A challenge for the packaging industry, which historically relies on long lead times for production, is: How can we invest in technology, and think differently about consumer engagement such that the printer/converter part of the supply chain can respond successfully to these trends?

Converters have traditionally relied on process improvement to satisfy Brand owners (i.e. improved print consistency in flexo, better yields in converting). But Brand owners are laser-focused on their products and the markets they serve, and, all too often packaging is left to marketing agencies and corporate procurement managers. Converting companies should pro-actively engage Brand owners, and think about innovative packaging technologies as a means to build brand awareness, enter new markets, and improve the customer experience.

This is also an opportunity for converters to change the conversation with Brand owners with new digitally enabled value-added services to connect with consumers (personalization and mass customization).

The packaging industry today is at a similar point in history when digital printing began to emerge in the late 1980s. Today these applications are transcending print, and are a part of the cross-media revolution embodied by web sites, mobile applications, and social networking. What these applications, that have all underdone so much change, have in common is:

The pre-digital processes were built on technology that emphasized low unit manufacturing cost, which meant the longer the run the lower the unit cost.

Personalization was not really possible.

Package manufacturing plants used to be built for process efficiency, while brand owners wanted test market programs, rapid prototyping, and instant market feedback. Today, converting and flexo printing processes can work in tandem to provide both efficiency and the high graphic fidelity needed by digital applications, and many facilities are integrating these wants into their manufacturing facilities.

Digital printing platforms are rapidly emerging to be able to handle the volume and substrate demands required of converters. Electrophotography and ink jet digital printing technologies and will one day provide the same advantages to converters, as it does today for the commercial printing industry.

Likewise, virtually all of the digital printing manufacturers are eying packaging as one the few growth frontiers that lie ahead for printing.

Graph Expo 2012: What to Check Out

According to statistics provided by Graph Expo, worldwide package printing revenues are expected to grow 26 percent between 2009 and 2014, almost 3 times the growth rate of the printing market as a whole. Further, package printing revenues are expected to reach $257 billion globally, or 35 percent of the total printing market by 2014.

At Graph Expo 2012, attendees will find a strong presence of solution providers focused on the packaging space, and learning sessions developed by Cal Poly, a world-leading expert on packaging and graphic communication.

Additionally, free to all registered attendees this subject will be addressed in a panel discussion entitled, Digital Printing Opportunities in Packaging – A 360-degree View, on Tuesday, October 9, from 11:30 am-12:30 pm at McCormick Place. Moderated by Carl Joachim, senior partner, Caslon and Company, the discussion will explore trends, opportunities and challenges in the packaging industry for the entire packaging eco-system, including brand owners, packaging converters and technology providers.

The opportunity for digital printing will be presented based on recent research conducted by Caslon, and reinforced by Gary Bernier of Hewlett Packard. Colleen Twomey of Cal Poly, will offer a broad perspective on advancements in packaging printing processes. Further, the session will address the opportunities ahead for converters seeking to work more closely with brand managers.

Packaging is a growth industry, and now is an exciting time to be a part of it. Don’t miss this year‘s Graph Expo, where you can learn about all the advancements currently available, and soon to come.

Graph Expo 2012 | www.graphexpo.com

Caslon and Company

(561) 573-7992;www.caslon.net

California Polytechnic State University

(805) 756-1111;www.calpoly.edu