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Is Digital Packaging a Leap of Faith for Commercial Printers? - Eat Print Love

Last updated: 11-16-2019

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Is Digital Packaging a Leap of Faith for Commercial Printers? - Eat Print Love

Is it realistic to expect the average commercial printer to compete in such an unfamiliar market as packaging? Digitally printed packaging is probably the most talked about market opportunity but has the lowest uptake. Firstly, we need to qualify what we mean by the digital packaging opportunity. The digital packaging opportunity does not and probably never will include the majority of fast-moving consumer goods packaging found in high street supermarkets due to the enormous volume requirements, the wide variety of format sizes and substrates being used. However, there is a vast array of packaging applications where digital printing can be more successfully used than the traditional print on packaging processes of offset, gravure, and flexography. Segments like pharmaceutical and cosmetics generate large volumes of high value, short-run products. A lot of these products also require quick turnaround and the use of variable data for language and ingredient changes as well as anti-counterfeiting applications for brand protection, which make them perfectly suited for digital printing.

Digital print has played a part in the packaging supply chain for many years, but it has always been on the periphery for proofing, prototypes and sales samples. However, it is now gaining significant growth from the short run and general packaging applications. As digital technology becomes more capable from increases in production speeds, improved print quality and utilization of a much wider range of substrates, it will become attractive for mainstream packaging applications as well.

The top drivers for Packaging innovation in order of priority are:

Digital printing can certainly play an important part in all the major drivers for packaging innovation. From a manufacturing perspective, it is about reducing cost, achieving greater efficiency in the supply chain and a reduction in carbon footprint. Digitally printed packaging can deliver low volumes, which contain an element of personalisation or versioning and the use of print on demand to significantly reduce production cost, inventory and waste. This can be effectively supported by automated workflows, which can reduce order processing and manual touch points.

The digital packaging market is currently in its infancy but it is growing rapidly, largely through the production of labels, cartons and corrugated packaging.  In a recent report by InfoTrends, the worldwide growth rate of Digital Packaging is estimated at 15% CAGR. The best entry point for commercial print providers is to become a “one-stop shop for packaging”, working with smaller clients who have a particular set of product requirements such as labels, cartons, supporting point of sale merchandising and marketing collateral.

Digital also has some key benefits over its traditional print process competitors, which make it an increasingly attractive proposition for brand owners, packaging converters and commercial printers looking to enter the packaging market. The key benefits include:

There are other opportunities where products are linked to specific time-sensitive promotions and events where digital printing becomes an obvious choice because of the lower volumes, the requirement for specific branding, versioning and the need to eliminate waste and obsolescence.

The key benefit that digital print delivers for smaller brand owners is increased flexibility over production and the ability to control marketing and packaging budgets more effectively. For brand owners, the emphasis is slowly moving away from the unit cost of the printed package and is becoming focused on the end-to-end supply chain cost. Consequently, there is huge interest in how digital print can provide solutions to supply chain problems by creating efficiencies and reducing cost. Web to print systems are a great example of this and we have already seen many successful applications, which have created new business models and driven large volumes of personalised, digitally printed packaging.

When supply chains are re-engineered or optimized using the full capability of digital print, automated workflows and integration with the Internet amazing transformations can be achieved. Below are some statistical examples of what digital printing and supply chain re-engineering has been able to achieve:

This kind of commercial result provides a fantastic opportunity for printers to become more valuable to their customers and generate increased revenue and profits. The packaging market will continue to grow steadily and there is no doubt that the future holds tremendous growth potential for digital printers willing to embrace a range of business opportunities. With creative ideas and careful planning that leverages the full range of digital capability – this may not be such a big leap of faith as most commercial printers might think.

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