Key Steps in a Color-Managed Workflow

x-rite-pantone logo

By Ray Cheydleur

Color-Managed WorkflowIf you’re a commercial printer who wants to improve color quality and consistency, this blog is for you.

Ray Cheydleur is a printing industry veteran of more than 20 years, a standards guru, and our Portfolio Manager for Printing and Imaging Products. Passionate and very knowledgeable about color, he has a talent for helping printers improve their color quality and consistency.

Today he’s sharing five critical steps in a color-managed workflow to help you create an efficient printing operation, a repeatable final product, and satisfied brand owners.

1.  Clear communication and specification.

One of the obvious links in a successful color workflow is clear communication, and a potential key to reducing inefficiencies is digital color specification. Choosing named colors or measuring real-world colors and bringing them into the design provides a solid foundation for the rest of the workflow and delivers a print-ready file that includes spectral color definitions. Even if the color is specified in Paris, printed to the numbers in California, and approved in New York, the digital version of Pantone 360 will always be the same when you use digital specifications across the entire workflow.

2.  Measure raw materials.

Since final products are only as consistent as their raw materials, working with a variety of sources can be a challenge. Prior to production, all incoming materials, including ink and substrates, must be measured to ensure expected results. It’s much easier to make recipe adjustments at the beginning of the process than to try to reformulate after color is wrong on the press.

Metallized-Orbit

3.  Calibrate and profile.

Proofing devices must be calibrated and profiled prior to creating proofs. Presses must be calibrated and either aligned with industry specifications or profiled, and printed output needs to be measured and monitored.
Each time there is a change in supplies or process, you need to either recreate your profiles or correct the situation that created the change. For digital presses, sometimes calibrating the device is enough to keep the profile valid. If you have just performed maintenance or if the media or machine setup has changed, you may need to build a new profile. For analog presses, using a new ink or substrate or starting a new printing condition such as compliance with G7 or FOGRA may require a new profile. But if you meet your standard aims, the ICC profile should remain valid.

ITX2-4

IntelliTrax2 is an automated, non-contact scanning system that makes it easy for busy pressrooms to measure color bars and press sheets without the risk of human error, ideal for high-end, high-speed commercial printing and converting operations.

4.  Visually evaluate under controlled lighting.

A light booth provides standardized lighting for proof to print match and can also simulate every lighting condition printed materials or packaging may encounter, from store to office to home. When a finished good is comprised of several materials, such as stand-up pouches, overwraps, and corrugated POP displays, a light booth can also ensure that the harmony among components remains constant under all lighting conditions. A light booth should be used to verify color alignment and to ensure products do not exhibit physical defects.

JudgeQCPrint

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

5.  Stay current with standards.

Staying Current with Standards in Print and Packaging 2Standards 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. Our Staying Current With Standards In Print And Packaging blog provides 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.

It doesn’t end there

Even if you have all the right tools in place, you still need to monitor each step or you’ll spend way too much time trying to fix color issues rather than addressing the root causes of those issues. Make sure you manage the goals you are aiming for – all of them, not just some of them. Especially in an analog shop, it is common to analyze ink density and tone value, but you also need colorimetry and tolerance values as well or you aren’t managing the whole story and may drift out of specification without knowing it.

Whether want to tweak your process for the best outcome or you’re not sure where to begin, our Color Experts are happy to help. Get in touch for custom assistance.

More about Ray

RayC-portrait-LE-2-249x300In addition to his role as Portfolio Manager for Printing and Imaging Products at X-Rite Pantone, Cheydleur is also Chairman of the U.S. Committee for Graphic Arts Technical Standards (CGATS), Chairman of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to ISO TC130 for Graphic Arts Standards, and Vice Chair of the International Color Consortium for Color Management (ICC).

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How to Care for Your Anilox Sleeves, Part 1

pamarco-logo-400

by Katie Graham, Pamarco

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some different ways to protect and maintain your anilox sleeves. We want to help you protect your investment and ensure you get the longest life possible out of your sleeves. Here are some of the best ways to do that.

Cleanliness

It is very important to keep the insides (bores) and ends of the sleeves clean and free of dried ink. Contamination on the inside bore will impede the ability to install and remove the sleeve from the mandrel. Dried ink in the bore causes operators or assistants to forcibly remove the sleeve, which can lead to damage to the sleeve or anilox roll surface. Do not chip the ink off the ends with metal tools; always try to dissolve and wipe clean.

Keep the mandrel free of any dried ink or contaminants. Clean it with a rag with solvent or other component-friendly cleaners to ensure a clean smooth surface for the sleeve to slide onto. Check for any burrs, nicks or dings in the mandrel that will prevent smooth installation. Make a special point to check the air holes in the mandrel. A majority of sleeve/mandrel seizures are caused by clogged air holes.

Check the sleeve mounting air system (gauges and hoses) to ensure proper working order. Make sure the air pressure is set to the OEM specification (PSI/bars). Should you have any questions, contact the press OEM and peruse the operating manual for guidelines and settings.

Sleeve Mounting and Removal

It is important to install (slide) the sleeves on the mandrels carefully and smoothly. Avoid rocking the sleeves (up and down, back and forth) during the mounting process. This can damage the foam expansion layer, which will affect future proper fit, circularity and Total Indicated Runout (TIR) issues.

BE GENTLE

anilox sleeves Installing the sleeves, making sure not to slam the sleeve into the backstop on the mandrel. This can cause damage seen below (ceramic chipping on the roll edge). Chipped ends can create ink slinging and accelerate end-seal wear. Chipped ceramic on the ends, over time, may lead to further ceramic separation on the sleeve surface.

 

Ink Sling Guards

Keep the ink sling guards clean and free of ink. Do not allow the sling guards to fill with ink and rub on the ceramic or sleeve end.
Check the screws that hold the sling guards in place on press. If the sleeve guard is loose and is allowed to touch, rub or drag the sleeve surface, it will definitely cause damage to the ceramic and eventually cause damage to the sleeve.

Corrosion Prevention

Anilox roll sleeves are susceptible to corrosion if safe cleaners are not used cleaning steps are not properly followed. Chemicals that are caustic or have a high pH can corrode the aluminum cladding and end rings causing the ceramic to blister. The pH of chemicals should never be below 5.5 or higher than 11.8. When using any chemical to clean an anilox roll, make sure the surface is properly rinsed and the chemical neutralized. The final step in the process is to wipe the roll surface with alcohol or acetate to flash off any residual chemical or water. Never cover and store a wet sleeve or roll; they must be dry. Should you have any questions, consult your anilox roll supplier.

These are just a few ways to protect and maintain your sleeve. Here are the rest of our top tips for anilox sleeve care and maintenance.

10 Tips for Anilox Sleeve Care & Maintenance:

    • 1. Component Cleanliness:

•Keep the insides (bores) and ends of sleeves clean. No dried ink!
•Keep press mandrels clean and in good condition.
•Keep the sleeve mounting air system (gauges and hose) in good working order, and set to OEM specifications (PSI/bars).

    • 2. Sleeve Mounting:

•Slide sleeves on mandrels carefully. Avoid rocking the sleeves up and down during mounting. Rocking can damage the expansion layer (affecting proper fit and circularity), and create TIR issues.
•BE GENTLE! Impacting the backstop can chip the sleeve’s ceramic. (Chipped ends create slinging and accelerate end seal wear, which leads to ceramic separation.)

    • 3. Ink Sling Guards:

•Do not allow sling guards to touch or rub sleeves.
•Keep sling guards clean and free of dried ink to prevent grinding and damage to the ends.

    • 4. Corrosion Prevention:

•Caustic cleaning chemicals and/or high pH inks can corrode a sleeve’s aluminum cladding and/or end rings, causing ceramic blistering. The pH of chemical cleaners should never be below 5.5 or above 11.8.
•Consult your anilox supplier prior to using any cleaning or flushing chemicals.

    • 5. Composite Component:

•Do not allow aqueous chemicals or cleaners to contact the composite. This can lead to delamination of the sleeve.
•Use caution and protective end caps when cleaning sleeves in chemical bath tanks.

    • 6. Post-Cleaning Practices:

•Always dry the anilox surface and ceramic ends thoroughly.
•Remove any residual chemicals or water with an alcohol wipe.
•When using compressed air to dry the engraving, ensure it is oil-free.

    • 7. Handling Precautions:

•Sleeve ceramic is the same as roll ceramic; it is not impact-resistant and chips easily.
•Use caution when cleaning ends; avoid cleaning with sharp tools.
•Sleeves tend to be easily mishandled and damaged because they are lightweight: HANDLE CAREFULLY!

    • 8. Sleeve Storage:

•Sleeves are best stored vertically in a rack.
•Do not stand sleeves up on uneven or hard floors; use rubber or cushioned floor mats.

    • 9. Storage Precautions:

•When storing sleeves horizontally, the diameter of the support stem is important: The stem diameter should be slightly smaller than the mandrel.
• This will prevent stress overload on the internal expansion foam (bladder).

  • 10. Protect your Investment:

•When sleeves are not in the press, use protective covers to avoid damage.
•Do not use a protective cover on a wet anilox sleeve.

Conclusion
By following the maintenance points in this article, you will be assured of productive, long lasting use of your anilox sleeves. If you have any questions about your press environment and how it affects your anilox care, seek help to determine the improvements you need to make by scheduling press-area audit with your anilox supplier.

About Katie Graham

Katie-Graham-Pamarco-Head-Shots-2016_08-3-150x150Katie Graham is the Marketing and Communications Manager for Pamarco and is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to joining Pamarco, she received a BA in Communications and an MBA with a concentration in Marketing from Georgia State University. She is certified in Social Media Marketing and serves as a mentor to marketing students at her Alma Mater.

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Chief Growth Officer: The SGK Perspective On A Critical Development

Chief Growth Officer

Michael Leeds, SVP, Client Engagement Americas, SGK

Some of the biggest consumer companies now have a Chief Growth Officer (CGO) reporting to the CEO on the organization chart. These people have a daunting remit: represent the customer, energize innovation, enable positive disruption, look long-term and create a plan to get an entire company on board. Not easy. Many of these companies are only a few years into the CGO era. But trends are becoming clear, and they are instructive—for companies with, or considering, a Chief Growth Officer to initiate and deliver organic and inorganic growth by leveraging the resources of their entire organization. So we recently talked to Michael Leeds, SGK’s Senior Vice President of Client Engagement Americas, about how to get the most out of this emerging need. At SGK, he has watched and worked with companies that have embraced the CGO role for several years now.

In a nutshell, why a CGO?

The tactics used to drive growth, especially in slow-growth product categories, no longer work for a variety of reasons. Companies are balancing innovation, disruption, managing costs and return on investment. They’re asking, “How do we connect with consumers in a more meaningful way, in real-time?” That’s why some companies see part of the CGO role as the voice of the consumer and a gateway to growth. Companies are asking, “How do we do this with fewer resources?” Especially now, with the emergence of zero-based budgeting, there’s a need to optimize resources and eliminate redundancy. Then look at the impact of technology—of social, digital, and the need to connect to consumers on their own terms. This is not new, but there simply hasn’t been a role created that says, “Let me look across the organization and bring these disparate segments together, segments that haven’t worked together traditionally.” Integration, focus and flexibility will drive a higher return on investment.

Does this kind of rethinking tend to work?

The thinking is solid and the execution will determine its success. The need to manage complex and complicated business transformation requires a broad perspective with optimized functional alignment and allocation of resources. Think about the term “integrated marketing”—a Google Trends search shows a decline over the past 10 years, but the core idea remains valid. The route of the journey has changed, but the goals remain the same.

From your point of view, what background or temperament makes the best CGOs?

Relationship oriented with a marketing foundation. A recent Russell Reynolds Associates report noted that all the CGOs it studied had been business unit heads and “marketers who then held significant P&L responsibilities.” It’s clear that CGOs need to have the authority to influence functions that span Marketing, Sales, Innovation, Insights and R&D. And there will be conflicting agendas. So the CGO has to have the CEO’s blessing, skills and the experience to be able to broker consensus inside the organization.

What are you seeing CGOs do that’s innovative?

They have combined innovation, marketing operations and digital into a fluid ecosystem and aligned data to drive complex, previously siloed functions. This makes perfect sense, but it’s a heavy lift in an organization that is out of alignment on goals, strategies and tactics. But CGOs are fixing that.

Why couldn’t a pre-existing officer do this?

The CGO, given the longer-term view and scope of influence of this role, can balance interest across the organization. For example, sales is customer-centric, but often short-term focused. They are focused on providing the retailer what they and their customers want. Marketers are consumer-centric. They have a different set of priorities and are thinking about millennials and baby boomers and how they live their life today and tomorrow. The CGO—being function-, brand-, and channel-agnostic—balances these sometimes-competing areas of focus.

How are boards and shareholder groups taking all this? Companies envision this role as having a 3-to-5-year mandate, and that’s a long time in shareholder terms.

When you see companies hit their earnings number but miss their revenue number, investors can pummel them; cost cutting the way to earnings has a limited shelf-life. Pretty soon the infrastructure to produce and market what a company makes dissipates, as do the resources and commitment to innovate. The CGO role is incremental cost, but their mandate speaks directly to something boards and shareholders should appreciate: how to make the most of your infrastructure and how to smartly answer the question, “What will consumers and customers need?”

The true cost of staying status quo is unacceptable. So you need someone with the skills, the charisma and the vision. This person has to place longer-term bets on initiatives that might not see returns for a year or more, because these take time to nurture, cultivate and evolve. As for three-to-five years—the majority of CGO hires are since 2014, so even the three-year window isn’t closed yet. Time will tell.

There’s been discussion about whether the CGO is a role that’s here to stay or whether it’s a “point-in-time” role. Why would it be the latter? Isn’t the challenge permanent?

The need for speed, agility, governance, consumer and customer centricity and sharing next- and best- practices will likely be a constant. Today’s CGO will set the course for future roles and those roles may evolve and have different titles. But now it’s the right role at the right time. I think the key function of the CGO, that will always have to exist regardless of the title, is having the support, permission, vision and skills to look well ahead, craft a plan and sell it in throughout the company. It’s the human part.

How does SGK prefer to interact with CGOs?

We provide stimuli, services and solutions for a broad range of activities that support initiatives that a CGO may be undertaking. We’re well aware that there is a top line and a bottom line, and like a CGO, look to create more with less. Content studios are a great example—why not capture video assets to feed social media at the same time the still imagery is created? Structurally, there are times when business models need to deliver greater innovation, agility, visibility and transparency across departments, influence across supply chain components for process efficiencies, here we can partner with CGOs to provide scalable resources and critical thinking.

SGK understands the value and benefit of an integrated workflow. For example, packaging art for both physical printing and e-content in one process. There is no value in keeping these two streams separate.

CPGs are increasingly turning to a new function that of the CGO, to create alignment on a corporate scale. Their great challenge is to decode the competing agendas of different functions and balance short-term and long-term goals. Successful CGOs are finding ways of leveraging different functions to bring a new agility to companies with a long history of doing things separately. We are finding that CGOs and SGK share common goals.

About the Author:

Michael_LeedsMichael Leeds, Senior Vice President Americas, with SGK, has been deploying brands and brand processes for more than 25 years. He evaluates brand programs through KPIs, which provide insights into the effectiveness and efficiency of the program’s tools, workflows, and resources. For company information, visit www.sgkinc.com and http://www.schawk.com/brand-production/packaging-e-content.

 

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Choosing the Right Spectrophotometer for Metallic Packaging

by Paula Rosales, Marketing Manager, Print and Packaging

**This article originally appeared on the X-Rite Blog at http://blog.xrite.com/choosing-spectro-for-print-and-packaging/

Reflective surfaces and metallic inks are very popular for printing and packaging applications. Consumers love the look; but for printers, these substrates and inks are expensive and make color control a challenge.

Reflective surfaces and metallic inks

What measurement options are available for controlling these very marketable print and packaging applications? Which type of spectrophotometers can help printers and converters meet brand owner expectations and maintain the highest possible quality output when it comes to metallic and foils?

right-spectro-2

Sphere vs. 0/45°… What’s the difference?

There are two primary types of spectrophotometers used in the printing and packaging industries today – the traditional 0/45° (aka 45°/0°), and spherical (aka diffuse/8°).

With a 0/45° spectrophotometer, the first number refers to the angle of illumination and the second to the viewing angle. The light source shines at 45 degrees from the surface of the sample being measured, and the detector receives reflected light at 0 degrees, perpendicular to the object’s surface.

X-Rite eXact spectrophotometer

The X-Rite eXact is our most popular 0/45° spectrophotometer, enabling printers and packaging converters to truly understand, control, manage and communicate color across the entire color supply chain.

 difference in measurement geometry

These diagrams show the difference in measurement geometry between 0/45° and sphere spectrophotometers.

A sphere spectrophotometer, on the other hand, illuminates the object diffusely from all directions, and the detector receives the reflected light at an 8° angle from the object’s surface. Spherical in shape, these instruments are lined with a highly reflective, very low gloss, white matte surface. As the light beam strikes the surface of the sphere, more than 99% of the light is reflected and scattered randomly in all directions.

The Ci64 spectrophotometer

The Ci64, our most precise handheld sphere spectrophotometer, is available in three models with simultaneous SPIN/SPEX, correlated gloss and a UV option.

When to use each

A 0/45°, like the X-Rite eXact, not only considers color, but also gloss and texture. Because they perceive color in the same way as the human eye, 0/45° spectrophotometers have been historically popular for measuring color on smooth or matte surfaces in printing and packaging operations. But with the growing use of mirror-like and reflective surfaces, they may not always be the first choice for all applications. That’s because with glossy surfaces like flexible packaging, cans or metallic labels, colors will appear darker and more saturated than the same color produced with a matte finish.

measuring a glossy surface, 

When measuring a glossy surface, a 0/45° will miss a considerable amount of the light, capturing data that indicates the sample is darker than it actually is.

With a sphere spectrophotometer, users have the choice of including (specular included or SPIN) or excluding (specular excluded or SPEX) the gloss component of an object’s surface. This is why sphere spectrophotometers are preferred for applications like shiny or mirror-like surfaces, printing over foil, and other highly glossy surfaces. Check out our SPIN vs. SPEX article to learn more.

Since the mirroring effect of a metallic substrate is reflected by the coated sphere, there is an adequate amount of light for the sensor to measure. These measurements are similar to what the human eye would see when looking at the printed image on an aluminum can, metal bottle cap or metallized package.

Many printers are using metallic inks and substrates to enhance graphics and brands. They come in a variety of types and are composed of various pigments and metals. While a 0/45° spectro may be adequate for some applications, a sphere spectro is most effective for measuring the color of these materials.

So… which instrument should you choose?

If you’re seeing an increased demand to print products with translucent inks on foil or other mirror-like surfaces, or using metallic inks, you will be challenged to ensure brand and other colors are produced accurately if you don’t have the right instrument. A sphere spectrophotometer from the Ci6x family is probably the best choice in these situations.

For jobs that don’t use metallic inks or metallic surfaces, a 0/45° like the X-Rite eXact might be best for your needs. While it is feasible to measure inks on foil or metal using a 0/45° spectrophotometer, you need to understand that technology limitations may provide measurements that show the sample as darker and more saturated than it really is.

To determine the best instruments for your applications, you must analyze job mix and customer requirements to determine if your critical measurements can be made with one type or the other, or whether it makes more sense to have both instruments available in your facility. If you’re still not sure, the Color Experts at X-Rite are available to help you determine the best solution for your workflow.

About the Author:

Paula Rosales,Marketing Manager, Print and Packaging, is responsible for marketing end-to-end packaging products and service at X-Rite. She has over 15 years of experience working in the graphics arts and print/packaging industry. Follow X-Rite on Twitter @XRitecolor

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Five Problems We Must Tackle in 2017 to Save Our Market

Polarization

by Aislan Baer, ProjetoPack & Associados

When I received an invitation to write an article in Revista Integra Edición #47, the theme was to be something more technical. But, as this text evolved, I couldn’t concentrate properly, in part because during the last days of the year, my battery was almost exhausted—absolute physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion, a kind of subliminal countdown leading to the new year recess with the family to reinvigorate my energy. As I began to gather my thoughts, I realized that there was something relevant to be registered—something less technical that needed to be written at least once during the year.

Our country (Brazil) is experiencing a political, economic and social crisis without precedent. As a matter of fact, the world, civilization, the institutions and all sorts of protocols that regulate human relations within the environment are also collapsing. Industrial activity is in jeopardy. The same is true with the credibility of the media—printed or electronic.

And, amidst this disorder, all of us—entrepreneurs and employees, suppliers, customers and consumers of flexible plastic packaging, labels and tags—are passively watching the deterioration of a market.

In 17 years of providing consultancy and training to these industries, I can’t remember a more arduous moment, with so many disillusioned professionals, businesses closing or on the verge of closing, and the saddest thing of all: people losing the “Hots” they had for the profession.

For this reason, I shall present my vision of the five problems that we must tackle at any cost, in our businesses and market, in 2017. I sincerely hope that their reading may prove to be fruitful.

Polarization

Believe: the world is not just a simple-minded dichotomy of ideas, a competition in which “least bad” is the option for all. Chicken drumsticks and mortadella, left or right, religion or science and so on.

Every time that we synthesize ideas or concepts in two diametrically opposed currents—antagonistic, auto exclusive—we run a serious risk of “polarizing” things. Polarization is a path that only leads to one place: violence and intolerance. It is the extreme defense of a position, concept or idea that simply does not allow or even conceive of something contradictory. Unlike physics, where opposite poles attract one another, in the social sciences they increasingly distance one from the other.

The two sides, isolated, believe that there is no middle term. Each considers himself the herald of the truth and sees the other as a detractor of the worst kind. In this antagonism of positions, as the Greek playwright Aeschylus (ironically, considered the father of Tragedy) well observed, “In war, the first casualty is the truth.”

I believe that social networks and mobile communication, while they facilitated communication in terms of comprehensiveness, are in great part responsible for the decline of their depth, quality and reliability.

In the pre-Internet era, issuing opinions publicly was a more complex operation— demanding reasoning on the subject, a minimum of research for your conceptual framework and a convincing outcome—that would almost always result in some lines printed on paper (newspapers, magazines and books), almost indelible, exposing the maker of opinions to the judgment of the readers, the experts and, last but not least, the judgment of time.

Publishing opinions publicly in the era of the Internet and mobile communication is so quick and easy that it can be done immediately—”in real time”—without any preparation and, if it runs into trouble, there is a simple click of the mouse and the commands delete or remove.

These constant clashes amongst people around the world on the Internet, principally in social networks, aggravates the problem of polarization. The result is the creation of factions, labels and stereotypes, and along with this comes prejudice as a form of prejudgment. Today’s polarization is a modern tower of Babel where everyone communicates, but nobody understands.

After all, do we always have to define ourselves as “left or right,” or would it be possible to be only in favor of civility and zeal for the “res publica,” the public thing?

From the business point of view, polarizing is, for example, defending a specific technology, a strategy that always worked, a business vision that was a champion in other times, but won’t necessarily continue to be today and/or tomorrow—wide or narrow, gravure or flexography, analogue or digital, solvent or water, monolayer or laminated, low price or differentiation, etc.

Organizations assume unique positions that are absolute, unquestionable and irrevocable. This is corporate polarization. However, servicing an interested public with a wide range of occupations and needs requires a business model and a thinking process that are open and flexible.

To produce flexible packaging, it is necessary to be flexible (forgive me for the pun). The marketing of packaging, tags, labels and printing requires pragmatic thinking in favor of a solution that addresses the needs of the end consumer, the retail supply chain, the owner of the brand, and the expectation of a return on the part of the shareholders and participants in the workflow.

Polarization weakens or eliminates one of the most important features of a company— the creative ability to deconstruct and reinvent the business. Looking at the extensive list of companies in our industry that went bankrupt or became insolvent in the last ten years, it is obvious that a significant portion of these names were held hostage by a management model rooted in the success of the past. The era of the raw material times five tenet is gone.

Today, a company that doesn’t control its costs and internal processes down to the last cent, doesn’t train or motivate its employees, doesn’t attract or retain talents, doesn’t care about the social environment, doesn’t consider local and global strategies, doesn’t deal with its suppliers as strategic partners, and doesn’t review or question constantly the pillars of its business model is unfortunately doomed.

Presumption

Presumption is a trap as big as polarization. It’s a different blindness that generates an even worse result. And I’m not talking about presumption with the meaning of “having a high opinion of oneself, fatuity, vanity or affectation.” I’m talking about the presumption of things—of conjecturing, believing in something that is based on inconclusive facts.

When a company (or professional) starts presuming that there is nothing more to know about a subject, this marks the beginning of its (or his) end.

To paraphrase Aristotle: “Nothing better characterizes the man than the act of thinking.”

The presumption of full knowledge of something eliminates or reduces the need to think a lot. So, there are two facets of presumption that erode business: assuming you know everything about something and making decisions based on facts that are not conclusive—popular “speculations.”

As an example of how harmful presumption is, I’ll tell you a simple story. With the advent of social networks and mobile communication, professionals from various sectors and occupations organize themselves on a voluntary basis to exchange information—most of the time for benchmarking.

Currently, I participate in nearly a dozen groups in the Whatsapp messenger service, which deals with “printing” and whose audience is composed principally of gravure and broadband or narrowband flexographic printing operators from Brazil and from abroad. Members exchange varied ideas on production problems, maintenance of machinery, salaries and benefits, job opportunities and, astonishingly, the lack of training to carry out daily functions.

A lack of training makes them prey to vendors and consultants, often malicious, and victims of their own professional colleagues—usually older and experienced printers, who with good intentions give them tips and “recipes” on how to solve technical problems that are not necessarily absolute truths. These “recipes,” in some cases, may simply condemn a certain brand, product or technology.

I remember that when a company launched a new flexo plate technology, many “presumed” that the change of a round-point dot to a flat-top dot and the incorporation of a lamination process were detriments to productivity and quality in flexographic plate manufacturing. A short time later, however, the concept of a flat-top dot or plane-dot proved not only to be efficient, but was approved as a quality standard of the flexographic industry and something to be pursued by all flexographic plate manufacturers.

Less than two years ago, when we started a consultancy for the German chemical industry with the scope of helping gravure and flexography companies adopt propylic solvents (at the expense of ethanol), many professionals and companies “assumed” that the propylic solvents were a distant reality and impractical. Currently, the customer base not only grows exponentially and considers the propylic mixture as a benchmark of quality and cost efficiency.

How many opportunities is your company losing because of presumption?

Polarization and presumption go together and like each other. When their union is stable, corporate vices and notorious paradigms are born. Models of behavior are repeated, invariably and unconditionally, without questioning or until there is a   revolution, a real “epistemological rupture.”

The parable of the emergence of a paradigm is old, but not all our readers may have heard it.

There once was a group of scientists that placed five monkeys in a cage, in whose center there was a ladder with a bunch of bananas on it. Each time a monkey climbed the stairs to grasp the bunch of bananas, scientists launched a strong jet of cold water on those who remained on the floor. Shortly after, every monkey that got ready to go up the ladder was beaten up by the others. In no time, even with an immense desire to taste the juicy bananas, no more monkeys dared to climb up the ladder.

At this point, scientists replaced one of the monkeys. Once inside the cage, the first thing the rookie did was to try to climb the ladder, which was immediately repelled by the onslaughts of his cell mates. After a few more tries and beatings, this monkey joined the scheme and didn’t try to climb the ladder anymore.

During the months that followed, scientists progressively replaced each veteran monkey in the experiment with a newcomer, until all five, even without ever having received a single jet of cold water, participated in beating any colleague who suffered a relapse.

In one version of the parable, the experiment was over at this point. In another, it is said that even when the lock was removed, the monkeys kept trying to climb the ladder and were happily beaten up by their colleagues.

If you could ask any of them on why they beat anyone who tried to climb the ladder, the answer would certainly be something like, “I don’t know, things were always like this down here …”

Passivity

Every day for the last 17 years, our team of consultants goes into the field to assist entrepreneurs in our segment and train their employees, enabling them to perform their functions with skill, knowledge and at the lowest possible cost.

The goal of the consultancy and of the enterprises is to resolve problems, all the time, always. By the way, the packaging, tags, labels and printing sectors are real champions in the variety and quantity of problems.

The fact is that every problem has a solution. By definition, if a situation has no solution—for example and, at least for now, a death—it isn’t characterized as a problem. It’s just a reality, something factual. There is no way out, but to accept the fact. Everything that is not a fact but an anomalous result, unexpected and transitional, is a problem and has one or more alternatives for its solution.

Most of the complaints from businessmen about their problems—when they are willing to think about them and not just “presuming” that they already know their nature and all its aspects—is that they are repeated and worsen year after year.

This happens when the problems are dealt with in a superficial way. It’s like witnessing the beginning of a fire every day and keeping a fire extinguisher handy, rather than repairing the bare wire. Problems, when treated superficially, are like a badly cured virus—it comes back a short time later, stronger and more resistant to the usual medication. Most of the time, the businessman is completely oblivious to the problem—simply paralyzed. He doesn’t look for the fire extinguisher, much less repair the wire.

I often say that miracles, when they occur, reward the “physical person and never the legal one.” It is common in our industry that when the captain notes that the boat is sinking and water is entering the hull, he uses his time to blame the weather, the crew and the manufacturer of the vessel.

Passivity is the third big problem that we must avoid at any cost, in 2017. We cannot sin by inaction.

Procrastination in Time Management

Our industries don’t sell products or even services, be they packaging, tags, labels, or outsourcing of manpower. They sell hours and fractions of hours; therefore, we can’t afford to lose even a single unit.

Among the best-known management tools and the best utilization of time indicators in the industry, the OEE – Overall Equipment Effectiveness is used worldwide. The values commonly revealed are low compared to other areas of industry. Often, we find converters with 30 percent efficiencies or even less.

Too often, companies spend more time making adjustments, rather than properly producing. They stop hundreds of times over the course of a production shift, for a myriad of reasons that are either badly or not even investigated. They run the machines at speeds below the mechanical specification and conform themselves with the restrictions of the raw materials, the product features and the technical limitations of the workforce. They even get to produce parallel indicators, that are purposely worsened, so as to justify the low levels of productivity, assigning the blame on the small size of the lots, the excessive amount of setups and high sophistication of products, as if these three things were mere casualties and not the fruit of their own choices.

And, worst of all is that many of the companies not only don’t manage their most precious asset—along with the people, and the available time—or even attach importance to this measure. One out of ten Brazilian converters disposes of a monitoring system for the use of its resources (machines and people) in the factory. Ignorance, indifference and all the “P’s” mentioned before, explain the phenomenon.

Purpose

The last, but no less important P, is the lack of purpose. When an organization does not anchor itself to a purpose—an authentic mode through which it will make a difference in the world and in history—she is adrift in the ocean.

The first consumers that a company should engage are not the buyers of its products or services (or better, the buyers of its available time), but its employees. If they “buy” the purpose of the company in which they work, they will give something beyond their lifetime in exchange for salary and benefits: engagement or commitment, the “owner’s look,” the desire to see the company thrive, the spontaneous promotion of their company outside work hours to their families and friends. They will become the customers of the products, services and the company values.

Creating an honest and stimulating purpose, transmitting it to the old and new employees and keeping it aligned with social changes and values is difficult, especially in a society that does not evaluate or even learn from the past, can’t see the future and remains stuck to this one constant, with an additional complicator—new generations whose world view is quite dissonant with that of their parents and grandparents, born in a context where there is no hope, they “came to the world on a tour,” focused on a day’s journey and not on winning a marathon.

It’s hard to say that they are generations “without a purpose.” Their purpose may well be not to create roots with institutions which, as we mentioned at the beginning of the article, are suffering a crisis of confidence.

Either way, companies without a purpose will have more and more difficulty in forming a team of excellence, retain talent and extract the best, the exceptional of its employees. Even with total automation, the Internet of things, the adoption of robots, positronic brains of the last generation and transhumanism may not, in the short term, fill in the lack of sensationally creative people in companies.

Professionals without a purpose won’t thrive either. This information is hard to digest, and, like everything that has been said before, it’s just an educated guess by this author. A lack of purpose makes it impossible for the professional to reach the pinnacle of his/her professional maturity, precisely because for that to happen, a genuine sacrifice is needed. It takes an extra unpaid effort, training, reading and practicing the métier.

This only happens when the professional sees the work as an end, an enriching activity, and not only as a means of obtaining financial resources so as to enjoy leisure activities. When there isn’t a clear distinction between work (profession) and leisure, there exists a purpose.

Part of the problem could be mitigated with the restructuring of an institution called school. Students could, from a very early age, be awakened to discover pleasure in work, in entrepreneurship and in the use of creativity to solve problems. However, with the educational methods actually in vogue (not only in Brazil, but in a great part of the globe), the commodification of education brought to extreme levels and the lack of preparation of teachers (now called “educators”), learning is not pleasurable, undertaking something is not to be encouraged, and creativity is not even suggested in the classrooms.

Last Words

We must undertake a conscious effort, focused on our business and market, to avoid the polarization of ideas, the presumption that we know everything and have nothing more to learn.

We must avoid passivity in the face of a recessive market and a troubled internal reality full of problems, and the waste of time under any circumstances.

But, most importantly, we must avoid getting up every morning to work minimally during one third of our lives, playing a professional role without a real purpose. We must focus our efforts so that organizations, before being run by indicators, targets or goals, should be faithful to a purpose, and that the same should be propagated to all involved and adjusted as the company and society evolve.

A purpose is not, on the whole, something timeless. Get it, revise it and disseminate it, ad perpetuam, Yes.

 

Aislan Baer

 

Aislan Baer, CEO of ProjetoPack & Associados, a consulting and training leader company for flexible packaging and printing industries.
diretoria@projetopack.com

www.projetopack.com.br

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The Science Behind Anilox Cleaning and Why You Should Pay Attention

Apex International Blog

In order to maintain the life and performance standards of your anilox inventory, anilox rolls/sleeves must be cleaned immediately after a press run to remove the ink. If ink is allowed to dry, the build-up of deposits inside the cell decreases the amount of ‘fluid’ ink to be transferred onto a printing plate during subsequent runs. Because your volume transfer is not consistent, your print quality will become inconsistent too. By using a regular cleaning procedure, you can easily avoid this.

For daily cleaning of the anilox roll/sleeve:

  • Clean water with a maximum possible Dh < 7°
  • An alcohol based cleaning solvent
  • A chemical cleaner (pH value between 6.5 – 10.5).

anilox cleaning

General anilox cleaning notes:

  • Use cleaning agents that are not harmful to the environment or your anilox rolls. All cleaning liquids must be in between 6.5 – 10.5 Ph. Note that when the value reaches < 5,5 the cleaning agent will become acidic and is dangerous for steel products. In cases where the value reaches > 11 Ph, aluminum can be affected.
  • Do not use chlorine, ammonia or 100% acidic solutions for cleaning. These will attack the ceramic layer and cause corrosion.
  • Always use a brush that is appropriate for the product you use. Specifically, a steel brush for ceramic rolls and a brass brush for chrome plated rolls.

Cleaning procedure for liquids:

  • Apply the cleaning liquid of your choice onto the roll surface and allow it to soak.
  • Clean the surface of the roll by using a brush (steel for ceramic, brass for chrome).  Use a circular motion with maximum pressure.  Be sure that the roll stays wet during this step.
  • After cleaning, rinse the roll with clean hot water (max. 40 °C and Dh < 7°).
  • Wipe it down (use a wiper or a lint free cloth).
  • Check the roll and repeat the cleaning cycle as needed.
  • Check that the roll/sleeve is dry, no drips should appear at the bottom side of the roll/sleeve. If drips appear, wipe them off.
  • Let the rolls/sleeves dry (be sure to dry sleeves vertically)
  • Store the roll/sleeve in a rack or in their original crate/package.

Additional information for Cleaning Anilox Sleeves:

  • Do not submerge sleeves
  • Avoid contact with petrolium based products
  • After cleaning, store in vertical position on a heavy foam pad (TIR and concentricity!)

Download the Flexographic Solutions Guide

Tell us what you think should be best practices for keeping your anilox inventory clean!

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Uniflex – A Fixed Color Palette Printing Case Study

Uniflex

Uniflex, located in Belarus, is one of the largest flexographic printing companies in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Eastern Europe.  The company offers a wide range of high quality flexible packaging such as vacuum bags, pouches, sachets, roll packaging, and self-adhesive labels in up to 10 colours and using a variety of materials. Uniflex is the recipient of a number of prestigious international industry awards that validate the quality and functionality of its flexible packaging and its heritage of innovation. The core of the company’s image is a top-quality product created by using modern technologies and highly professional staff under the supervision of an effective quality management system.

The Challenge

Uniflex viewed fixed colour palette printing (also called Extended Colour Gamut printing) as the next milestone in quality and efficiency for flexographic printing. The company worked to assemble a suite of industry-leading solutions to position Uniflex in the forefront of modern printing techniques to better serve its existing customer base and to expand its global footprint.

The Solution

Uniflex chose to partner with Asahi Photoproducts and Esko in achieving the best possible quality in fixed colour palette printing. This included using Asahi’s AFPTM-TOP and AWPTM flexographic plates with Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer as well as Full HD Flexo from Esko using Esko platesetters. Full HD Flexo is a relatively new process for making digital flexographic plates that are higher quality and print more consistently than standard digital flexo plates. Asahi AFPTM-TOP and AWPTM flexographic plates are the ideal plate choice for Full HD Flexo production.

The Results

“Our customers have strict requirements relative to the quality, cycle time and cost-effectiveness of their printing,” said Eugen Lungin, Production Manager of Uniflex. “We are always striving to take advantage of the latest innovations in flexography in order to meet and exceed these customer expectations. High quality, eye-catching, yet functional packaging delivered in a timely fashion is what our brand owners are looking for, and we have assembled a product suite that allows us to achieve that and more.”

Uniflex began its fixed colour palette printing journey about eight years ago, as an early adopter of this next-generation printing model. Over time, the company has continued to improve its production platform by incorporating the latest technologies, and is a leader in the CIS and European markets in terms of its adoption of advanced technologies and processes, including fixed colour palette printing.

One advantage to Uniflex in the adoption of Full HD Flexo was the fact that it could be implemented without scrapping existing equipment and working methods. It facilitates perfect ink laydown with the right solid density, vibrant brand colours, superior platemaking consistency and is the only fully digitally controlled platemaking workflow available in the industry.

Lungin points out that the prepress aspects delivered by Esko Full HD Flexo are critical to implementing excellence in fixed colour palette printing, but it is also important to select the right flexo plates. “We chose to work with Asahi for our flexo plates,” Lungin reported. “We particularly appreciate the precise register, full ink transfer and improved Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) we achieve using Asahi’s AFPTM-TOP and AWPTM plates using Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer, as well as the ability for us to move to a higher line screen, up to 200 lines per inch.”

Staying Current with Standards in Print and Packaging 2Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer is a unique plate technology specifically engineered to transfer all remaining ink to the print substrate due to the photopolymer plates having a lower surface energy than other plates on the market. It is an ideal technology for fixed colour palette printing. Not only does this deliver stunning graphical quality, but it also improves overall production efficiencies due to reduced makeready waste and fewer press wash-ups. In fact, independent testing reflects that Asahi plates with Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer deliver at least a 26% improvement in OEE.

“We began our fixed colour palette printing journey with Asahi’s AFPTM-TOP plates after a thorough market review, and found they had the best and most consistent ink transfer from start to finish during production runs. We subsequently added AWPTM  water-washable plates to take advantage of their precise plate-to-plate register, fast platemaking time and environmental benefits to round out our plate portfolio, for the best of all worlds in fixed colour palette flexographic printing.”

With fixed colour palette printing as a primary production process, Uniflex is able to virtually eliminate the need for spot colour inks and the associated costs of purchasing, managing and storing a large number of special colour inks. In fact, Uniflex is able to achieve more than 90% of Pantone colours using CMYK-OGV inks. In addition, fixed colour palette printing, since it uses this fixed set of inks, eliminates the need for press wash-up between jobs and makes it easier to combine multiple jobs into a single run. Presses come up to colour faster as well, reducing make-ready time and waste. In addition, the minimal ink concentration and pressure required during the printing process speeds up the plate cleaning process and reduces press downtime. When required, file conversion to extended gamut colour is accomplished using Esko Equinox.

“With the combination of our Esko and Asahi solutions,”Lungin concluded, “we not only have the cost and productivity benefits of fixed colour palette printing, but we also are able to achieve higher line screens and extremely brilliant colours without any compromise in colour stability. Homogenous ink transfer makes it nearly impossible to distinguish our fixed colour palette flexo printing from the highest quality gravure. We are now technically able to provide high-end printing quality that meets the expectations of even the most demanding customers!”

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The Value of Fixed Colour Palette Printing

Asahi-Photoproducts-Logo-600

 

 

by Dr. Dieter Niederstadt, Technical Marketing Manager Asahi Photoproducts

 

 

 

Anytime colour experts gather, you can be sure a topic of discussion is fixed colour palette printing, also referred to as Extended Colour Gamut printing. This process replaces the need for spot colour inks by using a fixed ink set, typically CMYK or CMYK/OGV.  The 7-colour process enables achievement of more than 90% of the Pantone colours.

Belarus-based Uniflex has been on its fixed colour palette printing for eight years, and sees it as the next milestone in quality and efficiency for flexographic printing. The company worked to assemble a suite of industry-leading solutions to position Uniflex in the forefront of modern printing techniques to better serve its existing customer base and to expand its global footprint.

“The decision to use fixed colour palette printing was not taken lightly,” Eugen Lungin, Production Manager of Uniflex said. “It required many changes in both our equipment and our staff. We tested many different types of polymers, inks, mounting tapes, plates, platesetters and prepress solutions in order to come to the best possible configuration. Our implementation process, which took about 1.5 years, also required proper training of our prepress engineers, press engineers, technologists and ink technologists. We also significantly changed our quality control processes. Asahi was a key partner in this journey.”

fixed colour palette printingUniflex chose to use Asahi’s AFPTM-TOP and AWPTM flexographic plates with Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer, finding them to be the ideal plate choice for this new production methodology. “Our customers have strict requirements relative to the quality of their printing,” added Lungin. “We are always striving to take advantage of the latest innovations in flexography in order to meet and exceed customer expectations, and fixed colour palette printing is definitely one of those innovations. High quality, eye-catching, yet functional packaging is what our brand owners are looking for, and plates from Asahi Photoproducts are a vital enabler for us to achieve that and more. We began our fixed colour palette printing journey with Asahi’s AFPTM-TOP plates after a thorough market review, and found they had the best and most consistent ink transfer from start to finish during production runs. We subsequently added AWPTM water-washable plates to take advantage of their precise plate-to-plate register, fast platemaking time and environmental benefits to round out our plate portfolio, for the best of all worlds in fixed colour palette flexographic printing. We are now able to achieve quality at up to 200 lines per inch.”

Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer is a unique plate technology specifically engineered to transfer all remaining ink to the print substrate due to the photopolymer plates having a lower surface energy than other plates on the market. It is an ideal technology for fixed colour palette printing. Not only does this deliver stunning graphical quality, but it also improves overall production efficiencies due to reduced make-ready waste and fewer press wash-ups. In fact, independent testing reflects that Asahi plates with Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer deliver at least a 26% improvement in Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

To learn more about the Uniflex journey and the cost, quality and productivity benefits the company achieved, read the full story here available in 9 languages.

About the Author:

Dieter_Niederstadt2Dr. Dieter Niederstadt, Technical Marketing Manager Asahi Photoproducts, is married with two children and has 28 year’s experience in the printing industry. In 1986, he started his career with an apprenticeship as a phototypesetter in an offset repro house in Dortmund Germany. In 1992, he began study at the University of Wuppertal/Germany print engineering and continuation at Watford College/UK with a B.Sc. (hones) degree in Graphic Media Study. He completed an M.Phil./PhD  in relation to screening technologies applied to flexographic printing at the University of Hertfordshire/UK in 1999.

From 1999-2003, Dieter worked at BASF Printing systems in Germany in the department of applied flexo plate technologies of which 1.5 years was spent with BASF printing systems in South America as a regional technical manager for photopolymer plates. Since 2003, he has worked for Asahi Photoproducts (Europe), and from 2014 in charge as a Technical Marketing Manager. He is a member of the FTA and DFTA, and a past forum speaker and participant in various association working groups.

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2017 Trends for Printing, Packaging & Graphic Design

x-rite-pantone logo

by Ray Cheydeur, Printing and Imaging Product Portfolio Manager

It’s now time to look into my crystal ball and see what printing trends converters, commercial printers and graphic designers should be following in the next 12 – 18 months.

Extended/Expanded Gamut

2017 could be the year where extended gamut printing really breaks out. This year both industry professionals and standards organizations have been taking a look at printing beyond traditional 12647-2, FOGRA 51, and GRACoL CMYK print processes. Idealliance is now recognizing XCMYK as a first start method for a litho printer to step into a larger gamut using higher ink loads. Energized by the release of the PANTONE Extended Gamut Guide, we see lots of testing of CMYK/OGV printing, showing both its promise for the designer in predicting a match and for the printer in extending gamut; as well as the tendency of this process to decrease variations over the print run. Since printing is accomplished with a fixed set of inks, it also offers production efficiencies, reducing the need for spot color inks and press wash-up between jobs, and offering less waste and press downtime. Our recent blog explains more.

Trends for Printing

Proofing Refined

Dare I say it? This may be the year where proofing of high OBA press stock is finally no longer a challenge! Most of the tools have been in place for a while (M1 for instruments, new definitions for viewing booths, characterization data sets ISO, Idealliance and FOGRA), but at least one element has been elusive: good brightened proofing stock that was also stable. This year these have started to emerge, and many organizations and consultants have proven that the combination of a whole system provides high quality proof-to-print matches without compromises.

Strategic Print 4.0

… or perhaps better titled “Collision of High Speed Digital and Traditional Offset.” At drupa 2016, we saw a raft of new high speed digital presses, all with either inline or near-line integrated color control systems. Maybe not as noticed, but equally important for existing printers, were the retrofits for existing analog and digital presses offering complete color control and direct press closed loop control in new near-line solutions. Either path offers the savvy printer a strategic path to “Print 4.0” to bring further automation to the print process.

Print Redefined

The expansion of print to non-traditional markets (wide format, signage, ceramics, textiles, electronics, etc.) is exciting and offers significant growth markets for printers. They also play to the strengths of printers by allowing them to execute on customer requirements and be a solutions provider to these markets. Attendance at shows, the excitement of printers who have invested in these technologies, and big YOY growth helps put the saying “print is dead” to rest.

Photo_Booth_Blog_Asset_2

Image courtesy of zazzle.com.

End-to-End Color Communication

Better color communication along each step of the process from creation to execution has always been key to X-Rite’s DNA. Because we play in many verticals where color, appearance and quality are key, we recognized early on the need for good communication among trading partners. In the print space, we see the continued expansion of X-Rite’s CxF Color Exchange Format, now embodied in a number of established ISO standards, and new work like PQX – Print Quality Exchange and PRX – Print Requirements Exchange which mix CxF/X with additional metadata all in XML.

Internet 4.0

Internet 4.0 is bringing a lot of excitement to color management, like PQX, iccMAX, mobile control and new materials. Keep an eye our blog. These innovations are all on our list of upcoming topics.

About the  Author:

 – 
Printing and Imaging Product Portfolio Manager

In addition to his role as Portfolio Manager for Printing and Imaging Products at X-Rite Pantone, Cheydleur is also Chairman of the U.S. Committee for Graphic Arts Technical Standards (CGATS), Chairman of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to ISO TC130 for Graphic Arts Standards, and Vice Chair of the International Color Consortium for Color Management (ICC).

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Manufacturing Trends to Watch in 2017

x-rite-pantone logo
by Shoshna Burgett

With 2016 behind us, it’s time to look ahead to 2017 and the upcoming manufacturing trends that will influence how we do business in the New Year. With rapidly changing technology, it’s difficult to know exactly what’s coming next, but we can definitely make some predictions.

Over the past year, I have interviewed many customers across a variety of manufacturing industries to learn more about their industry concerns, the design and manufacturing challenges they face, and the technologies that excite them. As I look into my crystal ball for 2017, here are some manufacturing and business trends to follow over the next 12-18 months.

Manufacturing Trends

Image courtesy of just-style.com.

On-shoring

Increased labor, transportation and energy costs coupled with stricter regulations and environmental concerns have lead many manufacturers to rethink offshore manufacturing strategies. While we are likely to see new government and trade policies that encourage local manufacturing, on-shoring has been a growing trend for the last three to four years. This is likely to accelerate as manufacturers adopt digital technologies that allow products to be designed once and produced locally.

The combination of standard operating procedures and integrated manufacturing systems to analyze performance and quality control will enable the adoption of local-to-local manufacturing across a range of consumer goods industries.

Transparency to the Supply Chain

Brands will continue to work towards a higher level of transparency in their supply chains, driven by the continuous pressure to reduce costs and innovate. Transparency is also a trend valued by many consumers, especially millennials. These consumers want to know where something is manufactured, what materials are used, and how long it takes.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP), management information systems (MIS) and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems are all evolving to provide more transparency and visibility into the supply chain process. Systems will be more connected, bringing supply chain data upstream where it can be analyzed. As a result, the product design to manufacturing process will become highly digitized. Brands that review hundreds or thousands of samples daily will be able to analyze them digitally, speeding up the entire processes and making more informed decisions when issues arises.

Custom Manufacturing

In 2017, we will see more custom manufacturing in textile and fashion. Short run custom manufacturing began with the photo market, and now extends to unique gift offerings. Advances in digital printing and 3D printing are creating new opportunities for short run and custom run printing. It will enable large and small brands to create unique “short run fashion,” which creates new opportunities for the apparel industry as well as the commercial printing industry.

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Image courtesy of wired.co.uk.

Changing Face of Brick and Mortar Shopping

The Amazon Go announcement drastically rethinks the way people shop for groceries. It combines online and brick and mortar shopping using innovative technology to create a new shopping experience. More importantly, Amazon is recognizing that that the customer journey is both physical and digital. Rumors of 20-2,000 stores by 2018 have been surfacing.

In order to own the point of purchase for consumers, Amazon will need to partner with brands to expand this concept. Imagine a BestBuy partnership with a simplified show room that allows consumers the opportunity to touch and experience an appliance, then click to order it. Pop-up store partnerships would allow both Amazon and a brand to trial new markets and products while sharing the costs. Brick and mortar drives brand loyalty, and Amazon loyalty is built through their Prime service. Together, the two offer a unique way to both lower costs and drive customer engagement.

amazon_go.0

Image courtesy of theverge.com.

M&A Activity

We will see further consolidation of the fragmented plastics market. There are a number of smaller independent plastics companies that offer excellent opportunities for larger players to create inorganic growth through acquisitions. In addition, I see a lot of M&A opportunity across vertical markets, such as commercial printing and plastics used in packaging. Through mergers and acquisitions, companies will be able to expand their reach into a specific application. We have already started to see this happen with VisiPak’s acquisition of National Plastic, expanding the shapes and sizes of thermoform packaging, and Nanogate’s purchase of Jay Plastics to expand their high-tech plastic and coatings. For companies where M&A many not be the right strategy, they can instead invest in new injection molding plants such as Nissei is in Texas.

Designing for 3D

In December, Adobe rolled out its new Felix Program which will simplify 3D design process. This announcement has a significant impact on the graphic design community and will allow graphic designers to expand their skill set and enter 3D. Graphic designers are the largest group of designers and they design for a slew of products. The software and ecosystem of Adobe Creative Cloud will make learning 3D easier, and integrating 3D with Adobe’s tools like Photoshop and their stock library will help to centralize the creative process.

Cherry_Blast

Composite created in Project Felix. Image courtesy of blogs.adobe.com

Solar Coating

Solar coating technology will be commercialized to turn everyday objects into energy sources. Over the next few years, this technology will mature and be used on windows, roof tiles, phones and cars. Companies to watch include NanoFlex’s Photovoltaic coating for automotive, and Tesla’s recently unveiled solar tiles for homes. Since they look like regular roof tiles, the investment is visually appealing for homeowners who did not like the look of larger mirror mountings.

Screen-Shot-2017-01-09-at-10.48.56-AM

Image courtesy of tesla.com.

Stay Tuned!

Only time will tell if these prediction and trends come true, but it will be interesting to see how they evolve over the next few years.

Burgett_Shoshana-150x150

 

Soshana Burgett
Director, World-Wide Marketing Communications

 

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January 23, 2017 · 8:24 am