Digital printing adds value to packaging in a variety of ways. The role of digital printing is gaining importance in the label market and with new digital presses coming on the market at the end of 2013 and in 2014 we are going to see similar results in folding cartons and flexible packages.
Digital printing adds value by:
- decreasing the cost of short run packaging
- speeding up time to market via decreasing prototyping lead times
- enabling packaging on demand
- being greener than offset or flexography
- offering new options for improving packaging security and preventing counterfeiting
- enables micromarketing options
Digital printing can help brand managers decrease the cost of short run packaging for SKU’s. It has been proven that segmenting products to match consumer demands more closely can increase sales. This trend, often referred to as SKU Proliferation, has a downside. The cost of the supply chain rises, especially as run lengths decrease. Digital printing, with no make-ready costs, can reduce the cost of short run packaging thereby allowing brand managers to reap the benefits of finer product segmentation.
Digital printing can also improve speed to market with rapid prototyping. Combined with 3D visualization, the process of collaboration in design and prototyping can be rapidly accelerated. Supply chain managers can reduce inventory costs and obsolescence by moving to a packaging on demand mode. This is only feasible with digital printing. While the cost of printing per unit might be higher, in this mode the overall cost of packaging is lower.
Digital printing is greener than flexo or offset printing. Waste in make-ready and waste from obsolescence is dramatically reduced. Sustainability is one of the single biggest factors brand managers are concerned with. Vehicles such as Walmart’s scorecard often measure packaging’s impact on the environment. Carbon footprint is impacted by manufacturing/printing processes, substrates, inks, weight, and shipping distance. So while appearance and functionality are important, sustainability carries equal weight and is only increasing in importance.
Brand security, anti-counterfeiting, and the ability to track and trace have also risen on the scale of importance. Using micro-text or specialty inks/toners, digital printing offers a variety of methods to protect from counterfeiters. Solutions for food packaging offer increased ability to track origination and distribution to ensure quality and safety. Pharmaceuticals need to manage controlled substances. And, retail channels need solutions to assist with product theft without intruding on the consumers shopping experience.
Micro marketing or regional marketing promotions are becoming more important for brand managers and retailers. The ability to supply unique promotions for one retailer versus another is gaining momentum. National brands are increasingly using promotions to compete with private labels. To execute these types of programs requires fast design and approval cycles and fast execution. Digital printing makes this possible.
And the ultimate in customer communications is personalized packaging, where the customer designs or personalizes the product. While not high volume applications, they are high value add for the brand image. Personalized packaging has also been effectively integrated into cross media marketing campaigns, producing improved response rates.
To learn more about the opportunities for digital printing in packaging download Caslon’s report titled: Making Sense of the Opportunities in Digital Printing and Innovation in Packaging.