Don’t compromise, optimize your Anilox selection!


by David Parr,Technical Sales Manager, Pamarco Global Graphics

Since the creation of Flexo printing, Anilox have been at the core of the flexo printing process and remain at the heart of the process today. Every major technology advance with flexo, from the introduction of reverse angle doctor blades and laser engraved ceramic anilox, through to the recent developments of H.D. (High Definition) flexo, printers have needed to consider, what changes in anilox are necessary, to get the best out of the process. For flexo printers, the choice of anilox has never been greater. Not only can they choose from many different anilox suppliers, but the developments in laser engraving technology, mean that each anilox supplier, can produce and promote a range of different cell shapes & profiles, EFlo, IPro, GTT, to name a few. However, this can sometimes lead to confusion about what is best for YOUR specific printing.

Optimize your Anilox selection

Standardising on one specific cell profile can sometimes be successful, but often, what works for solid and tone printing, doesn’t always give the best results for process colours. In trying to establish a single, universal, the so called “one size fits all” anilox for your range, of flexo printing, does it mean that you have to compromise on quality or performance. Unfortunately the market is littered with expensive casualties, where this has been attempted. We offer some ideas as a solution.

Let’s keep it simple and consider the fundamental task of the anilox. The anilox’s sole function is to transfer a consistent film of ink on to the flexo printing plate. Nothing more. Nothing less. Too little ink can cause printing defects such as low print density & pin holing. Too much ink can cause problems such as dot gain, dot bridging and dirty print. Flexo is generally a forgiving print process, allowing printers to do things in a variety of ways, therefore having the wrong anilox in your press, isn’t always immediately obvious. However as the demands of the market mean that you have to print higher quality, print faster, change jobs more frequently, reduce your downtime and costs, just to remain competitive, it is vital for flexo printers to understand and control every part of the flexo process, to suit the exact needs of their customers. The means correct anilox selection, remains fundamental to the flexo process. The first two questions are still the same. Which line Screen?

Which Cell Volume?

So what are the steps to correct anilox selection, what controls the ink film thickness delivered by the anilox roll and which cell shapes give the best ink transfer? To use an analogy, let’s take a coffee break and imagine the anilox cells as the cup and saucer of a large cappuccino. If both cup and saucer were filled to the top with coffee, which would be easier to carry to your table without spilling? For sure, the cup. You would only have to tip the saucer a couple of degrees, for a significant amount of coffee to spill. So by definition which anilox cell shape, cup or saucer, would have the ability to quickly release or transfer the most amount of fluid. Logically, the wide, shallow saucer shape. Secondly, if you wanted a large coffee, would you have it dispensed into an espresso or cappuccino cup. Of course, you would select the cappuccino cup. Selection of Anilox is exactly the same. Bigger cells carry more ink. Wide shallow shaped cells, transfer more ink, but are more difficult to control. This is critical to understand to try and establish the correct ink film thickness.

optimize anilox

Like coffee cups, big anilox cells, carry more liquid and wide shallow cells release greater amount of fluid. Unlike coffee cups, a high percentage of fluid stays in the anilox cells during use

One other important factor is how much liquid is actually transferred from the anilox during the printing process, the “ink transfer”. Many people imagine that, just like with a coffee, you can empty the anilox cups, leaving just a small liquid residue in the bottom. This myth is sometimes magnified by enthusiastic, but totally false claims that anilox can release 70- 90% of the ink from the cells. The reality is very different, with ink transfer measurement, demonstrating that, depending upon anilox cell shape, ink viscosity and press speed, ink transfer rates in flexo printing are typically between 25-50%. This unfortunately means that 50-75% of the ink can remain in the cell; little wonder that anilox cleaning and maintenance is a continuous fact of life, and significant cost factor, in flexo printing.

So after the coffee break, let’s get back to flexo printing. If you want to a large ink film, for higher density and better coverage, you need to either have bigger cells, or have cell shapes that transfer a high amount of the ink. In contrast, if you have too much ink, causing defects like dot bridging and dirty print, you need to reduce ink film by reducing the size of the cells. A simple concept, but increasingly complicated by the fact that the demand for higher resolution printing, means that flexo plates dots are getting smaller and smaller. For example, flexo plate screens of 150 l/in (59 l/cm) have highlight dot diameter of 19 um. By a general rule of matching anilox cell opening to plate dot diameter would mean the selection of an anilox of 1120 l/in (440 l/cm).

optimize anilox

Matching anilox cell size to suit the smallest highlight dot on the plate is one method of anilox selection.

Of course, the finer the anilox screen, the smaller the anilox cell opening. However with the reduced cell opening, there is generally also a proportionate decrease in cell depth, with the resulting reduction in Cell volume range (shown in the chart). Even with latest multi-hit anilox laser engraving technologies, there is a logical limit to the range of cell volumes, that can be achieved with each anilox screen. Most high quality anilox manufacturers have their own anilox screen selection charts, each giving a range of cell volumes for every anilox screen count. The cell volume ranges are generally specified to ensure that the anilox Depth:Opening ratios (depth of cell/opening at top of cell measured in microns) remain in the region of 25-30%. This ensures good ink transfer rates from the cells, but what happens, if you need a higher cell volume, a common occurrence when using low strength inks or high absorbency Paper or board substrates which requires more ink? For example, can you get a 1120 (440 l/cm) screen anilox with a cell volume of 5 or 6 cm3/m2? It is tempting to push the boundaries of what cell volume is possible with a particular anilox screen. The drawback, however, is that as the cell depth is increased, in an effort to achieve higher cell volume, the anilox Depth:Opening ratios, also increases. It is already a highly proven fact that maintaining good Depth:Opening ratios is essential to good ink transfer and with every increase in Depth:Opening, there is a proportionate reduction in ink transfer from the cells. Result, more ink remaining in the cells, faster plugging of cells, quicker loss of print density and leading to defects, downtime and cost.

optimize anilox

Pamarco’s solution to this problem has been the development of extended cell technology, aptly named EFlo. The EFlo cells, have double length cells in the direction of printing, which offer several advantages for flexo printing. First the elongated cells of EFlo can carry and deliver to the printing plate, a much larger amount of ink, than with conventional 60 deg hexagon cells. Secondly, the cells are engraved at a consistent angle of 75 degrees to ensures no moire clash with flexo plate screens. Finally and most significantly for the printer, the “saucer” shape of the EFlo cell opening in the direction of printing, gives a substantial increase in ink transfer to the printing plate. This means that screen counts can be increased, without compromising Depth:Opening ratios, maintaining good support to flexo plate dots and providing excellent ink film thicknesses on to the printing plate. It also helps to keep anilox cells cleaner for longer, helping to reduce downtime, loss of print density and quality.

optimize anilox - EFlo

Extended anilox cells (EFlo) are able to carry and transfer more ink, but still maintain good support for the highlight dots.

Since EFlo’s introduction in 2010, extended anilox cell technology has been extensively proven in all flexo printing disciplines and is now widely adopted as an industry standard for a substantial number of high quality flexo printing applications. This includes both brown box and high graphic post print corrugated and HD flexo, currently being used extensively in flexible film and paper printing. Most recently, Pamarco’s European team, in collaboration with a major global flexible packaging company, conducted a recent study to optimise print quality and performance, together with driving down the cost of their products. The project, in addition to helping to establish the client’s vision for future print, had targets to utilise Pamarco’s unique Eflo technology, to reduce the number of different anilox screens being used for short run printing and to take “right first time graphics”, to a new level.

The client conducted a series of print trials, utilising 2 banded anilox test rolls from Pamarco, one for improving dot gains and solid densities on high graphic flexo process work up to 200 l/in (80 l/cm) using HD flexo plates, the other for optimising combination solid, fine line and mid-tone vignettes printing, for the clients full range of packaging work. The EFlo anilox screens ranged from 360 to 1200 l/in (140 to 390 l/cm)

One of the stand-out results of the trials was the ability of EFlo, to release high solid densities of ink, on to flexible film, even at anilox screens up to 700 l/in (275 l/cm). The increased advantage of Plate cell patterning also gave some startling results, with solid printed areas being completely free from pin-holes and having densities of at least 30% higher than conventional 60 degree anilox and non-patterned printing plates.

The conclusion of the trial was to reduce the number of different anilox specifications to just 3, for all the clients short run flexible packaging work, as follows:

Printing requirement                                         Eflo HD Anilox specification

4 col Process up to 200 l/in:                          1200 l/in (475 l/cm) x 3.8 cm3/m3

Light solid, half tone and fine lines:         700 l/in (275 l/cm) x 6.5 cm3/m3

Heavy solid & line:                                               360 l/in (140 l/cm) x 9.5 cm3/m2

Of no surprise to anyone, was the fact that the three different plate/cushion tape packages, used in the trial, had a significantly greater impact on variations in density and dot gains, than any of the differences in the anilox screens and cell volumes. This is an important fact to remember, that it is useful to optimise and standardise on your printing plate package, before making any significant changes to your anilox inventory.

Even with the outstanding success of EFlo, Pamarco refuse to stand still and are constantly challenging the industry perceptions, to establish the real facts about what is the best anilox to suit YOUR printing. For example, it sounds counter-intuitive to consider lowering your anilox line screen to improve the performance of your Flexo printing process. For years, anilox producers have been recommending that printers increase the anilox line screen to provide adequate support for smaller and smaller flexo plate dots. One of the down-sides of smaller anilox cells, can be anilox durability, with the smaller cell walls, providing less resistance to scratching, scoring, and premature wear. The experiences gained with EFlo, have demonstrated, that is not essential to support 100% of the dots on the plate, in order to print clean vignettes and process colours. Why, therefore, increase anilox screen counts, when actually what your print needs, is just a lower ink film thickness.

To prove this concept, recently Pamarco collaborated with a major flexible packaging printer in North America, to make print trials on a range of different plate screens using conventional 60 deg hexagon anilox screens engraved on a banded test roll. The customer’s existing anilox rolls were 600 l/in (240 l/cm) x 6.5cm3/m2, for combination half tone/line/solid printing with solid density 1.65 to 1.7 and a 900 l/in (360 l/cm) x 4.0cm3/m2, for process print with a solid density 1.4 to 1.45. The target was to establish if it was possible to utilize a more durable, lower screen count anilox, without sacrificing print cleanliness.

The end result was, that by reducing both line screen and volume, it was possible to produce nearly identical density and dot gain results to their existing rolls, but using lower screen count and cell volumes This clearly demonstrated that the reduced Depth:Opening advantage of utilizing the lower screen and cell volume, resulted in improved ink transfer, acceptable dot gains, clean print and good solid densities, even when using a lower screens and cell volume.

optimize anilox - denisty & dot chart

Printing trials using different plate and anilox screens, demonstrate it is possible to reduce anilox screen and still maintain good density and dot gains

In conclusion, some final advice for anilox screen selection as follows:

  1. Review your existing anilox inventory to establish what Cell volume are giving you the correct, defect free solid densities using your chosen plate, inks, tapes and substrate
  2. If you don’t have any existing references, consider a banded roll trial to establish them.
  3. Chose the lowest possible line screen for your selected Cell volume
  4. If you need to increase screen count for finer print, consider EFlo extended cells as a way to increase cell volumes and maintain good ink transfer

The anilox’s sole function is to transfer a precise, predictable, and consistent ink film to the printing plate. The ink film is substantially determined by the cell volume, not the line screen, but lowering the screen count, could help to improve ink transfer rates. It may be time to re-think and optimize the specifications of this essential part of your printing equipment, for greater long-term printing performance, consistency and durability.

About the Author:

After training as a mechanical Engineer, David Parr has worked in the European and North American flexo printing markets, since the mid 1980s, having 28 years working with companies for the production and sales of anilox rolls and laser imaging systems for flexo.

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Statistical process control of color difference data, part 2

By John Seymour, John the Math Guy

A couple weeks ago, some stark raving mad heretic grabbed my blogging pen, spouting out some blasphemy about how the classical approach to process control is doomed to fail for color difference data. Asteroids laying waste to heavily populated areas, cats sleeping with dogs, my local Starbucks being out of chai… all that doomsday stuff.

Well, perhaps the guy who was using my blogging pen wasn’t stark raving mad. Maybe he was just stark raving “mildly annoyed”? And maybe the heretic wasn’t just some other guy? I don’t want to point the finger, but it might have been me who wrote the blog post. So, perhaps I need to take his contentious assertion seriously?

Here are the sacrilegious assertions from last week’s blog post:

Part 1 – Color difference data does not fit a Normal Distribution.

Part 2 – Classical SPC is largely based on the assumption of normality, so much of it does not work well for color difference data.

I submit the chart below as evidence for the first assertion.


This is not normal data!

I need to give some provenance for this data.

In 2006, the SNAP committee (Specifications for Newspaper Advertising Production) took on a large project to come to some consensus about what color you get when you mix specific quantities of CMYK ink on newsprint. A total of 102 newspapers printed a test form on its presses. The test form had 928 color patches. All of the test forms were measured by one very busy spectrophotometer. The data was averaged by patch type, and it became known as CGATS TR 002.

For this blog post, I had a close look at the original data. For each of the 928 patches and for each of the 102 printers, I compared the average L*a*b* value against the measured L*a*b* value. As a result, I had just short of 100K color difference values (in ΔE00).

Of the 94,656 color differences, there were 1,392 that were between 0.0 ΔE00 and 0.5 ΔE00. There were 7,095 between 0.5 ΔE00 and 1.0 ΔE00. And so on. The blue bars in the above chart are a histogram of this color difference data.

I computed the mean and standard deviation of the color difference data: 2.93, and 1.78, respectively. The orange line in the above chart is a normal distribution with those values. Now, we all like to think our data is normal. We all like to think that our data doesn’t skew to the right or to the left. The bad news for this election season is that our color difference data is not normal. It is decidedly skewed to the left. (I provide no comment on whether other data in this election season is skewed either to the right or to the left.)

The coefficient of skewness of this distribution is about 1.0, which is about 125 times the skewness that one might expect from a normal distribution. “The data is skewed, Jim!”

 data is skewed

The data is skewed, Jim!

Ok. So Bones tells us the data is skewed?  Someone may argue that I have committed the statistical equivalent of a venial sin. True. I combined apples and oranges. When I computed the color differences, I was comparing apples to apples, but then I piled all the apple differences and all the orange differences into one big pile. Is there some reason to put the variation of solid cyan patches in the same box as the variation of 50% magenta patches?

Just to check that, I pulled out the patches individually, and did the skewness test on each of the 928 sets of data. Sorry, nit pickers. Same results. “The data is still skewed, Jim!”

data is still skewed

The data is still skewed, Jim!

Yeah, but who cares?  The whole classical process control thing will still work out, right? Well…. maybe. Kinda maybe. Or, kinda maybe probably not.

I looked once again at the data set. For each of the 928 patches, I computed the 3 sigma upper limit for color difference data. Then I counted outliers. Before I go on, I will come up with a prediction of how many outliers we expect to see.

One would think that the folks doing these 102 press runs were reasonably diligent in the operation of the press for these press runs. The companies all volunteered their time, press time, and materials to this endeavor, so presumably they cared about getting good results. I think it is reasonable to assume that on the whole, they upped their game, if only a little bit just to humor the boss.

Further, back in 2006, several people (myself included) blessed the data. No one could come up with any strong reason to remove any of the individual data points.

So, I am going to state that the variation in the data set should be almost entirely “common cause” variation. This is the inevitable variation that we will see out of any process. Now, let’s review the blog post of an extremely gifted and bashful applied mathematician and color scientist. Last week, I wrote the following:

If the process produces normal data, and if nothing changes in our process, then 99.74% of the time, the part will be within those control limits. And once every 400 parts, we will find a part that is nothing more than an unavoidable statistical anomaly.

There were 94,656 data points, and we expect 0.26% outliers… that would put the expectation at about 249 outliers in the whole bunch. Drum roll, please… I found 938! For this data set, I found four times as many outliers as expected.

To put this in practical terms, if a plant were to have followed traditional statistical process control methods on this set of color difference data, they would be shutting down the presses to check it’s operation four times as often as they really should. This is a waste of time and money, and as Deming would tell us, stopping the presses and futzing with them just causes additional variation.

Traditional statistical process control of color difference data is dead

Traditional statistical process control of color difference data is dead, Jim!

I should remark that this factor of four is based on one data set. I think it is a good data set, since it is very much real world. But perhaps it includes additional variation because there were 102 printing plants involved? Perhaps there is some idiosyncrasy in newspaper presses? Perhaps there is an idiosyncrasy involved in using the average of all 102 to determine the target color?

I would caution against trying to read too much into the magic factor of four that I arrived at for this data set. But, I will hold my ground and say that the basic principle is sound. Color difference data is not normally distributed, so the basic assumptions about statistical process control are suspect.

In next week’s installment of this exciting series, I will investigate the theoretical basis for non-normality of color difference data.

About the Author:

john seymour john the math guyJohn Seymour is a consultant, working since 2012 as an Applied Mathematician and Color Scientist. He has been doing research in printing, color theory, and imaging since 1992. He currently hold twenty patents and have authored over thirty technical papers. John is an expert on the Committee for Graphic Arts Technologies Standards, and is Vice President of Papers for the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts. Prior to consulting, John was an applied researcher for QuadTech. He has a very popular blog ( which is usually about color, math, general science, but is always entertaining.

Twitter: @John_TheMathGuy

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10 Reasons Your Anilox Sleeve May Not Mount Properly

Apex International Blog

by Doug Jones, Apex International

Perfectly constructed anilox rolls should mount and dismount without any issues.  They should slide and rotate easily on the mandrel.  However, if an anilox sleeve will not mount because the necessary air film cannot be established between the sleeve and the air mandrel, here are 10 tips to help you troubleshoot the issue:

Potential Issues with the Air Mandrel:

  1. Check the air pressure measured at the air cylinder.  This should typically be between 6 and 8 bar (87-116 psi).
  2. The air volume flow should never fall below 12 liters (0.42 cubic ft.) per second.
  3. Make sure the compressed air system and cylinder surfaces are free of moisture, oils, lubricants, inks and solvents.
  4. Check for blockages in the air outlet holes.  This should be routine as all air holes must be open in order to establish an air film between the anilox sleeve and air mandrel.
  5. Make sure the air mandrel diameter is within the original STORK tolerance (see drawing below).
  6. Check if the air mandrel diameter in front of the the first air holes is within the original STORK tolerance and not damages (see drawing below).

Potential Issues with the Anilox Sleeve:

  1. Inspect the inner liner making sure it is clean and not damages as deep scratches can cause air pressure to fall.
  2. Ensure that the sides are not damaged and that the inner liner is intact.
  3. Check if the sleeve will mount more than a quarter of its total length without air pressure.  Doing so should not be possible.
  4. While placing an anilox sleeve onto the mandrel, wait a few seconds after passing the first set of activated air holes to continue mounting.  This will the inner liner enough time to expand.

Apex International sleeve technology is engineered to be perfectly constructed.  The result is the industries most stable sleeve with no vibrating or bouncing, precise TIR values and a perfectly straight and round construction.  To learn more about our sleeve technology or any of our products, please download our brochure.

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Statistical Process Control of Color Difference Data, Part 1

By John Seymour, John the Math Guy

Statistical process control (SPC) of color data—specifically of color difference (ΔE) data—can be done, but there is a bit of a twist. Color difference data doesn’t behave like your garden variety process control data. Since ΔE doesn’t follow the rules, the classical method for computing control limits will no longer work.

In this blog post, I review classical process control to provide a footing for next week’s blog, where I pull the rug out from under the footings of the classical approach; explaining why it won’t work for color difference measurements. Hopefully, by the time I get around to the third blog post in this trilogy, I will have thought of some new footings on which to erect a new SPC specifically designed for ΔE.

statistical process control outlier

Process control – Do we have an outlier?

 Review of process control

The premise of statistical process control is “more or less simple”. I say that in the sense that it’s not really that simple at all. And I say that because I want to make sure that you understand that what I do is really pretty freaking awesome. But really, the basic idea behind SPC is not all that tough to comprehend: You only investigate your widget-making machine when it starts to produce weird stuff, and you shouldn’t sweat it when the product isn’t weird.

The complicated part lies in your algorithm for deciding where to draw the line between “normal” and “weird”. The red dress on the far left?  Elegant, chic, and attractive, and pretty much in line with what all the women at my widget factory are wearing. The next one over? Yeah… I see her in the cafeteria once in a while. But I’m just not getting into the outfit on the far right. Sorry. I’m just not a fan of horizontal stripes. But in between… how do you decide where to draw the line?


Where to draw the line????

Statistical process control has an answer. You start by characterizing your process. As you manufacture widgets, you pull out samples and measure something about them. Hopefully you measure something that is relevant, like the distance between the threads of a bolt, or the weight of the cereal in the box. Since you are (apparently) reading this blog post, it would seem that the widget’s color might be the attribute that interests you.

Next, you sadistically characterize this big pile of data. Open up a spreadsheet, and open up a bottle of Black and Tan, a Killian’s Red, a Pale or Brown Ale, a Blue Moon, or an Amber Lager. And unleash the sarcastical analysis.

The goal for your spreadsheet is to come out with two numbers, which we call the upper control limit and the lower control limit. Then when you saunter into work the following day, after recovering from a colorful hangover, you can start using these two numbers on brand new production data. Measure the next widget off the production line. If it falls between the lower control limit and the upper control limit, then relax and pull another Black and Tan out of your toolbox. You can relax cuz you know your process is under control.


The yellow crayon is just a few nanometers short of a full deck

When a part falls outside the control limits, the camera doesn’t automatically cut to Tom Hanks saying “Houston, we have a problem”. We’re not sure just yet whether this is a real problem or a shell-fish-stick anomaly. The important thing is, we start looking for Jim the SOP Guy, since he is the only one in the plant who knows where to find the standard operating procedure for troubleshooting the widget making machine.

Note that I was careful not to start the previous paragraph with “when a part is bad…” Being outside of control limits does not necessarily mean that the part is unacceptable for the person writing out a check for the widgets. Hopefully, the control limits are well within the tolerances that are written into the contract. And hopefully, the control limits that are used on the manufacturing floor were based entirely off data from the process, and the SPC code of ethics has not been sullied by allowing the customer tolerances to be used in place of control limits. That would be icky.

Identifying control limits

But how do we decide what the appropriate control limits are? If we set the control limits too tight, then Jim the SOP Guy never gets time to finish the Blue Moon he opened up for breakfast. And we all know that Jim gets really ornery if his beer gets warm.


You don’t want to get Jim the SOP Guy angry!

If on the other hand, we humor Jim the SOP Guy and widen the tolerances to the point where Tom Hanks can fly a lunar lander through them, then we will potentially fail to react when the poor little widget making machine is desperately in need of a little TLC.

So, every time we encounter another measurement of a widget, we are faced with a judgement call. Setting control limits is inherently a judgement call where we balance the risk of wasted time troubleshooting versus missing a machine that’s out of whack.


Why is it so bad to spend a little extra time troubleshooting?  It is, of course, a business expense, but there is an insidious hidden cost to excessive knob gerfiddling. It makes for more variation in the product. If we try to control a process to tighter than it wants to go, we just wind up chasing our tail.

Well, lemme tell ya about when I worked with Deming. This was back in the late 1940’s, just after the Great War to End All Wars. Oh wait. That was WW I. Deming did his stuff just after WW II – the Great War After the Great War to End All Wars. I was about negative thirteen years old at the time. A very precocious young lad of negative thirteen, I was. Deming learned me about the difference between normal variation and special cause. Normal variation is the stuff you can expect with your current process. You can’t get rid of this without changing your process. Special cause means that something is broke and needs attending to.


Try this joke at home with Riesling and with Kipling!

Deming traveled to Japan after the war to help rebuild their manufacturing system. He did that very well. I mean, very well. Deming became a super-hero for the Japanese in much the same way that I have become a super-hero for my dogs. Except, of course, that the Japanese came to revere Deming.

In a nutshell, Deming preached that all manufacturing processes have a natural random variation. We should seek, over the long run, to minimize this by improving our process. This is important, but it is not the topic of this blog series. I want to concentrate on the day-to-day. In the short run, we need to understand the magnitude of our variation. This is done by collecting data, and applying statistics to it. This is used to identify subsequent parts that fall outside that range. When this happens, there is a call for identifying the special cause, and correcting the issue.

A part is identified as being potentially bad if it is so far from the norm that it is unlikely to have come from the same process. This is important enough to repeat. A part is identified as being potentially bad if the probability of it falling within the established statistical distribution of the process is very small. So, it’s all about probabilities.

Enter normality

If we assume that the underlying distribution is “normal” (AKA a Gaussian or bell curve), then we can readily characterize the likelihood of a part being bad based on the mean and standard deviation of the process. In a normal distribution, 68% of all samples fall within 1 standard deviation of the mean, 95.5% fall within 2 standard deviations of the mean, and 99.74% fall within 3 standard deviations of the mean.


Folks who have taken credit for DeMoivre’s invention


The characterizing of our process is pretty simple. You know, when you opened up the spreadsheet and took a long drink of the Amber Lager?  You don’t have to tell your boss how simple it is, but here it is for you: Compute the average of the data. That goes in one cell of a spreadhseet. Compute the standard deviation. That goes in a second cell. Then, multiply the standard deviation by the magic number 3. Subtract this product from the mean (third cell in the spreadsheet), and add this product to the mean (fourth cell). This third and fourth cell are the lower and upper control limits, respectively.

If the process produces normal data, and if nothing changes in our process, then 99.74% of the time, the part will be within those control limits. And once every 400 parts, we will find a part that is nothing more than an unavoidable tansistical anomaly.

The big IF

Note the sentence that predicated assigning the numbers to the likelihood of false alarms: If the underlying distribution is normal…

Spoiler alert for next week’s blog post. Color difference data is not normal. And by that I mean, it doesn’t fit the normal distribution. This messes up the whole probability thing.


Sadly, differences of color don’t live in this city!

Here is a scenario that suggests there may be a difficulty. Let’s just say for example, that the average of our color difference data is 5 ΔE, and that the standard deviation is 1 ΔE. That puts our lower control limit at 2 ΔE.

Let’s say that we happen to pull out a part and the difference between its color and the target color is 1 ΔE. What should we do? Classical control theory says that we need to start an investigation into why this part is outside of the control limits. Something must be wrong with our process! The sky is falling!

But stop and think about it. If the part is within 1 ΔE of the target color, then it’s pretty darn good. Everyone should be happy. Classical control theory would lead us to the conclusion that something must be wrong with our process because the part was closer to the target color than is typical!

The obvious solution to this is that we simply ignore the lower control limit. That will avoid our embarrassment when we realize that we fired that incompetent operator for doing too good a job. But, this simple example is a clue that something larger might be amiss. Stay tuned for next week’s exciting blog post, where I explain how it is that color difference values are really far from being normally distributed!

About the Author:

john seymour john the math guyJohn Seymour is a consultant, working since 2012 as an Applied Mathematician and Color Scientist. He has been doing research in printing, color theory, and imaging since 1992. He currently hold twenty patents and have authored over thirty technical papers. John is an expert on the Committee for Graphic Arts Technologies Standards, and is Vice President of Papers for the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts. Prior to consulting, John was an applied researcher for QuadTech. He has a very popular blog ( which is usually about color, math, general science, but is always entertaining.

Twitter: @John_TheMathGuy

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York Repro-Graphic Group on Forefront of Innovation with Limitless Packaging & Fixed Colour Palette Printing

fixed colour palette

About York Repro-Graphic Group

York Repro-Graphic Group (YRG) was founded in 1974 and, provides a full range of pre-press and reprographic services to retailers, brand owners and print clients, including a new concept-to-print-management service. With its significant growth, YRG has become the largest independent privately owned repro group in the UK, operating from five locations in the UK with additional operations in Ireland and Africa.

The company has assembled an equipment portfolio and employee skill set that enables it to offer what it calls “Limitless Packaging”—total control of a brand from concept and design to printed approval—to its retailer, brand owner and print clients. This includes 3D visuals and animations at the concept stage before going to digital or flexo mock-ups, providing their clients with brand control without any surprises at final print. And, they can produce real print mock-ups on their new Digicon flexo press.


YRG was seeking a way to help its printer customers improve the quality of fixed colour palette printing work as the demand for that process continues to grow. YRG believes fixed colour palette printing is the future of flexography due to its process and cost efficiencies as long as quality requirements can be met.


For fixed colour palette printing, YRG recommends that printers use Asahi AWPTM water washable plates with Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer. YRG has acquired two Asahi plate processors for production of these plates, including a large AWP 1116-PD plate system at the YRG Eclipse site in Cottingham in the UK. The company plans to use this technology to expand its on-site platemaking services for its printer customers.


For YRG, quality is a primary consideration in everything it does. The company is continuously assessing new technologies on the market and invests heavily in research and development to stay on the leading edge. YRG was the first reprographics house in the world to comply with the ISO-12647 colour standard and strongly believes in the ability of the fixed colour palette printing process to ensure the future viability of the flexographic printing process.

“Fixed colour palette printing offers a number of efficiencies that make flexo printing more competitive,” says Mark Gration, the company’s group managing director. “Using a fixed set of inks reduces ink inventories, speeds makeready, and reduces press stops and waste. It significantly reduces job changeover times since no wash-ups are required between jobs. But to achieve the quality that brand owners demand requires precise registration. That’s why we chose to use Asahi AWP water washable plates for those clients using fixed colour palette printing. The quality that can be achieved with these plates surpasses Flat Top Dot printing quality, making the AWP plate the best plate in the market for this purpose. More specifically, its print consistency, precise register, fewer press stops with less waste on press are the drivers of increased demand for use of a fixed set of inks, and the quality of the AWP plates keeps our customers coming back.” Gration also likes the fact that AWP plates have a small environmental footprint. “They are water washable,” he says, “eliminating solvents and the associated hazardous waste and VOCs, with waste water being able to be disposed of without environmental impact.”

Moving forward, YRG plans to further develop its in-plant platemaking services at customer printing sites. “This will enable us to help our clients further reduce turn times in the plate-to-press process to meet the needs of the changing market environment, which is increasingly demanding just-in-time production,” Gration states. “And the Asahi AWP system’s ease of use and environmental friendliness will be an important factor in moving this process closer to press operations.”

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Filed under Plate Technology, Printing

RGB Printing Brings Spectacular Visual Possibilities to Packaging

Saueressig - RGB Printing

By Volker Hildering, Manager Sales and Customer Service Packaging – Special Applications, and Anna Zumbülte, Innovation Manager, Saueressig GmbH + Co. KG


Most people take color printing for granted. The limited gamut of colors available in the CMYK color model may seem to mimic all the possibilities of the real world—but that’s only because we’re so accustomed to seeing images reproduced in CMYK. In truth, there are so many more ways of seeing that have remained impossible to explore throughout the history of printing.

What if you could give shoppers a whole new way to see your brand? What if you could stop them in their tracks, thinking “That’s remarkable—I’ve never seen anything like it before”?

That’s the impact of RGB printing, the first completely new innovation in color printing technology in more than 100 years. Before, if you asked a supplier to print in RGB, you’d get a laugh and a lecture about why your request made no sense. Now, you can get a world of new visual effects that have never previously existed.

Substrates of the deepest black. A much broader color space. More vivid saturation. A surface sheen unlike anything you’ve ever seen. How is it possible? Let’s take a closer look.

CMYK and RGB: Looking Back

CMYK printing was first used in 1906,1 when the Eagle Printing Ink Company demonstrated that the colors cyan, magenta, yellow and black (key) could be layered over a white substrate to produce a practically unlimited range of colors.

The RGB color model is even older, although it only came into prominence with the rise of color TV. In 1861, James Clerk Maxwell experimented with taking photographs of the same scene through red, green and blue filters. Projecting the images through the same filters in a darkened room, these primary colors combined to reproduce the scene in full color.2

CMYK inks on a white background, or RGB lights on a dark screen: For well over 100 years, these have been the two principal ways to create full-color images. Both models are so ubiquitous—CMYK for print; RGB for screens—that most people hardly even think about the different ways they engage the eye.

RGB Printing: Seeing Things Differently

The idea for a new kind of vision grew from a 2014 brainstorming session between creative people and the Performance Materials unit of the Merck KGaA Darmstadt (the centuries-old German multinational chemical and pharmaceutical company). Their idea turned the standard color models upside down: Instead of illuminated pixels on a black screen, what if RGB inks were used to print on black paper?

That thought led to many months of testing and refinement. Now, Merck KGaA has created the first major color innovation in over a century: A process for RGB printing with international patent pending.

This new method uses highly reflective pearlescent red, blue and green inks, plus a silver-white ink. In CMYK printing, the black “K” ink provides a definitive black that the mixture of cyan, magenta and yellow can’t quite achieve. Similarly, the silver-white ink in RGB printing is used to provide the white “pop” that the combination RGB inks can’t quite achieve.

The effect is uncanny. The image seems to shimmer. It emerges from the black background as an ethereal possibility, not a prosaic reality.


RGB printing is done directly on a black substrate, as opposed to CMYK where a black background is achieved by printing all four colors at full saturation. So, for example, you can present your brand artwork directly on a black box or label for a deep, dramatic look that you couldn’t achieve using CMYK.

The pearlescent pigments create otherworldly images that seem to radiate a shimmer or glow from within. And the RGB technique offers a larger, more diverse color space than CMYK, giving designers a greater range of hues and saturations for the freedom to explore entirely new possibilities.

Luxury brands, fine wines and whiskies, cigars and other indulgences are natural candidates for the distinctive and sophisticated effects that can be achieved with RGB printing. Graphic designers will likely discover creative uses for this new method across many other product categories.

What We’ve Learned: Visualizing the Possibilities

Merck developed its RGB process using its proprietary pigments, applied by screen printing. When they were ready to move from concept to full production, Merck came to Saueressig for expertise in rotogravure printing—the ideal system for transferring pigments in the volume required for the RGB technique.

Our team has spent endless hours refining the technique and working with clients to bring their RGB printing projects to market. What we’ve learned is that clients want help visualizing how the process works and what they need to do to be successful with it. Here are a few key points to keep in view:

  • The cost for rotogravure cylinders is not more for RGB than for CMYK. That part of the process is the same; only the inks used differ.
  • The cost of inks may be marginally higher for RGB due to the special pigments required and the volume of ink applied during printing. This small difference is well worth it for clients who want the special effects that can only be achieved with RGB.
  • Color correction requires special expertise. You can’t proof your design on a CMYK printer and expect the results to match in production. This is where working with an RGB specialist with the necessary expertise and tools can make all the difference in the success of the final product.
  • An RGB-printed package or label, when photographed and reproduced in CMYK, will lose some of the vibrancy and sheen that makes RGB so special. That includes the images displayed with this article, and it’s due to the inherently restricted color space of CMYK compared to RGB. Again, this is an area where specialized expertise can help optimize the results—but you really need to see the RGB original to get the full effect.

At Saueressig, we’re delighted to be part of the first major innovation in printing to be developed in many generations. It’s still relatively new, and we expect to see further developments and refinements in the years to come. RGB will always be an additional option, never an alternative to CMYK, and will likely always be the choice of a few, select brands. But when you first encounter it on the shelf, you’ll know right away that you’ve found something special. So keep your eyes open while you shop.

About Saueressig

Saueressig is a renowned expert in premium rotogravure and special machinery solutions. The company supports customers along the entire prepress process and improves profitability by applying innovative solutions to the complex challenges faced by brand owners, printers and converters in the reproduction of brand assets. Saueressig owns more than 150 patents and has more than 60 years of experience. The internationally expanding company serves customers from ten production sites worldwide. Saueressig is part of the brand deployment group of SGK. SGK is a division of Matthews International Corporation (NASDAQ GSM: MATW). For more information visit:

Volker Hildering - RGB PrintingA recognized expert of the printing industry, Volker Hildering, Manager Sales and Customer Service Packaging – Special Applications, with Saueressig, has been deploying security and microprint technologies as anti-counterfeiting solutions for 16 years. Having completed his commercial education at Saueressig and complemented by a Media Business Administrator degree, he assisted in building the Security department, which he has led since 2008. Saueressig is part of SGK, a Division of Matthews International Corporation.

Dr. Anna Zumbulte - RGB PrintingHaving graduated from the University of Muenster in 2015 with a PhD in physics, Dr. Anna Zumbülte joined Saueressig as the Innovation Manager. In her role she drives innovations both in collaboration with customers and industry partners as well as internal developments to enhance the possibilities of printing and embossing. Saueressig is part of SGK, a Division of Matthews International Corporation.


  1. “The History of the CMYK Color Model,” Club Ink Blog, September 12, 2014.
  2. Robert Hirsch, “Exploring Colour Photography: A Complete Guide,” London: Laurence King Publishing, 2004

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Filed under Branding, Printing

3 Ways Flexographers can Win Over Brand Owners

Apex International Blog

by Doug Jones, Apex International

The only thing more difficult than earning the business of a new customer is keeping it.  Printers working with brand owners sometimes have a hard time differentiating themselves in the marketplace and demonstrating consistent value.  There are three areas in maintaining a brand owner relationships where your efforts will most certainly be rewarded!

1. Help brand owners reduce cost

Every brand owner is looking to spend less on materials and the “buy more, save more” approach that has resulted in longer and longer runs is not a viable solution.  Instead, brand owners want the flexibility of just in time without having to absorb a price increase.

The key to saving brand owners money while running a profitable business is volume and efficiency.  Your goal is to become their preferred printer because a) you have demonstrated your commitment to the partnership and b) you have a real, tangible success strategy that details exactly how your process is more efficient and more consistent than the competition.  Managing shorter runs profitably is only possible if you are still able to minimize machine down time in the process.  One tried and true way to accomplish this is by eliminating variables and increasing overall operational efficiency.  Reducing the color palette, for example, is one way to drive efficiency and reduce costs.  Taken a step further, an optimized fixed palette solution will certainly provide any printer with a competitive advantage.

Tip: Provide brand owners and retailers with the ability to have high print quality on a wide range of substrates. 

2. Help brand owners manage inventory

If you have the space, a vendor managed inventory (VMI) solution can help you demonstrate value by creating an efficient print management system in partnership with your customer.  With VMI, you’ll work with your customer to establish stock level minimums and maximums based on forecasting models.

The upside for the printer in this scenario can be enormous.  First, you will become very “sticky” with your customer in terms of the relationship.  Established VMI partnerships are difficult to break.  Second, you will be able to complete longer runs while still delivering just in time value.  You’ll have greater control over the planning process and more flexibility.  Third, printing in volume allows for greater overall print consistency.

3. Help brand owners manage their brand standards

Printers running the same job at multiple sites or even with multiple machines in the same site understand the common standard expectation brand owners have.  Generally, brand owners have little concern over where a job is printed or by whom so long as the common standard is met.

The key to successful brand standards management across multiple sites is consistent, predictable printing.  Optimized fixed palette is one means by which to ensure consistency across all stations.  In fact, many of the same cost reduction strategies you can use to win over brand owners will ultimately help you deliver more consistency.

Get the Flexo solutions guide now!

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Filed under Branding, Printing

UV Ink Metering: Eliminating Spitting, Blow-by and Inconsistencies on Anilox Presses

With today’s amazing innovations in plate design, ink technology, and faster press speeds, professional print shops have been able to provide more impressive end results than in years past.

UV inks continue to be a major contributor to these incredibly higher definition print results, however, whether you call it ink spitting, blow by, or any other term, ink that gets through our metering process and on to the image area can create a frustrating problem and outputs that customers reject.

UV Ink Metering

So, how can you avoid this challenge? It begins with understanding why it occurs in the first place.


In the early years of UV ink technology, viscosity was typically regarded as the primary contributor to this spitting issue. Obviously, UV inks run “thicker” than water-based and solvent inks, and may, in fact, run as much as five to seven times differently within the transfer zone of the press. Thus, the thicker UV ink builds up behind the doctor blade and begins, what many term, “hydrodynamic,” causing the blade to flex, or give, in some areas.

Once this phenomenon occurs, the ink pushes through, transferring to the plate and releasing unplanned ink tails, or streaks, from the plate on to the substrate in what will most likely result in some form of print defect.

Ink companies have been addressing this kind of viscosity challenge by diligently adjusting set-ups. However, even with years of fine tuning by these ink companies, UV ink spitting still seems to persist, especially at higher speeds and in the narrow web presses.


Thixotropic” refers to the process in which certain gels, or fluids, in this case ink, under agitated conditions will become thin and flow more readily, then after a certain amount of time return to a more viscous state. In the case of UV Inks, this means they can run thinner or thicker depending on how much they are in motion.

Because of this thixotropic property of UV inks, sometimes spitting is caused by the ink natural releasing itself fromthe anilox overtime. Obviously, this variance in characteristics makes UV ink even more of a challenge to control on press as speeds change, presses stop, and especially in plants where the climate conditions are not regulated.

When trying to approach this issue, many printers simply need to get the job done and out the door. So, they will adjust inks, anilox rolls, doctor blades, or manipulate all three to finish the job.

While each of the above can certainly contribute to the increased, or decreased, possibility of UV ink spitting, it is not an efficient or reliable solution.


Our initial research at Daetwyler, showed marked improvements on UV spitting simply by using a thicker doctor blade. Approaching the set-up much like a gravure press and “stiffening” up the majority of the blade while still providing a fine tip proved to help reduce the potential of any flex, or give, as is common with the hydrodynamic issue.

Much like metering coatings and adhesives, thicker blades are used because of the need to be able to resist the force, or heavy volume, of these fluids while still providing strong metering at the point of contact to the anilox roll. In many cases, using this thicker blade is an ideal solution. However, we must carefully watch for any potential unacceptable dot gain. This is because the thicker the contact point   at the anilox, the more ink passes through, which   is good for coatings and adhesives, but could cause problems for high-end process work.

This means that thicker blades are only part of a complete solution. Thicker blades will certainly resolve issues with UV coatings, but what can be done about high-screen process jobs? The answer may be simpler than you think – so start with the basics.

» Ask if you are using the same anilox from 15 years ago, say, when 800-900 lpi was considered process work?

» Are you using outdated plate technology, such as 80-100 line screen?

» When was the last time you re-calculated and/or recalibrated your ink mixtures?

In answering those questions, it should be clear that an outdated doctor blade would be just as inappropriate. If simply switching to a thicker blade solves your UV spitting issues, then you’re set. But for most, it means looking for new technology to address the needs of modern print customers and modern inks.

New Blade Technology is Here

UV Ink Metering

Concepts such as blade design and performance coatings are changing the way print set ups handle UV inks and coatings alike. In some cases, these blades have demonstrated proven results for high- end process work with UV and even LED inks. To demonstrate how this is achieved, we will discuss two of our own blades with such characteristics – The Multiflex and Pearlstar.

The concept of the Multiflex is much like a fine screen gravure type blade.   Initially designed to help hazing in gravure printing, the Multiflex provides greater stability, lower bending at high pressure with a narrow blade contact zone thus providing an optimal meter of challenging UV inks.

While the Multiflex provides an elongated blade using the thick base and narrow contact as its solution to UV ink spitting, the Pearlstar blade provides a completely different approach to help prevent ink build-up behind the blade. This new blade technology relies upon a revolutionary state-of-the-art coating that significantly reduces ink adherence to the doctor blade. This provides outstanding performance that reduces defects in the entire print run and increases performance.

Water, UV, solvent and most other fluids do not “stick” to the surface of the blade, thus there is no hydrodynamic force behind the blade and building up additional pressure at the tip. Because of this reduced adherence, the fluid simply flows back into the pan, or chamber, and constant flow is achieved.

The Daetwyler Advantage


As print shops are constantly pushed to provide customers with the most unique, eye-catching products on the market, printing   boundaries will consistently be pushed. The UV market has advanced in great strides this last decade and continues to provide some stunning artwork in the industry.

Despite the challenges that come with using UV ink, such as spitting, using the right anilox, monitored quality inks, and the proper doctor blade will allow the results businesses and clients both want… which is what sells to the consumer.

For more information, e-mail E-Mail or visit

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Filed under Doctor Blades, Printing

Staying Current with Standards in Print and Packaging

X-Rite Pantone - Print & Packaging Standards


**Originally Published on the X-Rite Blog.


If you’re in the print and packaging industry, standards can help you set clear expectations for clients, solve problems in your workflow, and improve productivity. They can also bring an independent perspective to production.

The ISO and other standards organizations have been very busy trying to address the new technologies challenges that printers face. At X-Rite, we’re lucky to have Ray Cheydleur, our U.S. and international standards expert, to help us stay current.

Today Ray is providing some insight about what’s new in the world of graphic arts standards, so you can take advantage of them in your print and packaging workflow.

Controlled Lighting for OBAs

There are a lot of new standards coming out of ISO. Some of them have been around for a while, but are just being implemented. For instance, ISO 13655 and ISO 3664 – controlled lighting for OBAs – aren’t new, but they have had a significant impact on standards work this year. If you print to specifications, have brightened stocks, or do something other than on-press proofing, you have to be aware of them to deliver color consistency.

Staying Current with Standards in Print and Packaging 1

The Judge QC light booth offers UV illumination that allows for accurate visual evaluation of OBA-enhanced materials.

Optical brightening agents have made printing and proofing more difficult in the last five or so years. Here’s an explanation of the four M-Series of standards to help deal with OBAs.

To learn more about the impact of OBAs on the print and packaging industry, check out a whitepaper I co-wrote with Kevin O’Connor.

Printing from Digital Data Across Multiple Technologies
ISO/PAS 15339

ISO/PAS 15339 uses a gray balanced approach to describe standard practices for hybrid printing so printers can achieve the best reproduction across a range of substrates and technologies. It can also be used by brand owners and print specifiers to predict and specify the quality of requested work.

Part 1 provides better data exchange based on color quality and a colorimetric-based process control, plus provides a better way to achieve similar appearance results between printing processes with different color gamuts.

Part 2 provides seven different reference printing conditions, from small gamut to larger than standard analog printing gamut, to meet the criteria laid out in Part 1.
Implementing ISO/PAS 15339 shouldn’t be too hard if you already use a color-managed workflow, because these reference print conditions comply with GRACoL, SWOP, and ISO 12647-2. SWOP and GRACoL 2013 even use these exact characterized reference printing conditions.

Color Exchange Format

Staying Current with Standards in Print and Packaging 2Correct and accurate color communication is critical to an efficient workflow, which is why communicating color data electronically has become a hot topic for printers. The Color Exchange Format (CxF) helps communicate all aspects of color, even when the application and the color communication features required are unknown. CxF is able to extend the information set to the needs of a new application without affecting general usability.

CxF version 3, originally developed by X-Rite, has now become an international standard that can be used by throughout production to share color data. ISO CxF/X (ISO 17972-1:2015) with additional parts ensures an accurate and efficient exchange of digital standards, measurements and metadata by providing the framework to exchange everything from target data to spot color tone values.

Many companies and products have already benefited from CxF as a communication solution, and now that it’s an ISO standard, many more can, too.


Still in process, PQX is another one that helps with unambiguous exchange of print-related data. In this case, the goal is to find a common way to pass print quality data easily between disparate systems. PQX uses XML to send data reports across the print supply chain—between printers and brands, publishers and content creators. It incorporates CxF/X to carry measurement data with additional metadata that CxF/X does not directly support. 

Spot Color Tone Value Test Form

Spot Color Tone Value Test Form

Spot Color Tone Value

We’ve long had a reliable way to calculate tone value for process colors by using the Murray-Davies formula along with density values to calculate tone value. Spot Colors, which often don’t conveniently fit filters used for process colors, have always been a bigger challenge.

The most traditional way to address this has been to use narrow band density with the Murray-Davies Formula. Other proprietary forms have also been used successfully. Now ISO 20654 – Measurement and Calculation of Spot Color Tone Value – is being readied to provide a new calculation that relies on colorimetry or spectral data to get tone value percentages that have better agreement with our eye. This work has been the result of a worldwide collaboration of experts analyzing both theoretical models and print runs to come up with this solution. Expect this to finalized later this year or in early 2017.

This leads to a host of new PDF standards which are being directed to both to the packaging industry and printers as a whole, trying to create better, more automated workflows, so there’s less questions about what happens if you transfer a file from one part of the workflow to another.

Staying Current with Standards

Keeping current with standards is a tricky job because standards are always changing. It really becomes a question of how you get informed, and how you stay informed.

One way is to be part of the process. If you have expertise in a particular area, there’s probably a standards or specifications working group for it that could be improved with your expertise, as well as give you a lot of insight into the process.

Another way is to work with one of the specification groups. For example, if you are a flexo printer working in a packaging workflow, being part of the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) would give you a lot of insight into applicable standards. If you’re in commercial printing, someone like Idealliance or Fogra can give you input into that process, and maybe even additional insight into how the standards are being implemented in your geography or within your brand users.

About the Author:

Ray Cheydleur is the Printing and Imaging Portfolio Manager at X-Rite Inc. In addition, he is chairman of ANSI CGATS (Committee for Graphic Arts Technology Standards in the US), Chairman of the USTAG to ISO/TC130 (the ISO Graphic Arts Technology Standards) and Vice Chairman of the ICC (International Color Consortium).

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Filed under Color Management, Printing

Building Graphics Workflows Across Emerging Markets

Graphics Workflows

by Deane Shillito, Client Solutions APAC, SGK

Eighty-five percent of the world’s population lives in regions with emerging and developing economies. That’s 6 billion people. As these populations grow in size, they also grow in influence. Ten years ago, these emerging and developing economies accounted for less than half of global GDP. Today, that figure has increased to nearly 60 percent, with 80 percent of global growth since the 2008 crash occurring in these markets.1

As multinational companies continue to expand in emerging markets, they need to work from a solid foundation to protect their investments. But how do you implement and maintain a complex brand ecosystem in new markets, each that may have an entirely unique point of view?

Understanding the Market

To date, workflow solutions haven’t been entirely successful in emerging markets for one simple reason: An established solution that works in a market, like the United States, Europe, or Australia, doesn’t necessarily work in new markets. And getting package graphics right in emerging markets isn’t just a technical challenge; it’s a cultural challenge.

Businesses need to recognize the need for flexibility in workflow design to accommodate the unique needs and cultural characteristics of these markets. Graphics workflows must be empathetic into cultural nuances, multiple languages and contexts, social barriers, and the tyranny of distance, otherwise it may find that the workflow can act to block business.

When companies fail to do this, one of two things usually happen. 1. They don’t gain the benefits they expected to gain or 2. They hastily decide to turn over control of their global packaging workflows to local operations. And this they often learn, may have solved the initial challenges, but created new ones as well. It is nearly impossible to maintain consistency of a company’s brands globally when their packaging workflows are managed only at the local level.

So how do we overcome these challenges to build common workflows across various markets and take advantage of these new opportunities? Preparation and empathy are key.

Establishing the Right Workflow for the Right Team

Holistically, good process is good process regardless of location or language. This is definitely true for the graphics workflow. In order to build a robust process, time must be taken for an in-depth discovery into roles, inputs, tools, process management, handoffs, and vendor partners. A thorough understanding of current workings through discovery sessions greatly increase the probability of success.

One must also truly understand current costs. Often, fees are buried in agency retainer models or with print partners. These hidden costs can blur the true benefit of the new workflow initiative.

One size does not always fit all in emerging markets. Teams in these markets work well when key players are involved in both the development and implementation of the process. This must include local sponsors from each market to own the process and, if required, a local representative who can speak the language and with an understanding of cultural nuances.

With the right team in place, there needs to be collective agreement as to the deliverables of the project, which should be formally documented and distributed to all stakeholders for reference.

Simplifying the Complex Through Effective Communication

Even what appears to be the simplest and clearest direction can become muddled in context. For example, two different approaches may be regarded as acceptable options in established, developed markets. But in many developing countries, there may be an expectation to be given clear instructions for doing things the “right way,” and being presented with alternatives may appear confusing or overly complex.

Most issues in emerging markets are caused by miscommunication or misunderstanding between people. Of vital importance is defining roles and responsibilities, then communicating these in the most effective way. Verbal is not always best.

Such nuances require careful and clear direction for all projects. Again, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Take nothing for granted—always make sure you’re understanding and being understood.

Follow Up

Once the workflow has a period of time in operation, follow-up audits are recommended. The best, most effective workflow is worthless if it is not in place and in use. If gaps are identified, a review should be taken to determine whether the cause of the gap is simply a misunderstanding or a fundamental error in the developed process.

It Takes a Diverse Team

Ultimately, pushing through alone in an unfamiliar culture isn’t likely to be successful. Partnering with someone who’s worked there can save days and dollars. By focusing on regionally and culturally targeted strategies that improve communication and streamline workflows, your organization can gain local agility to drive performance.

Graphics workflows in emerging markets find clarity of purpose and effective engagement when you remove the noise associated with implementation, understand the region-specific problem, and work backward with an overarching knowledge of the whole process.

In an era when companies are being asked to do more with less to grow their business, graphics workflows offer an area of opportunity that must take greater priority.

About the Author:

Deane Shillito - Graphics WorkflowDeane Shillito, Client Solutions APAC, at SGK, brings 20+ years experience as a printing and packaging professional with extensive knowledge of the pharmaceutical packaging artwork and printing processes. He has successfully led numerous initiatives within APAC to identify and implement process improvement and workflow optimisation within organisations.



  1. Christine Lagarde, “The Role Of Emerging Markets In A New Global Partnership For Growth,” International Monetary Fund presentation at University of Maryland, February 4, 2016.

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Filed under Artwork/Graphics Management, Prepress, Workflows