Over 500 registered customers showed up for the event, including nearly 100 participants from the brand owner side.
With the goal of putting businesses on the fast track, the conference–a stone’s throw away from the Charlotte Motor Speedway–highlighted topics like label and package printing, digital flexo, structural design and brand management.
“We designed the program for 2.5 days of pure excitement and pure innovation,” said Jan De Roeck, Esko's director of solutions management. “We want to show what we have in the pipeline but also what we have recently released.”
“It’s not about Esko–it’s a user event–it’s about all of you,” added Mark Quinlan, Esko’s vice president of the Americas.
Assorted roadmaps and presentations provided the future of Esko products, allowing users to bring the technologies back to their companies to increase productivity. Esko also offered hands-on labs to get a feel for the software.
According to Udo Panenka, Esko president, brands are concerned with growth, compliance and costs. “We’re basically serving the entire packaging process, from the first idea of a new product to when it’s on the shelf,” explained Panenka. “That really starts with Esko and MediaBeacon, from packaging production and packaging management.”
During the event, Esko explained how its new software updates could benefit its users. The Esko Platform for Brands is designed to help brands manage packaging in an omni-channel environment. Studio and Keyshot also now offer exciting, photo-realistic pack shots. Preconfigured WebCenter and Automation Engine are also providing the best label workflow, simplified. “There are a lot of interesting things taking place at EskoWorld on the Automation Engine side,” added Panenka.
Other aspects of Esko’s business have also been improved. ArtiosCAD, celebrating its 20th anniversary, features an integrated solution in the Esko platform for rigid packaging and display work. Plates are imaged and can then be cut on the Kongsberg table. ArtPro+ can be used to define the standard quality of digital files, which is helpful in handling regulatory compliances and displaying how they will appear on packaging on shelves.
In Automation Engine, a one-click solution can update existing artwork. Automation Engine is simplified with a brand new interface. In order to increase equipment efficiency, the program features device management and distributed production. The workflow can now be connected to more presses and equipment.
In addition, WebCenter has been updated to deal with communication challenges, long approval times and a lack of visibility. Faster approval cycles can be reduced from weeks to days, and collaboration seamlessly reduces errors, despite working with more file types.
“Esko is all about how we help the customers make the best packaging,” said Panenka. “And for us, it’s how do we do this so customers are excited about packaging every single day? That is really our mission here. It’s all about simplifying packaging and leading our industry.”
Danaher, Esko’s parent company, is also in the process of acquiring Advanced Vision Technology (AVT), whose team was present at EskoWorld. AVT is a solutions provider for print process control, quality assurance, and press control for the label and packaging industry.
Keeping tabs on changing packaging regulations
With a host of changing packaging regulations, including the FDA’s enhanced nutrition label, prepress software is as important as ever. Esko’s Jijo Dominic and Isabelle Noppe explored how WebCenter can be used for package content management.
Not only is the US seeing a nutrition label redesign, Canada and Europe are seeing new regulations, as well. There are a number of reasons for packaging changes. In addition to changing regulations, which is the primary reason, sustainable packaging design and more retail-specific packaging are other causes for packaging changes.
“It’s a global phenomenon and it’s happening,” said Dominic. “The food, beverage, tobacco, and alcohol industries are highly impacted by these changes.”
Using WebCenter Package Content Management, users are able to handle tables, text, symbols, images and barcodes. According to Dominic, the goal is to be able to simplify the creation of custom templates.
Esko prepress software provides a structured way of communicating content through multiple channels. Noppe presented a demo of the new nutrition facts table, whereby users can utilize values from a database system and import artwork to seamlessly redesign the label. The demonstration displayed the process of inputting values and placing the redesigned nutrition table on an existing label.
WebCenter ensures that tables are completely compliant to new regulations, which includes size and dimensions. Therefore, global standards can be used to communicate between systems. “It’s an easy way to communicate with the affected parties,” said Dominic. “You need the right tools, though.
Esko software is used to standardize the process of the new regulations. “Your best data source is your already-produced artwork,” added Dominic. “We are trying to see how we can combine technologies to make your life better. Every day there is an update to the packaging, and we want to keep on innovating in this area. Managing content is the best way to move forward.”
A perspective on the US economy
As part of EskoWorld, Alan Beaulieu, president of ITR Economics, delivered the keynote presentation on May 9. Beaulieu, a chief economist for American and European trade associations, provided "A perspective on the US Economy."
The co-author of Prosperity in the Age of Decline addressed economic trends that could have an impact on the label and packaging industry. Alan Beaulieu tried to address the fundamental question affecting guests at EskoWorld: will there be a demand for packaging?
“I want you to leave here thinking the next 12 months, starting today, will be really good,” explained Beaulieu. “We’ll need to drive efficiencies, and we learn that marketing becomes key.”
According to Beaulieu, the success of the packaging industry correlates with food. “If food production is going up, that means there’s more of a need for you,” he said to the audience.
His methodology for predicting future results centered on rate of change, using a pressure curve and translating to a 12-month growth rate. “My forecast calls for 2018 to see a smaller rise in the rate of food,” said Beaulieu. “It’s not a downturn just a slower rise. In the longer run, you’re going to like the 2020s, as earnings will go up dramatically.”
Beaulieu added that in 2019, interest rates could lead to a slight recession. The challenge, he said, is to enjoy the good times while knowing a slowdown could be ahead. In 2019, it will be important to look for a different customer, evaluating price points and value proposition.
There are some positive and negative forecasts going forward. Ongoing concerns include China, NAFTA and international trade, Brexit and the German elections, South America, along with the US and global debt and global healthcare. Meanwhile, there are global indicators going up in a positive direction. Interest rates remain favorable, and retail sales in many countries are at a record high. Employment is rising, as are wages.
From a political landscape, Beaulieu cautioned that the promises to divide the US from Mexico might be premature. “If we shut down immigration, it will slow down economic growth,” he said. “We would see economies across the country sag. Labor rates will also go up very dramatically, meaning it will be hard for you to grow.”
For a slideshow of the event, click here.