By Michael McEnaney
While package and prototype printing can certainly pave the way to becoming a full-service print provider and produce added profits, entering this space also presents challenges. Hardware decisions are always important, however this specific printing realm also brings with it vital software decisions.
Among the considerations when selecting the correct packaging software suite are making sure it provides the right design elements, color management and proofing tools, as well as ensuring optimum media usage.
Once you give the checklist a good going over, the opportunities in this space are undeniable.
“There is profit to be made in package printing,” begins Bill Emery, founder, Billy the Printer, based in Levittown, NY. “It’s another opportunity for sure and you’re offering design right through to fulfillment. A lot of the machines can also be used for everything from signs to banners.”
But Emery agrees that the right software suite is key, saying, “the workflow here can be complex so you really need this process to be streamlined.”
Most print observers agree with Emery, sharing that while there are some similarities between packaging and signs and displays—notably the inclusion of structure—the creation of packaging is much different.
“There is structure that must be built into most packaging. There are requirements—UPC codes or ingredients—that must be accurate,” begins Bill Hartman, business development, digital finishing, Esko. “The presentation of three-dimensional (3D) virtual proofs—becoming much more common—is different from sending a PDF file of a brochure. The brand owner can spin the package around and see it from all angles before an expensive prototype is produced.”
Mark Gallucci, technology marketing manager, Agfa Graphics, agrees that profit potential exists in the packaging space for both traditional and wide format print providers, but also warns that the challenges are real and unique. An instrumental part of the equation for success is finding the right mix of professional expertise and specialized packaging software.
“Creative design programs, layout tools, and production workflow software all need to meet the unique requirements of package design and production,” shares Gallucci. “Packaging work is among the most color critical in the industry. Matching corporate and brand colors is essential, as is the ability to accurately reproduce spot colors.”
For print service providers (PSPs) thinking about entering into labels, cartons, and point of purchase applications, finishing is also an integral part of the initial design. “Die cuts, perforations, creases, milling, and routing may all be part of the artwork and require specialized tools to create and produce,” adds Gallucci.
Dan Bussey, product marketing specialist, MultiCam, Inc., feels the right software suite makes the decision to enter packaging less challenging.
“Implementing a packaging software suite provides professional designers a flexible and powerful way to structurally design folding carton and corrugated packaging,” he explains. “It’s a full set of intuitive drafting tools and transformations, specially configured for packaging design, enabling designers to solve any task with as few operations as possible.”
Nice Package Deal
New opportunities stem from current work and past connections. Jason Tuchman, owner, Pistol Studios, found a new direction for his company while walking down the street. “I ran into an art director I had worked with years ago. He had a new job, and was looking for some help with packaging prototypes,” says Tuchman.
Located in New York City, NY, Pistol Studios is a well-known design and photo retouching studio for the fashion and beauty industries. Tuchman started Pistol Studios in 2004 and has grown it from a 200 square foot room in Soho to a 5,000 square foot space in Tribeca. Over the years its clients have included Aveda, Clairol, Covergirl, Pantene, and Urban Decay, to name a few.
Based on the company’s experience with advertising and photo retouching, Pistol Studios was hired to do proofing and prototyping work for Bath & Body Works, a body, hand, and home fragrance retailer. To accommodate the needs of his newest client, Tuchman invested in two Roland DGA Corporation VersaCAMM VS series wide format inkjet printer/cutters with white and metallic ink.
“I asked my dealer for samples from each of its printers, and the Roland won,” explains Tuchman. “Printing white and metallic ink goes beyond being an advantage—for us, it’s an absolute necessity.”
Many of the packaging designs Tuchman runs for Bath & Body Works require the use of spot colors, as well as metallic, white, and silver under printings. Most are produced on clear or metallic labels, and require footprints with two hits of white or two hits of silver ink in addition to custom colors.
“I wanted to offer more printing options for my clients that work in packaging,” says Tuchman, when asked about the benefits of implementing a packaging software suite. “A lot of them needed the ability to proof white ink on clear substrate and traditional match printers and inkjet proofers were not offering that at the time. Between the ability to print white and silver inks and die cut, the Roland devices are a good solution for my business,” he continues.
Pistol Studios incorporates CGS Publishing Technologies International LLC’s ORIS Color Tuner // Web software to ensure accurate color proofs. “The CGS software provides custom colors right out of the box,” says Tuchman.
Now over three years into his decision to delve into the package printing space, Tuchman is pleased with the results.
“The return on investment is great,” he adds. “Proofing for magazines and other paper mediums has slowed down since mobile media became what it is today, but package printing will be around for a long time and the ability to offer color-correct package comps is a service that has started to pick up and grow over the years.”
Tuchman’s move into packaging and prototypes corresponds directly with the growth in the area of personal care packaging, which research firm Smithers Pira refers to as fashion, health, and environmental. In its The Future of Personal Care Packaging to 2018 report—published in October 2013—it cited that the global personal care packaging market was valued at $21.2 billion in 2012. This is growing at 4.9 percent a year, forecasting it to reach $28.2 billion in 2018.
The Cost Equation
In looking at the potential cost involved with implementing a package printing workflow solution, it depends on how sophisticated and involved the PSP wants to get, as expenses can run from a few tens of thousands to well over a hundred thousand dollars.
“Components, beyond just the portion that accepts and produces an Adobe Illustrator file, could include the design components—structural and graphic—extensive color management, and collaboration including 3D tools,” adds Hartman. “There is an overabundance of supporting tools, including barcode development, copy correction, and others. Of course, the more workstations installed, the more licenses needed.”
When it comes to discussing cost, Bussey feels the effort involved in training staff is where the focus should be. “Besides the initial cost of the software itself the only other costs associated with implementing a new solution to your workflow is the time and effort of training on the new software and learning how to implement it into the existing workflow in the most efficient manner possible,” he explains.
According to another recent report by Smithers Pira, the global market for digital printed packaging is forecast to be worth over $12.2 billion by 2016—ballooning to over $15.3 billion by 2018. The report adds that the growth is driven by the changing demands of packaging buyers—more varieties and packaging sizes are fragmenting the market, leading to shorter runs that digital technology produces economically.
Packaging companies are beginning to realize the many advantages of digital print. This past Summer’s Share a Coke campaign is a recent example. Replacing the iconic brand’s logo on the front of bottles with popular first names, inviting consumers to “share a Coke with family, friends, and loved ones,” this variable data initiative showed the packaging industry the potential today’s digital print technology holds. More importantly, it opened the eyes of many in the industry to the possibilities beyond short-run projects.
However, as is the case with any decision that influences the expansion of your business into new areas, an analysis of that venture’s long-term success is vital.
Stepping outside the print industry for a moment, veteran marketer Linda Conklin, who has handled the marketing duties for product distributors out of her Queens, NY office, explains one reason she feels the sky is the limit for the package printing market going forward.
“The packaging and labeling part of the equation have become the ultimate marketing billboard and one of the strongest and most cost-effective promotional tools for brands today,” says Conklin. “Market trends keep pointing out that brand loyalty is eroding and more consumers are making purchasing decisions at the shelf.”
The bottom line in today’s market is the fact that packaging buyers are looking for ways to better engage with customers using creative and more inventive measures. Additionally, they realize that digital print technology has lowered costs.
Requiring resiliency and the ability to reinvent your business is certainly nothing new for commercial printers as digital technology continues to move the industry in new and exciting directions. The timing for taking a look at jumping into the packaging space couldn’t be better as today’s applications are many and varied.
Based on research for this piece here are just a few of the applications you may want to take a closer look at if you’re planning on entering the package printing space.
Short-Run Packaging. We are clearly in the age of the small entrepreneur and many of them are looking to bring product to market. Their biggest need—eye-catching packaging. Many of today’s digital color presses are ideal for all types of labeling and short-run packaging applications. Your marketing and promotional expertise will be attractive here as well.
Labels. As mentioned above, today’s digital color presses are ideal and labels remain an excellent pathway into the packaging space.
Web to print packaging. Think about developing a Web site with packaging and label templates that allow potential customers to customize products for their brand, proof online, and place orders.
There are many more applications including direct marketing—using design and 3D visualization software; and prototyping—working with big consumer product accounts commercial printers often struggle with short runs so this can become a unique value-added service.
Opps on the Rise
The opportunities are growing in this market but, as previously stated, the right packaging software suite remains essential to the entire process.
“To make a digital press as profitable as possible, print providers need to process, prepare, and print a lot of short-run jobs. The prepress department will spend a lot of time manipulating, cleaning, and making files consistent before they are ready to be printed,” recommends Hartman. “A straightforward packaging design editor standardizes preflight and editing. This can reduce file preparation time by up to 50 percent.”
Gallucci also offers a final thought for those considering entering the package printing space. “A focused vision of the intended market and product types, the right software and tools, and a trusted business partner will help to maximize success.”
Package printing brings with it a new way of thinking about printing and, as Emery enthusiastically shares, “packaging buyers are looking for packaging solutions that stop consumers in their tracks. If PSPs do their homework on both the hardware and software side of this equation, they should be able to get these jobs.”
Apr2014, Digital Output