of digital, they were knowledgeable about the technology and had done their due diligence in learning about what it can do.
To open the event, Jennifer Dochstader and David Walsh, the event’s co-chairs and the co-owners of LPC, Inc., a market research and technical PR firm serving the package printing industry, detailed how each segment of the packaging industry is at a different stage in its adoption of digital. Therefore, they outlined a different “mantra” for each segment for the year ahead.
In labels, the mantra was “to replace,” as digital technology is now becoming a replacement technology, rather than a complementary technology to conventional. For folding cartons, it was “to promote,” as promotional opportunities are strong digital drivers in folding cartons. “To prove” was the flexible packaging mantra, as converters have expressed concerns about digital printing in this segment, which is still in its infancy. And in corrugated, the mantra was “to bridge.” This, Dochstader explained, is because digital can provide the bridge between flexo and litho printing in corrugated.
Additionally, she said the technology can create a bridge between marketing departments’ “wish lists” and the “realities of economics.”
One of the most engaging demonstrations of the Digital Packaging Summit came in a keynote address from Rafi Albo, the owner of SEGMARKETING. Albo’s presentation highlighted the potential for augmented reality technology in packaging through a mobile app called Arilyn.
Albo explained that a parent can buy a shampoo bottle and send a photo of his or her child to be digitally printed onto the label. Then, when they receive the product, they can scan the label with their mobile device. In the example he showed at the Digital Packaging Summit, the character of Woody from “Toy Story” was printed on the label. A digital version of Woody then appeared on Albo’s smartphone screen, with both video and personalized audio elements.
“98-99% of labels and packaging you’re printing are not connected,” Albo explained. “It’s just substrate and finishing and a lot of glue, but it’s not connected to anything. The brands are saying, ‘We want to show the experience to our customers in real time.’”
This year’s brand owner panel featured Ray Mass, a printing technology manager in global design and packaging for Colgate Palmolive, Calvin Osterberg, director of purchasing for Rochester Midland Corp., and Patrick Poitevin, a senior associate principal scientist for Mondelez International. All three discussed their experiences and expectations for digital printing.
For example, Poitevin explained how digital has been beneficial for Mondelez because it removes steps from the production process, shortens the supply chain, cuts down on obsolete packaging and removes plate costs.
While the event is solely focused on digital technology, the 2017 edition of the Digital Packaging Summit provided a panel discussion of leading suppliers that are offering hybrid solutions, allowing converters to implement digital and conventional technologies on a single press.
Because hybrid systems are so new on the market, Mike Barry, product marketing manager, digital solutions, Fujifilm, explained that it’s important for suppliers and converters to work together to understand how a hybrid system can fit into a converter’s unique environment and how it can benefit their business.
“We may know our equipment very well, but we don’t know [converters’] business as well as they do,” Barry said. “We have to listen more than we speak at first to learn what challenges they’re up against and adapt our training to that. We need to inform them what the device is capable of doing so they can tell us what they can do with that device and we can all win together.”