How Color Ink’s Versatile, Technology-Focused Approach Takes Packaging to New Heights
Since its founding in 1984, one question has been at the forefront of how Color Ink approaches both its technology investments and how it serves its customers.
“Is there a better way to do something?” says Todd Meissner, president of the Sussex, Wis.-based print service provider. “That’s been our commitment.”
Embracing the latest developments in technology spanning prepress, digital printing and finishing, along with the latest in conventional technologies, has served as a catalyst for Color Ink’s success in its nearly four decades of operation. With that diversity of technology, Meissner adds, Color Ink has established a reputation for its versatility in both the products it provides and the market segments it serves.
As Austin Meissner, Color Ink’s VP of operations and Todd Meissner’s son, explains, the company’s roots are in the commercial printing segment, but in the past five years, it has pivoted into the packaging space, adding a variety of paperboard packaging products to its repertoire, with an eye on added value. Realizing a need for quick-turn production as brand owners face increasing speed-to-market pressures, he explains that digital solutions have been an instrumental component to Color Ink’s packaging success.
The company has embraced inkjet and toner platforms, with a Komori Impremia IS29 and Fujifilm JPress 720 on the inkjet side, along with the toner-based Konica Minolta AccurioPress C6100. Beyond print, Color Ink has also invested in digital finishing and converting platforms, providing creative packaging results with the efficiency that digital brings to the forefront.
That efficiency, Todd Meissner explains, is particularly handy when a customer is in need of a low volume order. For example, he says that one of Color Ink’s customers produces more than 400 SKUs. Some of those SKUs require between 500,000 to 1 million pieces per year — a good fit for Color Ink’s conventional production. But for the short-run SKUs requiring between 500 to 1,000 pieces per year, Color Ink’s digital finishing platforms, which include the MGI JetVarnish 3D for digital embellishment and the Highcon Euclid III laser diecutting system, offer an effective way to quickly and cost effectively produce those jobs.
“[Conventional production can be] costly because you have to buy a steel rule die – you pay a lot of money for those minimum runs and are having to waste unused product,” he says. “Now we’re offering a full turnkey solution. We can digitally print, diecut, and embellish, and get that per unit cost down.”
Another of Color Ink’s key differentiators is its ability to provide printed products that can serve to support its packaging production. For example, in the beverage space in particular, Color Ink’s wide-format capabilities allow it to produce in-store merchandising and point of purchase displays. With equipment that includes a Q40i Onset and SpyderX from Inca, along with an Agfa Jeti Mira LED, Color Ink is able to support its packaging customers with eye-catching displays that add to a product’s visual presentation.
“With the wide format, we’re developing merchandising displays — designing and producing POP displays,” Todd Meissner says. “It’s not just individual product packaging. We’re providing merchandising solutions.”
Before products get to market however, Color Ink is able to lean on its digital production equipment to produce high-quality and cost-effective samples and prototypes. With digital printing, along with converting on the Highcon Euclid III, Austin Meissner explains that brand owners are able to replicate a production quality sample, which they can then assess under their specific parameters. Digital technology, he adds, makes this process both fast and affordable.
“With digital, we’re able to be nimble and quick on prototypes,” he says. “We’re able to present a four-color printed and finished product using our digital tools. We can furnish a one off where they can get a visual of a four-color package with spot UV, finished on the Highcon and they don’t have to get a steel rule die.”
With all of these capabilities in house, Todd Meissner explains that educating customers about the potential that the company’s various technologies can bring to their packaging requires a little bit of show and tell.
For example, he explains that when running a job, the digital equipment allows Color Ink to produce a one-off sample that includes embellishments such as foil, special coatings, or a raised UV varnish. Seeing how an embellishment can enhance a package can then be the kickstart for that customer to consider these techniques for future jobs.
“Sometimes we’ll generate a one off with foil or coating,” he says. “We can say ‘Here’s what you requested, but for a little more you can get foil or coating and add this technique.’ We can show them and they’re amazed. Oftentimes that’s the catalyst to get them to get them thinking differently.”
In addition to encouraging their customers to think differently about their packaging, Todd Meissner says that Color Ink has cultivated a company culture that not only encourages employees to adapt to changes that packaging production has brought to the table, but also welcomes their input.
While the company’s technological investments have been key components to its shift into packaging, a shift in mindset has also been important to ensure the complexities of packaging production do not go overlooked. Austin Meissner explains that historically, Color Ink has been a “marketing minded” company, and while that has served it well, developing a “manufacturing mindset” has helped the team quickly adapt to the demands of folding carton production, extending beyond printing and into diecutting and folding/gluing.
“The team that has embraced the packaging mindset,” he says. “And we’ve equipped ourselves with the right tools.”