Package Printers Share Expansion Strategies During PRINTING United Digital Experience
Since its debut in October of 2019, the foundation of PRINTING United has been to provide a platform for print service providers across all segments of the industry to learn how they can expand on their capabilities, and offer new opportunities for their customers. While the 2020 edition of the show took place in the virtual realm, this concept of growth and expansion remained at the forefront of the 14-day event.
During the two packaging days, attendees saw multiple examples of how printers and converters have utilized the latest technologies available to expand their repertoires. Whether it was expanding from labels into flexible packaging, utilizing digital technology to offer packaging prototypes, or launching new business models altogether, the PRINTING United Digital Experience left attendees with multiple first-hand experiences of growth in the packaging segment.
On October 29, a day dedicated entirely to labels and flexible packaging, the concept of “convergence” was on display. A key theme of the 2019 edition of the show, convergence in the printing industry has been defined as print service providers expanding into new segments. In packaging, much of the convergence stems from label printers expanding into flexible packaging. In the day’s opening panel, representatives from Hammer Packaging and Inland Packaging, two companies that have each bridged the gap between labels and flexible packaging, shared their experiences.
At Rochester, N.Y.-based Hammer Packaging, Kimberly Flynn, the company’s marketing manager, explained that contact with a variety of resources is essential in helping shape the new avenues the company may explore. For example, she said that input from customers and suppliers, along with students and experts at nearby Rochester Institute of Technology, have been instrumental in guiding Hammer Packaging as it grows in the flexible packaging arena.
“We look at the technology we’ve invested in and push the boundaries of that technology,” Flynn said. “We operate by ‘lead don’t follow.’ We never want to do the same thing everyone is doing all the time. That doesn’t give us any advantages. It’s about keeping our finger on the pulse and staying ahead of that.”
Jackie Kuehlmann, Inland Packaging’s director of marketing, added that for the La Crosse, Wis.-based company, monitoring consumer behavior and taking deep dives into shifts in the packaging landscape are important steps when looking at new segments or packaging applications to bring on board.
“A big piece of it is looking at the overall packaging market and really understanding the dynamics that are driving changes there,” she said. “Is there a shift from one label type to another? Why is that happening? Is there significant growth in one area over another?”
While diversification into new segments is an increasingly common way package printers are offering new options for their customers, creative and strategic implementation of the latest digital printing technologies is another way in which the packaging industry is expanding its reach.
For example, at Cincinnati-based Wingate Packaging, the addition of an HP Indigo 30000 digital press and digital cutting and creasing equipment from Highcon has led to the creation of the company’s First Article Program, a sampling and prototyping service that provides customers with production-quality results.
During a panel on the Folding Carton and Corrugated day held on Nov. 4, Chris Kline, general manager of Wingate Packaging, explained that after seeing how customers were relying on rudimentary methods of prototyping, Wingate was able to step in with high-quality digital solutions.
“It’s been a challenging year for everyone and most of our portfolio consists of commodity food packaging,” Kline said. “Our First Article Program has seen a lot of interest from our existing customer base.”
Joining Kline on the panel was Justin Best, VP of graphics and production for Precision Digital Printing. A pioneering company in the corrugated segment, Best detailed how Jonesboro, Ark.-based Precision Digital Printing was an early adopter of the EFI Nozomi C18000 digital press and built its entire business model around the technology.
Because single-pass, direct-to-board, inkjet technology is still in its early stages in corrugated, Best explained that Precision Digital Printing serves as a supplier of high-quality digitally printed sheets to corrugated converters who may not have invested in the technology.
“People had been familiar with multiple pass machines, but the speed and turnaround times drove home that this was the next big thing in corrugated,” he said.