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Bridging the knowledge gap

The inaugural DigiPack congress was intended to build awareness to productivity benefits offered by digital packaging print. Des King reports

Around 400 delegates, including a high proportion of brand owners, attended the first ever DigiPack Congress, in Paris, this October 5-6, to learn how digital solutions from key suppliers (including Adobe, Agfa-Gaevert, Enfocus, Esko-Graphics, HP Indigo, and Kodak Polychrome Graphics) could help re-shape their packaging print strategies.

With most delegates packaging technical specialists rather than marketing and design personnel, the event was inevitably limited to preaching to the converted. In order to bridge the most significant remaining knowledge gap within the supply chain, digital suppliers might do better to extend their message in more overtly commercially attuned and less technical terms directly towards brand owner marketing departments.

No criticism in any way accrues to the conference organizer, Oriex, who produced a very serviceable conference programme, but one that followed a road map already pre-configured by the suppliers themselves.

Common standards

According to Esko-Graphics’ USA vp Simon James, “entering information into a database can result in a 35 per cent failure rate” – a statistic causing suppliers and customers alike to call for greater uniformity. Certified PDF is emerging as the front-runner most likely to succeed.

Primarily led by Enfocus Software, the development of the Ghent PDF Workgroup initiative centred in Belgium is aimed at achieving a reliable basis upon which to incorporate disparate, and often competing, technologies within a reliable open system, and which can be accessed and progressed in real-time.

An early collaborator within the GWG initiative is Nestlé France, which spends over e135M/annum on packaging print. Optimizing on control, quality levels, pre and post-flight, traceability and auto-correction, certified PDF has enabled the brand owner to reduce packaging prod- uction times dramatically across a yearly 3,000 new products, down from 133 days to at best within one working week, said graphics chain manager Christian Blaise.

With Enfocus technology now integrated within an expanding range of workflow solutions offered by leading vendors such as Agfa, Creo and EFI, the prepress sector is moving steadily towards achieving a uniform industry standard.

The benefits of a fully functional workflow system capable of guaranteed asset management were further endorsed by USA based Design2-Launch operations vp James Carson, who noted that bringing partners to the asset rather than the converse is the only reliable means of maintaining design integrity.

Esko-Graphics packaging software marketing director Jan De Roeck took the digitized workflow proposition still further in pointing out that with as many as 12 different processes to be successfully managed within the production loop, some steps could ultimately be eliminated: for example, basic packaging design.

Realistic fitness for purpose

DigiPack reflected the growing trend towards a market sensitive relaxation in colour management standards, with both Agfa and KPG acknowledging the need for finished pack reproduction decisions to be made as much on cost as on quality.

“Extensive use of spot colours in packaging can be a significant constraint on cost control,” said Agfa’s packaging business director, Kris Vangeel, not least in terms of shortening run lengths. Launched earlier this year at drupa, Alterno utilizes adjusted IT8.7/3 targets to simulate cost effectively any spot colour with better than acceptable accuracy.

Assuming a folding carton converter processing around 300,000t/year of substrate, Vangeel demonstrated that Alterno’s capability of adding two colours to standardized file making and printing conditions can achieve a 20 per cent reduction on wastage, with annual savings of €3M plus against current material costs.

KPG’s European packaging segment manager, Olivier Michaud, echoed the mood of practical realism. “It’s only worth spending a sensible amount on proof-ing,” he said. “Quality decis-ions increasingly need to be based on cost.”

Industry purists might interpret all of this as a decline in standards. But, according to Kris Vangeel, Agfa’s Alterno solution was developed largely at the instigation of brand owners.

Directly competing outputting technol- ogies took the platform via inkjet through Agfa owned dotrix, and the longer established toner based solutions offered by HP Indigo.

Whilst it’s still early days, inkjet shows every indication of emerging as the prevailing technology. According to dotrix business solutions manager Geert van den Hole, 10 systems are now installed worldwide, one of which at US based converter Rock-Tenn is printing folding cartons and POP display material on the same press.

It was left to HPI’s European industrial products category manager, Christian Ménégon, to drive home the unassailable point that digitization has irrevocably changed the nature of the converting sector. “We’re not talking about print,” he said, “we’re talking about business.”


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