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Amos Michelson, Creo CEO, talks packaging

Monday, 06 August 2007
By Print 21 Online Article

As a company that is renowned for excellence in commercial printing, where does Creo fit within the packaging industry? How important is packaging to Creo? Where does Creo see the packaging industry headed, and what do they see as the challenges facing the industry? Amos Michelson, CEO of Creo Inc., reflects on these and other issues in an informative Q&A session.

Q: What production trends do you see happening, now and in the future?

“Packaging is changing. The biggest single trend is the move to digital processes, which is affecting trade shops and converters of all sizes. Also, the market itself is shifting. Some converters are bringing prepress functions in-house. At the same time, many CPCs (consumer product companies) have such complex requirements that they are relying more heavily on their trade shops to manage their digital workflows and assets. So the role of the trade shop may be shifting from file production toward data management. It may take several years for this trend to develop, but it’s something we are watching.

“Overall, economic pressures are causing automated processes to dominate, and many of the steps that are performed manually today will be eliminated by automation. End-to-end digitization of the production chain is also a significant trend. Everyone, from designer to buyer to prepress and press, is being connected in a single digital network.

“Packaging is a critical market for Creo. It is one of the growth areas in the printing industry. What’s especially interesting for us is that the packaging market’s requirements are continually evolving. Creo excels in developing and bringing to market innovative solutions that meet changing market needs.

“We’re also seeing that digital printing has a future in packaging. It will appear first in promotional items with very short runs and/or variable printing, and it will grow from there, as high speed digital printing becomes more mature on various substrates and thicknesses, with variable data and rules-based design and production.

“Of course, behind these trends there is a lot of technology. Some of it exists now, and some will appear over the next years. Creo is at the forefront, of course, with products like Synapse InSite, that allows easy connectivity between the creative side, the print buyers and the converters, so all of them can sit on the same digital network and understand each other’s requirements much better. Already there are printers working remotely with their customers through Synapse InSite, so the files that go into the Prinergy Powerpack system can be trapped, normalized, color-managed and ready to go to print in an automated process. And there are converters who have added digital printers, driven by Prinergy Powerpack, so they can offer digital output as well as conventional printing.”

Q: What business trends do you see?

“Private labeling is a big one: major retailers are changing the landscape with their power to dictate packaging requirements. Regionalization, versioning and customization is another trend. It all means shorter runs with quicker turnaround.

‘Another issue that affects local printers and converters is offshore competition. Printers and converters will have to be very aggressive about containing costs, faster at turning jobs on press, and more flexible in accommodating last-minute changes.

“These trends affect buyers as well. Increasingly, they are sending extremely long print runs overseas, while the shorter runs are done locally. A key issue, therefore, is coloUr consistency across media, printing processes and print facilities. This consistency is essential to support a consistent global brand image, so that a package in a European supermarket reflects the same brand characteristics as a package in an Asian supermarket.

“ColoUr consistency is also a critical issue for some CPCs that are pushing the design envelope. We are seeing fantastic innovative designs with incredible shelf impact. But in those demanding print projects the CPCs expect consistent colour from job to job and from plant to plant.

“Creo initiatives are pointing the way to solutions. The Creo Certified Color initiative, for example, is about colour consistency from the creative side to the print buyer and on to the colour proof and presswork. With the accuracy of Creo thermal CTP, Staccato, and Creo digital proofing, printing becomes a science. The reason it’s seen as an art is because output devices are not always consistent, so you need an artist to adjust the output to where it should be. We expect the Certified Color initiative to have an impact on proofing and output consistency, so that printing will become the predictable, consistent science that it should be.”

Q: What importance does Creo place on the packaging industry?

“Packaging is a critical market for Creo. It is one of the growth areas in the printing industry. What’s especially interesting for us is that the packaging market’s requirements are continually evolving. Creo excels in developing and bringing to market innovative solutions that meet changing market needs.

“We have dedicated a global team to serving the needs of the packaging market. Our packaging team consists of product managers, technical specialists, R&D staff, and sales and marketing personnel distributed all across the world. At Creo, our philosophy is to enable any print technology to be as good as it can be. Our research and development group is by far the largest in this industry, and we have put enormous effort into packaging technology. We are the only company that offers comprehensive hardware and software solutions for all major packaging technologies: offset, flexo and gravure. In the future we will provide solutions in digital print as well.”

Offset printing

“We are strongly established in the offset print market. Among the largest folding carton converters in North America, the top companies have standardized on Creo, many with Staccato screening. It makes business sense: in a tight market, converters are looking for ways to differentiate their products, and nothing impacts the look of the product more than screening.

“Also, Staccato screening (and SQUAREspot thermal imaging) enables Spotless printing, which is a boon for packaging printers and converters. With Spotless, a four-color press can effectively reproduce the great majority of spot colors. And if you want to replace almost any spot color – just about everything except silver and gold – you can do it with six or seven color printing. Think of the efficiencies of always running with the same inks on the press, and being able to print all the spot colors that any creative individual would want you to use.”

Flexo printing

“We have made tremendous progress in flexo since launching the ThermoFlex CTP device in early 2000. Among businesses in North America purchasing large format flexo CTP today, Creo is the most popular choice. We recently introduced the first digital plate-onsleeve imaging device, and our new screening technologies (HyperFlex, Maxtone, and DigiCap) allow much higher resolution, with better highlights than anyone thought flexo was capable of. Our HyperFlex resolution enhancement won both FTA and GATF awards, demonstrating our leadership in the flexo industry.”

Gravure printing

“We recently introduced a whole new kind of digital gravure process in the Exactus thermal gravure system. This brings the quality of SQUAREspot imaging to gravure printing. Gravure can now print with very high resolution, and far better consistency of output so the make ready time of the press can be shortened drastically.”

Digital Media

“Creo now offers complete solutions to offset packaging printers, with Creo media that is matched to Creo platesetters and proofers. Creo Mirus plates for offset are verified for Staccato 10 ultra-high resolution printing. And for colour proofing, we provide a full range of inks and media.”

Q: What technologies will have the greatest impact on prepress developments over the next several years?

“Data formats will have a huge impact. There’s a lot of excitement today about integration through PDF and JDF, and XML will also grow in importance. Of course Creo was there first: Prinergy Powerpack was the first end-to-end PDF solution in the packaging market, and Creo was the first prepress company to provide a suite of products capable of integration. Our new entry-level Powerpack solutions share the PDF and JDF technology of Prinergy with a low total-costof-ownership for smaller businesses, including tag and label printers.

“And we led the market by founding the Networked Graphic Production initiative, which is now a shared industry organization with 43 partners, and more are joining as we speak.”

Q: Why is NGP important?

“Networked Graphic Production, NGP, is about resolving the confusion surrounding data formats and communication from system to system. We want to be able to ensure that two NGP compatible products can actually talk to each other. JDF isn’t enough: two companies can be JDF compatible, but if their products use different subsets of the JDF standard, they may not be able to communicate. The idea of the NGP organization is to define exactly the same subset, so that when we say we are NGP compatible it actually means to the customer that two products speak to each other.

“With NGP you can tie planning, production, and digital workflow all into one process that can be connected seamlessly with the print buyer and the creative side. You can really have one complete digital world connecting all entities involved from idea to delivery.”

Q: What advice do you have to a packaging printer/converter?

“To face the challenges of the future anyone who wants to thrive will have to compete aggressively, and to differentiate themselves in a sustainable way. My one piece of advice is: go digital, and use digital technology to provide a more intimate connection to your customers, to reduce cycle time, reduce costs in your operation, and improve the quality of your printed product. But also be aware that technology alone will not ensure success. You will have to take it a step further by using it to promote and differentiate your business – to transform the way you do business with your customers.

“And choose the right partner to do it with, one that can support you through the transition, because the transition can be easy or it can be very difficult. Choose a partner who understands your market, who is willing to learn your business, and who can do more than just sell capital equipment – someone who can provide the training and professional services you’ll need. That’s advice that I’ll give to any customer. Go digital – with the right products and the right partner.”

Q: What are the key geographic regions that present growth opportunities for Creo?

“We are also aware of the diverse packaging needs of Asia Pacific. There is a growth of digital flexo and offset in Asia but, we also see tremendous opportunities in the gravure market. Keeping this in mind we have entered into this field with our new laser imaging system Exactus for gravure cylinder preparation. We also see opportunities in adjacent needs for packaging and we are busy working on our security and authentification products in the form of our Traceless taggants. All in all we are excited at the opportunities and product match we have in the Asian region.”

This article was brought to you by Creo Australia Pty Ltd

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