Brand owners and converters will continue to stay under pressure like never before. A lot of challenges are affecting the industry such as faster time-to-market, e-commerce and sustainability.
Suppliers of packaging equipment and packaging services are seeking a transformation in the industry. Bobst has established four main pillars: connectivity, digitalization, automation and sustainability. The entire production chain needs to become more agile and flexible. Across the whole production workflow, more fact-based and timely decisions will be required. The next growth period will include connected systems that will share data across the entire production process for faster and precise optimization.
From the initial design file to the final produced label or box, all steps of the packaging production will become interlinked. A change at the design stage, whether layout or structural, will automatically be communicated to all next steps downstream. The specific tasks at each stage of the process, such as printing, cutting and folding, will be automated with digitalized solutions, enabling a much faster turnaround time.
How far have we come – and where do we still need to go?
The digital transformation is happening at different speeds across the packaging industry. There is a consensus that labels have led the way and, after a slow initial start, there are now more digital label presses sold than conventional printing machines. The label industry has reached a stage where the digital solutions can deliver results at a satisfactorily comparable quality, productivity and cost level to conventional presses. Moreover, labels are less complex to produce than flexible packaging, folding carton and corrugated boxes, notes Bobst. The label industry has set the tone for the other industries to follow, each of them with the respective components.
“In the label industry the connectivity and the digitalization has enabled real progress,” says Christian Zeller, marketing director for label and flexible packaging solutions, Bobst. “Among other things, you can now track the quality of every single label produced comparing the output with the original PDF and this on any technology – digital, hybrid or flexo.”
“The digitalization of printing processes is the most visible element in the packaging industry,” comments Jean-Pascal Bobst, CEO, Bobst Group. “The coming years will likely see a major acceleration of digital printing. While the solutions are becoming available, the biggest challenge for printers and converters is not the individual printing machines, but rather the entire workflow encompassing converting.
“At Bobst, we have a fully automated and controlled workflow from file to the final label, pouch or box, and this solution answers brand owners’ and converters’ needs. With the innovations completed to date and others to come from Bobst and other industry partners, we are moving in the right direction,” adds Jean-Pascal Bobst.
Packaging production 4.0 will require mindset changes
In a more automated world, the focus will be less on the how and more on the what. This will mean a fundamental change in the types of personnel and skills required throughout the workflow. The data reported back by the machines will require the operators to have the global view of the entire process and no longer to specialize on a given technical task. Bobst is very aware of this fundamental change and offers training and a powerful suite of applications to help operators.
Human knowledge and proximity will always be required. But rather than focusing on repetitive manual or technical tasks, the human input will be more on the value-adding contributions to more automation and better packaging production.
Bobst has been a developer of digitalization, automation and connection of packaging machines.
For label and flexible packaging production, Bobst DigiFlexo technology now enables the automatic control of color quality and consistency, the ability to print across numerous substrates and consume less ink and generate less waste than conventional flexo processes. The DigiFlexo presses operate on the basis of a connected automation workflow by having a data exchange from machine to machine. The complete automation of the printing process avoids machine stops, and the hands and eyes of the operator are replaced by the accuracy of a digitalized data adjustment system.
In 2019, Bobst introduced DigiColor – a closed-loop color control system for the flexo industry. Color is measured inline and adjusted on each print unit to match the target color values. DigiFlexo has been designed for brand owners needing customization, color consistency control and faster time-to-market.
At Labelexpo 2019, Bobst also introduced the Master DM5, a hybrid label press encompassing a digital printing module with the Mouvent Inkjet cluster, which provides the best possible combination of digital and DigiFlexo printing in a single press, the company says.
And complementing all of this is the Connected Services offer from Bobst. For example, its Helpline Plus service allows customers to connect with Bobst experts immediately as the need arises, meaning that around 80% of all technical issues are resolved remotely within two hours. Other elements of Connected Services include apps to make production- and machine data available by using a mobile, tablet or by using a browser. Remote Monitoring is a comprehensive production reporting tool designed to quickly access detailed machine production, process and technical data, while Downtime Tracking makes it easy to get accurate root cause stoppage analysis for a specific machine or an entire shop floor.
“The feedback we have had from customers around the Connected are unanimous,” notes Raphael Indermuehle – Bobst services sales and marketing head. “They have seen significant enhancements in productivity and quality, with fewer errors and major up-time gains. The benefits of these connected services are considerable.”
“The vision for the future is clear – flawless execution from design, a roll of labels and pouches or a stack of paper boards to the final inspected boxes within the packers’ hands as quickly as possible at the best costs and with the highest quality and lowest environmental impact,” says Jean Pascal Bobst. “This will be achieved by continuing implementing innovations along the entire process chain. At Bobst, we will continue to shape the future of the packaging world, with passion and proximity to our clients.”