Thinking Outside the Box

Some of the trends impacting the packaging and prototyping market help make this an opportune time for PSPs.

A key trend is the move toward shorter runs within this sector. What’s behind the trend? “You can talk about trials, you can talk about brand owners wanting to update their brands, you can talk about the vertical segmentations of brands,” says Mark Sullivan, Product Director of Digital Printing for Presstek. “It’s all the reasons you see in print toward shorter print runs.”

Shorter runs are clearly an advantage for print service providers wanting to avail themselves of opportunities in the world of packaging, Sullivan says.

“They’re used to the fact that run lengths are decreasing,” he said. “So they may have an opportunity there because they’re set up for shorter-run lengths...A typical print service provider’s set up for much shorter run lengths than your typical converter.”

Eric Frank, Vice President of Marketing for KBA North America, explains the move toward shorter runs is also due to an increase in versioning. Instead of making a single package 100,000 times, 10 different packages are made 10,000 times. “For packagers, that means a press that is much more efficient, with shorter makeready times,” Frank says.

A second trend is in-line quality control systems, which are particularly important in pharmaceuticals, cosmetic packaging, and other high-end packaging work. In-line quality control systems yield brand consistency, and help ensure zero defects in the manufacturing of the packaging, Frank says. “Such systems measure color consistency and ensure flawless boxes throughout the run. This allows the print service provider to run without stopping, as the press can identify flaws automatically.”

Becoming a marketing service provider is where the opportunities can be found. “This translates into helping in box design, use of special effects to have packages stand out, and more efficient packaging for more efficient material use and filling of packages,” Frank says. “This can also include integration of social media concepts, QR codes, and other media in addition to the box, so the print provider can be seen as a total solution provider.”

It’s not simple to enter this market, however, because the market is replete with what Frank calls, “industry titans and highly specialized packaging organizations. The best start is for traditional printers to partner with the highly specialized and independent organizations to ensure there’s a streamlined process.”

Both the traditional print provider and the packaging companies offer different services, but many corporations need both, he adds. “So by forming an alliance, there’s a gain of synergies, and it allows traditional printers to learn about the marketplace.”

If traditional printers enter the packaging market on their own, Frank adds, they must educate themselves about the opportunities through manufacturers and organizations like the Paperboard and Packaging Council (PPC). The council offers “training classes in everything from box manufacturing to sales to distribution,” Frank says.