Print expectations - Koenig & Bauer president Claus Bolza-Schünemann

25 May 2016

Claus Bolza-Schünemann, chairperson of international trade fair drupa’s advisory board and president of Koenig & Bauer, talks to Packaging & Converting Intelligence about conventional print’s staying power amid the proliferation of digital developments, and what to expect for print at drupa 2016.

Packaging & Converting Intelligence: How does the digital revolution affect print?

Claus Bolza-Schünemann: Digital presses can achieve consistently high-quality printing, but limitations such as lower production speeds can affect costs. Other processes have advantages. For example, Flexo prints on multiple substrates and is suited to short runs with low prepress costs. At drupa 2016, we hope to see different options, processes and hybrid solutions that will change these dynamics. Digital processes work offline and inline with other processes.

Many believe that digital print should be regarded as giving opportunity to all sectors, including the packaging sector, which allows versioning, personalisation and finishing.

Packaging converters also benefit from digital workflows. Digital die-cutting and finishing techniques, combined with digital printing, make it easier for converters to offer small-lot-finished packages and cost-effective mock-ups, which are often produced using the same substrates and printing processes used in the final product.

How will conventional print improve and grow?

It is no exaggeration to say that the printing and paper industry is the pioneer of industry 4.0 - with a continuous digital workflow. This could be a personal photo book with photos uploaded online, converted into a high-quality product on networked systems in automated processes and delivered to customers. Or it could be an annual report that is sent to the printer as digital PDF files, printed, folded, cut, bound and prepared for delivery in an end-to-end process. The intelligent networking of machines and systems has advanced to a point where automation is economically viable even for small jobs.

Print 4.0 optimises the process by minimising downtimes and significantly increasing the use of printers' systems. Sensor-based remote-monitoring solutions in the machines sound the alarm before a component fails, allowing the equipment to be proactively serviced. Closed-loop colour-management solutions alert the operator when colour drifts, even before it is visible. Machine manufacturers also link, structure and analyse the data from services, sales and marketing to offer printers informative performance comparisons, tailored advice and training. VPN connections have been used for years for remote analysis, troubleshooting, updates and upgrades.

At drupa 2016, we will see how machine and system constructors are responding to the digital transformation. Manufacturers are turning to modular solutions to meet the requirements of customers in different sectors. Digital technology has many uses: system networking in automatic printing centres, continuous processes in multichannel publishing, wide-ranging possibilities for individualisation, print-on-demand solutions, online printing services, digital decorative and laminate printing, and digitally controlled high-speed cutting of large formats on a wide variety of substrates. For smaller print runs and flexible formats, there are new solutions for fast and automatic conversion. This creates new challenges but also opportunities in the finishing chain.

There is a future for flexo, despite the threat from digital machines that print on multiple substrates. Advances in quality levels allow flexo to compete with litho and gravure. The advances made in high-definition flexo mean that packaging printers can achieve the lead times of flexo with gravure-like densities and greater design freedom.

There are also business advantages and a wider flexibility of products with flexo's capability for shorter runs. Flexo printers are adopting fixed-colour-palette printing to reduce or eliminate wash-ups between jobs, and to facilitate combo printing. This significantly increases throughput, which reduces costs and time to market, ink inventories and associated costs, and the requirement for spot-colour inks.

What innovations and technologies will drive the use of conventional print?

The drupa global trends report shows that the boundaries between traditional printing methods have changed. As run lengths drop, web-offset presses are taking work from traditional gravure printing applications. Increased quality allows flexo to take volume from offset and gravure. Digital technologies will increasingly take volume from offset and flexo as quality and speed continue to increase. The manufacturing of print, or any other product, has entered a new age. A broad range of complex and interconnected factors drive shifts in design, manufacturing and distribution, which include advances in digital technologies, data management, automation, environmental sustainability and market demand. The result is a shift towards design, innovation and production processes that are fast, open, collaborative and responsive. Conventional print will be used when it is cost-effective.

Is there a best method for different markets, or are the lines blurred in today's printing market?

Smart and integrated solutions enable short-run production for packaging converters in conventional and digital print. Automation and integration are key factors for printers. Feedback from our surveys tells us that using efficient and connected workflows enable printers to meet the needs of fast-moving markets. With sophisticated workflow automation, bottlenecks in pre-press can be a thing of the past.

Digital finishing can add value for short-run jobs. The concept-to-shelf process is impacted by a proliferation of SKUs. Global brands and retailers are experiencing complex supply chains and are searching for tools and processes to bring product innovations to the market quickly without compromising production, inventory, logistics, cost or efficiency.

At drupa 2016, there will be a unique opportunity at the packaging production touchpoint for brand-owners, retailers, designers, creatives, packaging printers and converters as well as finishing professionals to come together to review and discuss the latest solutions and technologies.

What are the leading 2016 trends in packaging print?

According to forecasts from market researchers at PIRA, by 2020 the sales volume of industrial printing will double to more than $100 billion. Industrial printing applications will be used in packaging applications to add intelligence to supply-chain tracking and freshness indicators. In this market, printing-press manufacturers often supply modules for a particular application, which other manufacturers can integrate seamlessly into their systems and customers' processes, due to open interfaces.

Printing is also exploring new dimensions. For example, direct printing on 3D objects is replacing the use of labels and is cheaper. Systems for personalised printing of plastic objects are on the market with more systems for printing labels, barcodes, NFC and QR codes. These will be on display at drupa.

We have noticed a demand for direct printing on glass bottles, plastic films, metals, laminates, fittings and other substrates. Printing inks are being developed to print on many different substrates with high precision and cycle speeds. Industrial digital printing is one of the primary drivers of this. An example of this is inkjet printing on ceramic tiles; one in every two tiles manufactured worldwide is printed using inkjet technology. The machines use up to a ton of ink a week.

Printing technology is the key to intelligent packaging. It helps show the shelf life of a product, eliminating the impreciseness of best-before dates. Due to printed sensors, smart packaging can register interruptions to the cold chain or indicate the freshness of meat, fish or vegetables. Printed GPS transmitters make it possible to track the transport of high-value products and reduce the risk of theft. Holograms and seals printed on packaging make life more difficult for counterfeiters.

Clever brand-owners drive innovation and are prepared to invest in eye-catching, imaginative and well executed creative packaging designs to engage with the senses and achieve differentiation and market adoption. In addition to protecting the product, packaging is an important mechanism used to build and expand customer loyalty. There is serious competition to market the product on the shelf at the point of purchase. Packaging, therefore, is a basic sales and marketing tool, which drives aesthetic innovation.

How can print improve sustainability and waste reduction?

In more developed economies of the world, environmental issues are a concern. Key factors of interest are waste management, recycling and accreditation. A common issue is monitoring the use of accredited substrates. Statistics tell us that about a third of all food produced in the world goes to waste. Sustainability and waste reduction are emotional subjects. With a growing population and increased expectations from the consumer, issues for the manufacturers are evident. Demand for easy-to-read, easy-to-open and easy-to-use packaging is driving design teams to consider new options. There is also a move to reduce the volume of packaging required. Many retailers have sustainability strategies, which support their marketing efforts. Substrate suppliers are carefully studying these trends to ensure that their offerings are in line with market demand for the foreseeable future.

Some progressive paper manufacturers have recognised the opportunities in flexible packaging, packaging cartons and corrugated board. They can see a growing trend for smaller and varied packaging in Europe and North America, and also uptake in Asian and African markets. Feedback tells us that paper is still proving to be the substrate of choice for many brand-owners looking for flexibility and versatility. Designers and brand-owners can use the haptic potential to deliver all-round sensory experiences for the consumers.

Paper packaging can be folded many ways, printed inside and out, and personalised with marketing messages or anti-counterfeiting measures. This is evidence that promotes the environmental advantage of using paper products.

What new regulation is there to look out for in 2016?

Government regulations and controls in the EU and further afield are having an effect. For example, the Indian Government's regulations last year demanded the use of biodegradable substrates for certain food packaging.

There are many questions about the future of biodegradable plastics and the percentage of recyclable packaging that
is incinerated. We believe it requires education and open channels of communication to deal with misconceptions. The drupa board recognises the serious nature of this subject, and there will be open discussions on sustainability at drupa. We will be reporting on the results of those discussions to deliver broader market education.

The drupa trade fair, which runs from 31 May – 10 June, launches its innovation park this year.
Despite the digital revolution, there are still ways to keep conventional printing methods relevant.
Creative packaging and fresh ideas will be on display at drupa 2016.
Claus Bolza-Schünemann is the chairperson of international trade fair drupa’s advisory board, and the president and head of human resources, legal affairs and insurance of Koenig & Bauer. He has also worked as deputy executive vice-president of engineering and development at Koenig & Bauer.

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