2015 is going to be the year of integration, advancing mature technologies, and greater acceptance of digital printing. Brand owners and converters appear to be taking parallel paths aiming for the same end results – better quality, faster turn-around, and lower manufacturing costs. We hear this all the time, but let’s quantify what this means to both the brand owner and converter.
Brand owners will continue to leverage more control over their product, having raised the bar year-after-year for improved quality, efficiency, and lower cost of manufacturing. This is very healthy for the industry. The fact that we can produce the same jobs anywhere in the world and have the same color consistency is a huge benefit compared to where we were even 5 years ago. We also are seeing overseas manufacturing jobs returning to North America as labor costs rise abroad.
With brand owners demanding shorter press runs and greater design independence, technologies such as digital printing are moving forward at warp speed. We are witnessing print speeds north of 300’/min, the introduction of 4-7 color presses, hybrid presses, and bolt-on press modifications that provide 4-color variable data.
The cost of manufacturing is becoming more appealing to brand owners as they can now pay for total usage over the course of a year rather than by the job or project. What does this mean? Brand owners can now afford digital printing using extended gamut colors, breaking free of design obstacles associated with traditional flexo printing.
Converters, at the same time, are leveraging their relationships with vendors/suppliers while taking advantage of technology breakthroughs. We see this with “flat-top” dot construction. Printing 4000dpi was previously deemed expensive or even cost-prohibitive. This benchmark has now been surpassed by 4800dpi and 5080dpi at a lower cost of ownership.
New CTP lasers are much faster and adaptable in the field. We are seeing the decline of closed-looped systems with new approaches for manufacturers that share assets and intellectual property; combining best of class products in an open market.
Digital front ends and digital printing is providing converters greater flexibility on how to route jobs. Label producers are starting to invest in tying their existing solutions together via connectors. ERP/CRM Integration is emerging towards the top of the “Hot List” as companies attack asset management in an all-digital landscape.
The cost of manufacturing for converters, albeit more complex then ever, is certainly better managed and more consistent today than in previous years. Packaging and corrugated markets are finding ways to re-invent themselves much to the delight of brand owners. All things considered, we are very fortunate to see the economy stable yet growing. The gaps in market position or awareness, up and down the supply chain, are more transparent and identifiable allowing us to produce incredible work that packaging and label consumers have come to expect.