Thoughts from the Smithers Pira Digital Print for Packaging Conference

Conference organizers used an analogy of an umbrella for how to discuss digital printing.

I had the privilege earlier this month 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 also 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.

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