The possibilities in packaging are endless. Unique shapes, textures, and brightly colored packaging attract consumers to products on store shelves. The quality and visual appeal of a package could be the deciding factor in a shopper’s choice between competing merchandise. Retailers and marketers understand the importance packaging, and take great strides to ensure designs are aesthetically appeasing, represent the product well, and are economically and ergonomically practical and safe.
With these factors all equally important, the design and mock-up stage of packaging is critical, and can get expensive. For this, retailers and packaging manufacturers enlist White Graphics, a one-stop-shop for all packaging needs.
Richard White, president, White Graphics of Downers Grove, IL began his career in the graphic arts working for a print separator. As the need for his services became more specialized, White set off to take his prepress business to a separator that didn’t print. "I ended up splitting my business," says White, adding that a lot of the work he did back then was packaging related. "We’d get into relatively short runs of production packaging, and that required multiple vendors," he explains. At the urging of his customers he began his own company as a print brokerage in 1988.
Today, White Graphics caters to the creation and production of packaging prototypes for prominent clients such as Homedics, M&M Mars, and the Packaging Corporation of America. "Packaging requires a tremendous amount of equipment, and you can’t staff a company for short run items, so we have a lot of partnerships with companies like corrugated sheet plants and wide format print service providers," says White.
While the shop has some in-house production capabilities, White Graphics mostly relies on partnerships with smaller packaging companies to quickly turnaround short run quantities. "All of the mock-up work and prototyping we do in-house," stresses White. "When we get into short runs we bring in partners."
Once a team of in-house staff and manufacturing partners completes a project, White Graphics assembles, drop ships, and co-packs projects for the client in-house. "It’s an effective business model because we can work very fast," says White. He notes that his client list includes some of the big corrugated manufacturers because they don’t want to bog down their machines with smaller jobs.
Embracing New Opportunities
In January 2009, White Graphics was operational with a Roland DGA Corp. VersaUV LEC-300 digital printer/cutter, a piece of equipment that White views as business changing for his company. Without a prior relationship with Roland, the purchase of the LEC-300 was serendipitous. White says he was on the lookout for a versatile piece of equipment that was reasonably priced. The goal was to create flexible packaging prototypes—bags, pouches, and small pressure-sensitive label products," says White. A majority of the equipment White looked at was prohibitive due to the high cost of the equipment and the lack of versatility. He admits they were asking for a lot, but luckily, Roland delivered.
"We looked at a number of machines over a few years that would do most of the work, but were expensive. Our client base and what we needed to do could never justify the cost," says White. "The LEC-300 does everything and more. It prints white in addition to the four-color process, and the color curving to match corporate colors is outstanding," says White.
The Roland VersaUV LEC-300 UV inkjet printer/cutter prints white in addition to a clear coat and automatically contour cuts. Ideal for proofs, label and packaging prototypes, and short run production, the LEC-300 uses White ECO-UV ink to create crisp graphics and text that are used as an undercoat to enhanced the brightness of prints. The LEC-300 prints on paper, including clear and metallic media, synthetic and natural leathers, window coverings tapestries, fabrics, and other interior décor items. The LEC-300 also supports printing on foils, BOPP, PE, PET film, offset printing paper stock, and more—up to 30-inches wide.
A quick turnaround is the name of the game. Customer lead time is the biggest production challenge for White Graphics, and is something they’ve mastered over the years. "No matter what happens, the deadline never changes," quips White.
With seven dedicated employees, strategic utilization of certified temporary employees, and an extended partner network, White Graphics understands the importance of a deadline. "We take all of the pressure of the media buyers. They come to us with the entire project and we’ll take care of it for them. If we can make their life easier, than we’re offering a value," says White.
White admits his business is a niche practice that requires a specific skill set. The company is at an advantage because competition from the Internet isn’t as prominent as it is for commercial printers and direct mailers. "You can’t package product on the Internet, and you need a box or bag to put your product in," says White. As a result, packaging will exist well into the future.
White Graphics offers a prime example of an efficient packaging prototype production house. Creating packaging prototypes is intense and requires skill, but provides an element of timelessness and creativity not found in all areas of the graphic arts. With the help of versatile equipment and a talented staff, anything is possible. Read more about package printing and prototyping in the April issue of Digital Output.