A vision from Steve Wood, Marketing Manager, Corrugated Display & Packaging, FUJIFILM Speciality Ink Systems. Fujifilm are the exclusive distributor of Inca's Onset flatbed printers.
The emerging needs of the corrugated print industry
The corrugated industry is booming. According to Smithers Pira Consultancy, the established association and worldwide authority on the packaging, printing and paper industries, demand for corrugated packaging material is expected to increase by more than 4% annually over the next five years.
According to its “The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2018” report, which was published in 2013, this will amount to almost 115 million tonnes of converted material, worth an estimated $176 billion by 2019. The reasons behind this trend vary, but are mainly connected with a change in consumers’ behaviour and consequently with the establishment of a different supply chain compared to what we see today.
The growth in internet shopping, for instance, stimulated by the popularity of smartphones and by a steady number of tech-savvy consumers, is having a strong impact on the demand for corrugated packaging. In traditional in-store retailing, one corrugated case would be used to transport several items to the retailer, whereas now each item has its own corrugated pack for distribution direct to the consumer. This is resulting in packaging diversification and personalisation.
In addition, the demand for retail-ready packaging is rising, driven by the influence of supermarket chains who are desperate to improve in-store and distribution efficiencies. As a result, converters are under pressure to provide retailers with appealing packaging and displays that can help brand owners gain maximum exposure and capture the attention of end users. What’s more, the growing tendency to create shorter campaigns and refresh brand campaigns more frequently is having a knock-on effect on the manufacture and supply of packaging goods.
Digital print as a leading technology to support the change
Digital print technology is playing a key role in this changing landscape. According to a press release issued in May by the European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers (FEFCO), new printing techniques are transforming corrugated packaging into eye-catching uses beyond its traditional purpose. FEFCO’s secretary general, Angelika Christ, states that the corrugated industry is leading the way for packaging in the future. In her words, “Innovative technology is improving both supply chain and in-store performance. Corrugated has already been transformed from protective transit packaging into multi-functional, colourful shelf ready packaging, without compromising product integrity.”
The Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) expressed a similar view in a recent statement, which explained how bespoke packaging is becoming increasingly popular and the corrugated industry is exploiting digital printing technology to give retailers and brand owners access to new business opportunities. Corrugated printers can take advantage of high-speed digital technologies to produce tailored print runs for seasonal, regional or event-based promotions. Personalised graphics can go to press in a few hours instead of days, and satisfy small or large production runs with quick turnaround times.
At FEFCO’s Summit, which took place in London in June, CPI’s Director of Packaging Affairs, Andy Barnetson, highlighted how personalisation facilitated by digital print technologies is injecting more creativity into the corrugated industry, while print-on-demand is offering retailers and brand owners cost-effective, customised marketing campaigns to boost sales.
According to Smithers Pira’s “The Future of Digital Print for Packaging to 2018” report, the conversion of corrugated board is expected to increase by over 22 million tonnes between 2014 and 2019, with almost 70% of this increase likely to be in flexo printed materials and a further 22% in litho printed applications. However, the highest growth rate will be in digital printing, which is expected to improve at an annual average of 7.4% from 2014 to 2019, after a year of strong growth in 2013. This follows a historical growth of 13.5% annually from 2009 to 2012. Digital print technologies are here to stay, are set to steadily grow and will be at the forefront of the future development of the corrugated industry.
This prediction is also supported by leading packaging manufacturers, such as Proctor & Gamble (P&G), who boast globally recogniszed consumer brands like Pampers, Pantene and Pringles, and who are aided by a supplier base of over 400 printers. According to an interview published by Packaging & Converting Intelligence, P&G has long been a proponent of digital printing, and in 2009 its French subsidiary issued a warning to potential partners looking to establish supplier links with the company, suggesting that those who didn’t invest in digital technologies might find themselves at a disadvantage. The ability to create customised products for retailers and customers, as well as the opportunity to respond to individual market needs and create short runs to reduce stock holdings, were the key motivations put forward by the French branch of P&G to encourage the development of a more digital orientated supply chain.
This is not to say that brand owners are totally dismissing conventional print technologies and embracing digital. Litho and flexo print will coexist with inkjet technology, as they provide packaging printers and corrugated converters with the flexibility to decide which process suits them best based on the number of pieces to be produced. However, when volumes give way to the value of highly customized consumer packaging and displays, digital technology wins every time. For run lengths of 2000m2 and below, potentially just to run lengths of just one, the set-up times of traditional processes and the pre-press costs involved, are not commercially viable for printers, and there is an opportunity to exploit this production niche using digital print technologies.
Fujifilm’s integrated inkjet platform for the corrugated market
As a leading print equipment supplier, Fujifilm is focused on the development of print solutions that meet the changing needs of the entire printing industry. The company is a strong advocate of inkjet technology and recognises its competitive advantage in the corrugated segment. Reduced time to market and a print on demand capability, together with the opportunity to cost effectively print run lengths from one to hundreds of pieces, are only a few of the benefits of using inkjet technology.
Fujifilm considers inkjet platforms to be an ideal complement to analogue processes in that they allow converters and packaging manufacturers to widen their business opportunities and make profits from short run jobs and bespoke applications. Inkjet presses enable corrugated printers to reduce pre-press costs, as they remove the need for plates, pre-coating and post-print lamination.
The absence of pre-press also translates into lower costs per single piece produced and quicker turnaround times, giving packaging printers the opportunity to meet time-sensitive deadlines.
In 2014, Fujifilm demonstrated its commitment to the corrugated industry with the introduction of an integrated solution, which is a combination of the Inca Onset flatbed platform, Fujifilm’s Uvijet inks dedicated to corrugated board applications, and an automated handling system.
Fujifilm’s Uvijet digital inks offer vibrant colours, excellent cut and crease features, and a range of finishes from low glare satin to high impact gloss that can be used for all types of corrugated applications. The inks guarantee low odour, and can be implemented on any of the high-end Inca Onset flatbed UV printers sold globally by Fujifilm. The Onset platform uniquely features ‘Scaleable Architecture’, which is an innovative modular design that gives users the power to evolve the productivity/colour specifications of their printers to match their budget and changing business needs.
To complete its corrugated platform, Fujifilm has introduced advanced three quarter or fully automated handling systems that enable improved efficiency and productivity within the production environment. The modularity of Fujifilm’s corrugated solution enables converters and packaging producers to select the most appropriate combination of Onset printer and handling system which, together with the advanced functionalities of Fujifilm’s Uvijet ink, will allow them to achieve high throughput and produce high quality POP displays and corrugated packaging.
Where are we heading to?
The corrugated industry will continue to prosper and succeed through the integration of conventional and digital equipment. Converters are increasingly asking for technologies that can help them to produce display and transit packaging more efficiently, reducing lead times and giving them the opportunity to easily and cost-effectively create samples and short runs.
Digital inkjet technologies provide the answer to these requirements, with continuous development helping to constantly improve the performance of inkjet printing systems, and make them increasingly competitive and compelling for the corrugated POP and packaging applications.
For further information please contact:
Inca Digital Printers: Heather Kendle T: +44 (0)1223 577800 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Manufacturer of wide format digital printers.