Flexographic Printers & Performance: Identifying & Delivering Value Will Prove Critical in 2019

“First-time right!” FTA printer members continue to live by that mantra, based on response to FLEXO Magazine’s recent call for a quick take on 2019 business prospects. Comment addresses: likely strategic moves, top priorities, utilization of technology as an advantage and overall perception of the impact of standards and process controls on performance.

Printer Opinion of the Business Climate

At year opening, printers still identify downtime as the demon and pledge to: take in the big picture, avoid shortcuts and the temptations they bring, automate, integrate, pursue efficiency, boost productivity, control variables and enhance the quality of product put out.

“Logic rules,” they maintain, as they hone in on resource allocation, training and education, ongoing investment and what one member deems, “critical combinations—customer demand and competitive pressure.” The mission, condensed into a single statement: “Identify and deliver value.”

Participants maintain, “SKU proliferation, customization, multiprocess print and personalization are frequent demands.” Just as a large contingent of printer members did in September, the smaller pool of January respondents cite cost control, color management, reduced setup and makeready times, short runs, quick turns, waste reduction and sustainable business practices as ripe targets for action.

Nearly all indicate that the number of jobs passing through each one of their plants is on the rise, prompting them to look to technology for an assist in meeting ever-changing demand for customization, compliance and the like.

The Synopsis

In a September 2018 FLEXO Magazine Flash Poll, FTA printer members willing to list out lingering challenges came to a consensus that January respondents proclaim still holds and will for quite some time. The specifics: color management is the top challenge of better than 60 percent of respondents. Half believe short runs demand considerable attention. Just under half continually focus on trimming setup and makeready times.

Nearly 40 percent stress quick turns and waste reduction, while more than one-third concentrate on automating workflow. Twenty-five percent look to better meet the competition digital brings, with three quarters of that group identifying multiprocess print as a logical solution. Sustainability and environmental compliance have a prominent place on the agenda of at least 20 percent of plants.

Challenges Printers Face

Standards & Controls

“Process control—large brands drive it. Small brands need it. Printers are left to sort it out.” That’s the claim of one narrow web converter, who insists, “For most label printers, it is critical to capitalize on process control for survival.”

He further laments, “The benefits are great in the long term, but it takes a sound understanding of the tools, specifically color management. Process control becomes even more important as digital enters into the mix.” Another point made clear follows: “Our continuous improvement campaign requires a solid understanding of process improvement practices to stay on top of ever-changing requirements.”

Read about suppliers’ perspectives for 2019, including priorities, advantages and impact.

Shawn Oetjen of AWT Labels and Packaging and Flexo Tech maintains, “Standardization, process control and printing to the numbers is so important.” He points to truly understanding FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances) methodology as “essential.” Then, he observes, “Far too often, shortcuts are taken to save time, but in the long run, more time is actually spent and money is wasted.”

Shawn urges peers to not lose sight of the importance of hue angles and gray balance as they work across multiple platforms in a growing marketplace. He adds, “Seemingly simple things, like using clean anilox rolls or knowing the current volume, are far less common than they should be.”