The flexographic printing & packaging industry has long been a driving force in innovation for the global print marketplace. In 2021, we saw a clear direction towards solutions that offer immediacy, flexibility, reliability, and sustainability. Advancements in print speed, color management, automation, carbon emission reduction, and more will motivate Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to create new equipment and application solutions that elevate efficiency and productivity.
As printing companies strive to meet increasing consumer demands and plan for success in the new year, we are starting to see several flexographic industry trends gain momentum. Here are 4 industry trends that flexographic printing companies need to know about in 2022.
1. Supply Chain Disruption Management
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, industries across the board have struggled to overcome setbacks caused by supply chain disruptions. This complication won’t be leaving the flexo press industry anytime soon, unfortunately. But recent developments in inventory management technology are becoming available to help companies significantly alleviate the effects of unexpected stock-outs.
Printing & packaging companies can reduce the amount of supply chain issues by getting ahead of inventory stock levels. The best way to get ahead is by developing a proactive plan of action that includes forecasting your inventory usage based on your most critical supplies three to six months in advance and gaining clear visibility of inventory at all times to avoid disruption.
However, the biggest development in inventory management is automatic processing. Investing in an automated inventory management solution, such as the Vendor ManagedInventory System (VMI), will reduce the amount of manual work and time required and improve agility. The Intelligent VMI uses the latest RFID technology to monitor inventory in real-time for proactive ordering and predictive supply planning. Implementing this innovative software into your production next year will reduce the effects of supply chain disruptions and lead to a more organized workflow overall.
2. Higher Levels of Automation
Automation has been at the forefront of flexo innovation for years and we will be seeing an increase in digitized capabilities in 2022. To reduce manual processes in every stage of production, OEMs have made great progress in automating prepress, plateroom, and press room functions with the end goal of fully automating time-consuming processes. Considering the recent upsurge in labor shortages and an increased need for skilled labor, printing companies can expect to see new equipment that offers higher levels of automation in the upcoming year.
Advanced automation is an important step for the printing & packaging industry and it should be adopted to stay on track with the industry’s trajectory. Current levels of automation already offer a lot of benefits, such as reduced manual labor, less human error, and reduction in waste. Automated equipment will only continue to evolve to make production speeds faster, more customizable, and more sustainable. Additionally, as new variants of COVID-19 complicate labor shortages and workplace capacities, advances in automation will help make worksites safer by minimizing the number of physical hands involved in the production process. Consider partnering with a flexo team that has an extensive portfolio of open solutions so you have access to new and improving technologies.
3. Environmentally Friendly Printing Equipment and Materials
Prioritizing the use of waste-reducing equipment and biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable materials in production will continue to play a large role in the flexographic industry. With global warming and carbon emission concerns at an all-time high, printing companies should look for ways to improve their power, water, landfill, and raw materials sustainability efforts. A proper sustainability agenda is essential in any business to ensure its longevity.
Solvent-free plate cleaners and supplies are expected to make a huge impact in 2022. The volatile costs of certain solvents during the pandemic made the development of new solvent-free plate technologies a necessity. This has further resulted in improvements in water-based cleaning products that eliminate harmful chemicals from final products. Beyond solvent-free developments, companies should consider investing in non-toxic inks, water-based cleaners, renewable adhesives derivatives, and equipment requiring less energy. Remaining accountable and focused on a healthier planet is an important characteristic for a majority of consumers. Put sustainability at the forefront of your equipment and material decisions to improve both your workflow and your profitability.
4. Advancement in Inkjet Technology
Industry leaders seem to agree that the combination of inkjet and flexographic printing is expected to have a bright future. A recent Smither Pira report forecasted that the value in the world inkjet market will rapidly increase over the next five years. Though inkjet printing has been considered a specialized form of digital printing within the flexographic realm, printing companies will soon see a rise in inkjet substrates and alternatives for packaging options.
As a whole, inkjet printing is faster than the alternatives and proper integration on the flexo press workflow will play a huge role in the optimization of said processes. Thermal inkjet printing, in particular, has many advantages in industrial settings. It has very low maintenance needs, is very cost-efficient, and produces fewer chemicals and waste. According to David Pittman, editor of Digital Labels & Packaging, the ongoing cost and production considerations of the industry coupled with the market’s appetite for industrial production of digital flexible packaging make inkjet an important consideration that offers interesting questions and possibilities.
With a heavy focus on new equipment that is more environmentally friendly, convenient, and faster, 2022 is looking to be a promising year for the flexographic printing industry. Printing companies should proactively prepare to overcome supply chain distributions, integrate further automation, adopt more sustainable supplies, and look for opportunities to integrate inkjet.
Preparing for a new year can be overwhelming – mentally and financially. With over 65 years of experience in flexo innovation, Anderson & Vreeland has been supporting customers in the flexographic industry with equipment, training, and financing solutions. Our extensive open solutions portfolio continues to expand as technology advances. Contact us to start planning for a more successful 2022.