How To Use Digital Printing to Transform Your Label and Packaging Manufacturing
Packaging Impressions hosted a panel discussion titled “How Converters Are Using Digital Printing to Revolutionize Label & Packaging Manufacturing” at the 2023 PRINTING United Expo in Atlanta. The interactive forum provided firsthand perspectives on the use of digital printing in label and packaging manufacturing and how it can be used to boost operational efficiency, limit business costs, and strengthen the relationships between label and packaging printers and their customers.
Led by Packaging Impressions’ Editor-in-Chief Linda Casey, the session included insights from Joseph Del Rosario, production manager, Southern Champion Tray — Mansfield, Texas; Brad Haralson, general manager at Southern Champion Tray — Mansfield; and Matthew W. Greer, CEO at Digital Marketing Services.
The surface-level appeal of digital printing is that you can produce shorter runs in a more cost- and resource-efficient way. However, the benefits don’t stop there.
“As we’ve gotten to use the technology more, I’ve realized it’s not necessarily just about the size, the quantity, that you’re doing, but what you’re trying to do [to solve] a problem that only digital can solve. So, looking at it differently,” Haralson says. “And that’s been something that we continue to learn and figure out what makes the most sense.”
For Greer, the potential to broaden business with digital presses was the main draw.
“The idea of aggregating and bringing in multiple jobs across the same sort of substrates and product offerings was what was important to us,” he says. “And being able to automate all of that as much as we can from the user interface all the way to print production.”
With automation specifically, Greer says most of the benefit comes during the prepress process, touching on preflighting, communicating Pantone colors with press operators, and “really alleviat[ing] a lot of stress on the prepress department.”
Not only can digital presses streamline the prepress process, but they can also bolster the other end of the product creation with finishing.
In response to an attendee question about the compatibility of diecutters with digital presses, Del Rosario explains that while dies serve their purpose, using a laser can offer more flexibility for short runs.
“Using the laser for the small runs can provide that flexibility to reduce the costs and shorten the lead times on that, because we don't have to worry about getting tooling anymore,” Del Rosario says. “Then through the rapid-set gluer, eliminate that from our offset process flow to allow us to be much quicker and more responsive to what our customers' needs are.”
Digital presses may also make other finishing methods more efficient. Greer explains that at Digital Marketing Services, the application dictates the embellishment process.
“So on paper, you’re not going to do that in one pass, you’re going off to a secondary machine like an MGI; we operate two of those,” Greer says. “Or, if we’re doing full stamping, a much larger run, we’re putting that on the conventional process. In the label world, we are in a place where it can be done in-line with proper planning and execution.”
All these benefits make digital printing an asset to companies looking to strengthen their current customer relationships and reach out to prospective customers.
“From a current customer perspective, they're always looking for ideas. They're always pressing you, and we work with a lot of retail brands that are on the point of sale side of things and they're always asking: ‘What's new? What can we do to spice this up?’” Greer says. “And being able to have answers to those questions does win us more business than if we didn't have answers to those questions. I think on the new customer side of things, the more capabilities that you are able to show, the vast array of concepts that you are able to produce, it definitely just gives you a better stance.”