Digital Trends and Experiences Highlight Digital Packaging Summit Opening Night
The fourth annual Digital Packaging Summit began last night in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., with presentations and panel discussions covering the latest trends, developments and statistics in the digital package printing industry, along with firsthand insight from adopters of the technology.
To kick off the event, co-chair Marco Boer, VP of I.T. Strategies, provided an overview of the state of the industry. Boer explained that overall, the digital package printing industry is large, but is seeking new markets for growth. The advantage, Boer said, is that customers tend to be willing to pay more per piece for digitally printed output, because it can be utilized for new applications that could not have been printed with conventional technologies.
“Digital in effect is a really valuable specialty, and it will grow over time alongside conventional print,” Boer said.
While there are numerous exciting opportunities for digitally printed packaging, Boer cited some precautions that converters should take prior to investing in the technology. First, he detailed strategies for locating the types of brands that make strong customers for digital print. These brand owner traits include having a high risk tolerance, which allows for added flexibility in the final product. Boer also recommended focusing on brands that are not preoccupied with cost pressure, and suggested seeking out small, artisan brands, since they often require smaller volumes of packaging and are willing to take the advice of their packaging provider.
Lastly, he recommended seeking out brands that will provide repeat, short-run work. While digital is a strong option for test marketing packaging, to ensure a digital asset is performing to the best of its ability, having reliable short run jobs coming in is a great way to keep that press consistently active.
To conclude his opening keynote, Boer outlined what he called “The Path to Where the Magic Happens,” highlighting key traits of successful converters that have implemented digital printing. The first, he said, is working backwards. Boer explained that this means prior to making a digital investment, having a portfolio of new customers who have been identified as being interested in trying something new with their packaging. The second step on the path, he said, is questioning the equipment, software and finishing vendors. In doing this, Boer explained that converters will be better educated on the technology available to them that best suits their customers’ needs. Finally, he recommended that once a press is brought on board, “don’t look back and execute, execute, execute.” While it’s always tempting to second guess a purchase, Boer explained it’s far more productive to dedicate that time to ensuring the asset that has been installed is operating at its peak capability.
Following Boer’s opening keynote, co-chair Kevin Karstedt, CEO of Karstedt Partners, moderated a panel of three converter customers of the event’s keynote sponsors, HP, Xeikon and Domino.
Vito Ghiloni of Fortis Solutions Group discussed his company’s experience with multiple generations of HP Indigo technology, which he said have helped provide customers with lower volumes, lower start up costs and more SKUs for regional brands. He also outlined how he has been impressed with the press’s ability to match colors, an aspect that is particularly important in the food and beverage markets Fortis Solutions Group serves.
Darlene Crooks of Label Aid then provided insight into her company’s experience with multiple Xeikon presses, including the 3030, CX3 and 3500 models. She explained that having a digital asset has helped Label Aid expand throughout the many markets it serves, including food and beverage, industrial, automotive, home and garden, and more. Additionally, she said that having the Xeikon presses was the catalyst behind Label Aid adding heat transfer labels to its repertoire, which has become a successful new application for Label Aid to offer its customers.
“We didn’t know a lot about heat transfer until we got into digital,” Crooks said. “Xeikon told us these presses can run that and they educated us on the process, the substrates and the inks. They brought their team in to hold our hands and show us how to do it.”
Adam Gray of SheetLabels.com then discussed how his company’s Domino N610i has benefitted the company and its ecommerce-based business model. Gray explained that because many of his customers are small, artisan brands, they often need fast turnaround and quick deliveries, and having a digital press can provide that. Additionally, he explained how in an industry that is struggling to recruit talent, the ability to work with a digital press can be an enticing draw for young people to enter the industry.
In the evening’s final presentation, Bob Leahey, associate director for Keypoint Intelligence, presented results from his latest research into digital package printing.
Leahey explained that the label segment remains the packaging segment with the largest penetration of digital printing, and while electrophotography technology makes up 63% of the approximately 875 digital label presses installed, inkjet technology is poised to close that gap.
In the folding carton segment, Leahey highlighted how digital presses are becoming larger, and B1 size equipment is going to start hitting the market, opening up new opportunities for folding carton printers that have relied on B2 or B3 sized digital assets previously.
In corrugated, Leahey explained that there are a variety of digital presses available that provide different attributes. He explained that multi-pass inkjet presses, which have been available for around 20 years, continue to improve and will remain a strong option for prototyping and short runs. Meanwhile, single-pass inkjet presses have also hit the market for both preprint and post print corrugated production.
The Digital Packaging Summit continues today and Wednesday. Be sure to check packageprinting.com for updates throughout the event.