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Trade Comment

What are the opportunities in packaging?

Commercial printers remain pressured on margins for traditional products. Brendan Perring asks: "What are the opportunities for them looking to the packaging sector?"

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Jonathan Long, technical sales manager, converting solutions, Friedheim International

Rapid advances

The answer is in the question. The tangible opportunities are the massive margins in the packaging sector. With margins in print always at the mercy of fluctuations in paper prices and postage costs it gets very difficult to stay economically viable in the current market. You need the latest finishing equipment to reduce bottlenecks such as the MBO K80 with either the Palamides Delta or an MBO A5/7 delivery to reduce make-ready times for B1 and for B2 the MBO T535 P fully automatic machine.

You need automation to increase productivity with handling solutions from Baumann Wohlenberg and you need many extra add-value machines to give you that edge over your competition to get the contracts as well as the online orders. We have seen a lot of this over the years with an increase in orders for Komfi laminators and other specialist finishing equipment.


Packaging is quite different–the market is wider, the products more varied, and what you can innovate with is still quite new

Packaging is quite different—the market is wider, the products more varied, and what you can innovate with is still quite new. Friedheim offers a wide range of converting equipment for the traditional printer/finisher. Since a printer already knows colour, already knows the substrates, and the customers, the only step they need to take is to retool and rethink their workflow. This may sound daunting and expensive, but many of our customers have received massive benefits in doing just this.

To make the jump to packaging you will need a die-cutter that has short make-ready times, added features such as foiling and embossing, and a way to team up with a printer’s MIS and print engine. Followed on by a specialist folder gluer, which one depends on the market that they want to target due to the substrates they need to cater to. Obviously, this is a very simplified way of looking at the problem, but when you come down to it, it is just like any other workflow problem.


Jump to packaging

Mark Stephenson,product manager,graphic systems EMEA, Fujifilm

As every commercial printer will attest–though there are opportunities to be had and many success stories to be told–theirs is a challenging marketplace. Careful, strategic diversification and expansion of their product offering can provide a valuable boost.


Thanks to rapid advances in digital print technology in recent years, packaging is one such area of diversification that is now more accessible to commercial printers than ever. As with many other sectors of the industry, packaging printing has seen an increased demand for personalisation and short-run, fast turnaround work.
Capitalising on this opportunity is the Jet Press 720S. Hugely popular with commercial printers due to its exceptional quality, reliability, and ease of use, the Jet Press 720S also offers a straight-forward route into short-run folding carton packaging.


We believe packaging will grow in tandem with our commercial printing operation over the next few years

With more than a hundred Jet Press installations globally and with around a third of European operators already producing some form of packaging on the Jet Press, its credentials are there for all to see. German print house Straub Druck and Medien AG is one such customer and as CEO, Francisco Martinez explains: “Packaging buyers want consistency, they want solid, bright colours and our two Jet Press 720S presses are delivering all of this. We believe packaging will grow in tandem with our commercial printing operation over the next few years, and our Fujifilm machines are essential to our success.”


For commercial printers looking to diversify into packaging, the Jet Press 720S can also incorporate Phoenix imposition and planning software from Tilia Labs. This software optimises the way jobs are collated, or “ganged”, for printing based on minimising waste or maximising printing speed. There is a real opportunity for commercial printers to diversify and future-proof their businesses.


Adapt or die

Paddy O’Hara, director of technology, Industrial Inkjet Ltd (IIJ)

I have recently visited commercial printers all over Europe and discussed their potential digital printing requirements. It was no surprise to learn that with the decline of transactional and general written word printing, they are generally taking a view of, ‘diversify or die’.


Obviously, they are looking to markets that will increase through a growing population and are less affected by the continuing move to online. So, packaging and décor (particularly wall coverings and flooring for commercial buildings) were the two markets they see on the horizon.


The first step will normally be the packaging that surrounds another product produced by the commercial printer, such as the box for a book or paper pouches or envelopes, but this is a cautious step and unlikely to reap the benefits they need. At the other extreme, some are already imagining offering a service that could mean individual boxes or cartons with customers’ photos directly printed, but this true personalisation is expensive to implement and is quickly abandoned by the consumer if the cost is too high. A better strategy would be to advertise other products on the package related to the package contents or customers’ buying habits. This is paid for by the product supplier and should be sustainable over a longer period.


The first step will normally be the packaging that surrounds another product produced by the commercial printer

Commercial printers are used to digital, so in many ways better placed to access the potential customers than the traditional packaging suppliers, typically using offset printing. However, toner is typically too expensive and is limited on materials, so this is where inkjet can come in.


This is especially true when special effects like spot varnishing or digital foil can be added, but also brand protection such as UV visible, IR visible inks or hidden codes in the graphics are possible. All this can be printed onto folding carton, boxes or packets, adding shelf appeal and security. This upselling allows the commercial printer to maintain decent margins and should be the way forward.


Opportunity knocks

Matt Terry,technical service director, Metsä Board

The real opportunity for the commercial printer is the increasing variety of packaging printing requirements for the food and beverages industry, healthcare, cosmetics, retail display, online shopping, and many others. At the same time factors such as growth in disposable income, changes in lifestyles, urbanisation, and increasingly the rise in the demand for sustainable products, are all having a positive impact upon the growth of paperboard packaging printing. It is therefore key that printers focus upon their strengths before deciding which packaging sectors to target.


Another key area to consider is finishing and conversion and how much will be done in-house and what will be outsourced. There are plenty of opportunities for a printer to add value through foiling, embossing, and varnishing and once again, the choice of packaging material will be crucial in respect to achieving the desired results in respect to print quality and conversion.


It is therefore key that printers focus upon their strengths before deciding which packaging sectors to target

Metsä Board’s range of premium paperboards including folding boxboards, food service boards, and white kraftliners are designed and engineered to help the printer achieve the best possible results–both on the top surface of the paperboard and the reverse. In particular our lightweight paperboards based on pure fresh fibres are developed as the perfect fit for consumer goods, retail-ready and food service packaging.


Sustainability is now becoming a watchword in everyday life, so a printer needs to work with a paperboard supplier who considers sustainability in the widest possible terms. The main raw material of Metsä Board’s products is wood grown in sustainably managed northern forests. In Finland and Sweden, where Metsä Board procures most of its wood, the annual forest growth exceeds the amount of wood harvested annually ensuring that the growing stock in the forests increases continuously. Metsä Board is aware of the origins of all the wood it uses, whether it comes from certified forests (PEFC and FSC) or forests that are otherwise controlled.

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