Insight into the strategic thinking of key stakeholders in the packaging arena is always good to have. In ordinary times, one good place to gain such insight is at trade shows like interpack or drupa, both originally scheduled for this Spring in Düsseldorf, Germany. But with both of these shows postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, we look elsewhere to learn what’s coming down the pike, and one good source is a recent article (available here in multiple languages) produced by Bobst, a leading supplier of printing and converting equipment and services for the label, flexible packaging, folding carton, and corrugated industries. The fundamental premise of the article is that the entire production chain needs to become more agile, flexible, and interconnected. Highlights from the article are presented here:
• Across the whole production workflow, more fact-based and timely decisions will be required as we enter a period where connected systems will share data across the entire production process for faster and precise optimization.
• From the initial design file to the final produced label or carton, all steps of packaging production will become interlinked. A change at the design stage will automatically be communicated to all next steps downstream. The specific tasks at each stage of the process—such as printing, cutting, and folding—will be automated with digitalized solutions, enabling a much faster turnaround time.
• In the digital transformation now underway, label converting has led the way. But now the digitalization of printing processes is sweeping the entire package converting community. As this unfolds, says Bobst Group CEO Jean-Pascal, “The biggest challenge for printers and converters is not the individual printing machines, but rather the entire workflow encompassing converting.”
• In a more automated and interconnected world, there will be a fundamental change in the types of personnel and skills required throughout the workflow. The data reported back by the machines will require the operators to have the global view of the entire process, and it will no longer be sufficient for an operator to specialize on a given technical task.
• Human knowledge and proximity will always be required. But rather than focusing on repetitive manual or technical tasks, the human input will be more on the value-adding contributions to more automation and better packaging production.
• Bobst digital solutions enabling better automation and connection include these: DigiFlexo technology, which enables the automatic control of color quality and consistency, the ability to print across numerous substrates, and the ability to consume less ink and generate less waste than conventional flexo processes; DigiColor, the first closed-loop color control system in the flexo industry; MASTER DM5, a hybrid label press encompassing a digital printing module with the Mouvent Inkjet cluster; and the ACCUCHECK in-line inspection system, which inspects carton blanks for defects and guarantees complete quality consistency.