Prepress Optimization, Print Quality Management (PQM) and the Total Supply Chain

Color consistency across print technologies, substrates and packaging configurations is extremely critical in today’s demanding consumer environment.

Achieving it requires the right partners to ensure consumer confidence.

Brands are navigating a new normal, which translates into speed-to-market initiatives, reduced quantities and high quality. Add sustainability to the mix, and owners are challenged more than ever. New screening and imaging technologies have supported evolving needs with flexographic print results rivaling or exceeding comparative print technologies and delivering on key market strategies.

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Figure 1: SGS & Co facilities span more than 30 countries on six continents. The Minneapolis location is pictured above.
All photos courtesy of SGS & Co and Esko

For a premedia trade shop like SGS & Co, it’s essential to work closely with CPCs to ensure all requirements are met, regardless of brand-specific dynamics.

Why? In consumers’ minds, the product and the packaging are one and the same. The package can often be the difference between a consumer walking by a product vs. adding it to their basket. Shopkick’s 2021 Shopper Outlook reports that even with a perceived shift to online shopping, 89 percent of shoppers prefer to continue the in-store shopping experience and 82 percent are more inclined to purchase after seeing and holding a product in store (up 10 percent in 2020).

The trend has caused premedia trade shops to redefine both mission and function.

SGS & Co is a global brand impact group supporting brands and printers in their efforts to deliver product and packaging visions to the physical and digital shelf. This dynamic structure stretches over six continents, 30+ countries and includes some 4,700 team members. A point of differentiation is its commitment to the industry and significant investment in technology to ensure the desired impact can be delivered with the most innovative and state-of-the-art solutions.

“Maintaining a leading position in technology through capital investment is a key part of SGS & Co’s strategy,” reveals President of Americas Hollie Gonzales. “Staffing with the most qualified personnel in the industry is of equal importance.” Solutions span the entire product lifecycle from intelligence, to design, to amplification, to production. The organization takes pride in its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; along with ambition to lead the industry to a more sustainable future to drive positive impact for the clients, people and planet.

Connecting to Brands

Mediabox is the firm’s proprietary web-based artwork management application, designed to help organize, manage and deploy projects with greater efficiency, accuracy and speed.

With 40,000+ users, Mediabox helps brands understand critical workflow processes and deploy automated workflow technology to move projects through the right touchpoints and out the door faster than ever before.

The intuitive Mediabox brand-facing user interface utilizes state-of-the-art technology to provide the most advanced user experience on the market. “Our goal is to make it easy for brands to connect to SGS & Co,” states VP of Client Facing Technology Alex Monich. “We connect via Esko WebCenter or our highly customizable Mediabox to make the communication as simple and seamless as possible.”

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Figure 2: SGS & Co integrates with Esko’s WebCenter and employs its custom Mediabox solution to connect with brands around the world.

Mediabox offers extensive system flexibility which allows any project manager to do on-the-fly changes to a workflow to add, remove or go back to a specific phase with just a click. This flexibility also means there are integration opportunities with tools like Esko WebCenter and/or Automation Engine, adding additional power to existing workflow processes.

But workflow tools aren’t the only ways the brand impact group connects with the brand. Highly automated processes for file management, preflight, color conversion, trapping and focused QC checks are reducing timelines and improving accuracy. Esko Automation Engine is heavily leveraged to enable file movement and other specific file-based executions to make these automatons possible.

By combining a variety of both off-the-shelf and internally developed solutions, the aim is to support brand impact in the most efficient and cost-effective ways.

Print Services

In the flexographic printing industry, there has been a long debate as to what is more important—technology or procedures. Is it the technology you employ or is it the way you execute it? The philosophy at SGS & Co is that they are of equal importance.

While maintaining state-of-the-art hardware and software is key to strategy; optimizing those tools for the specific characteristics of the converter, and leveraging in-house expertise, is of equal importance. Print Quality Management (PQM) programs assure that the prepress is optimized for the converter where the job will be printed.

There are many variables that need to be considered in packaging print, reflects VP for Color and PQM Cheryl Johnson. “Converters around the globe have inherently different printing characteristics and there are reasons for that. End-use requirements dictate ink and substrate which, in turn, dictate anilox roll, tape, plate and other variables critical to print quality; not to mention the need to source raw materials locally.” SGS & Co works closely with converters to provide advice and capture print data used to adjust prepress for the specific printing conditions.

When onboarding a new customer, the team likes to get a thorough understanding of needs. It then designs a PQM program to meet the specific demands of the converter. “We don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ PQM program that’s used at every converter,” states Global Account Director for PQM Shawn Austin. “The number of pressruns we perform, the test elements we print, and the way we use the data can vary with the type of printing, the brand customer and the converter.”