By Melissa Donovan
When competition is high and margins are low, print providers look to digital to differentiate themselves from the competition. Offering customers a high-quality prototype quickly and in many instances, multiple variations, is essential.
Once a customer sees a digitally printed prototype, it’s easy for them to understand the possibilities and more importantly, the worth of a package. WestRock’s beverage multipack division strives to show its customers market possibilities with digital thanks to its Esko and finishing equipment and workflow, in addition to its Roland DGA Corporation printer.
A Match Made in Packaging
WestRock, the result of a merger between MeadWestvaco and RockTen, is the second largest paperboard and packaging provider in the world. It offers paper and packaging solutions in consumer and corrugated markets. The company has 275 business locations. 42,000 employees operate in 30 countries throughout North America, South America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.
The merger offers WestRock customers an extensive range of services including folding cartons, beverage multipacks, protective packaging, merchandising displays, containerboard, paperboard, and corrugated containers.
Packing it In
WestRock’s global beverage multipack division is located in Richmond, VA. It creates printed graphic mock-ups to assist selling packaging formats to Fortune 500 brands with the help of digital printing and finishing equipment.
“It is poised to support a ‘try before you buy it’ market. Having these tools provides the design team with the capability to generate printed graphic mock-ups of both well-known packaging formats such as FridgeMaster and newer ideas,” explains Brad Walling, director of global beverage design, WestRock
Walling works closely with Selwyn Sherrill, global beverage graphics design manager, WestRock, whose team generates on-brand artwork to bring structural packaging concepts to life. The final product is produced through WestRock’s extensive converting network.
Digital print was a logical choice when it came time to upgrade existing equipment. Around 2010, the Richmond location looked to Esko and Roland to make it happen.
Prior to digital, the team created mockups by a lamination process, which was more technically challenging to use and didn’t reflect the quality of a finished production design. “Using our old system we would create a printed mockup and then put plastic on top of it. Then we would draw on the plastic—an ink drawing—of where it needed to be cut. Creating our own crop marks,” explains Walling.
This process was time and labor intensive, pages of plastic were wasted each day. In response, it chose an Esko Kongsberg XP-20 finishing system with a work area of 66×56 inches. The solution is powered by the i-cut Suite, which includes features like i-cut Layout that easily creates cutting paths. Now the software makes the registration marks and Walling and his team cut prototypes with precision.
Part of the Esko workflow includes ArtiosCAD, a structural design software specifically for packaging pieces. Users create prototypes in 3D or 2D right on screen with a built-in library of common folding carton and corrugated styles or create their design from scratch.
In addition to ArtiosCAD, WestRock uses Esko’s WebCenter packaging management solution. Available in the cloud, WebCenter allows the company to manage all aspects of the packaging process including initial specifications, designs, approvals, and managing assets.
To complement the finishing device, WestRock’s beverage division invested in a Roland 30-inch VersaUV LEC-330 in 2010 and it recently just upgraded to the 54-inch VersaUV LEC-540. Both UV printers are specifically designed for the creation of package prototypes and short-run labels. According to Walling, the VersaUV LEC-540 allows the company to better support business globally.
A valuable feature of the VersaUV LEC-540 is the clear ink channel. Walling explains that this gives them the ability to show customers what a varnish coating would look like in gloss or matte.
Setting an Example
The Richmond location has found so much success with its digital implementation that other WestRock regional design teams have adopted its process. There are currently over 100 Esko finishing tables in the entire WestRock system.
WestRock’s beverage customers vary in needs. While some may have a design in mind, others rely on Walling’s design team to craft their vision from the ground up. “We find we achieve better success when we catch them earlier in the design process—it’s a mutually beneficial,” he explains.
When it comes to educating its customers on the benefits of packaging, Walling says it can sometimes be a challenging conversation as some believe packaging is a cost of goods sold and not an investment in the brand. “Many consider packaging as a cost, not a marketing tool. Those who realize that packaging is a worthwhile investment are making the right move,” he offers. Many times the firm has to point out to customers that the packaging is what drives a consumer to buy the product.
Customers who recognize the worth of a package push the envelope and work with WestRock to create unique prototypes that provide a proper representation of the final product. The company achieves this quickly and at high quality thanks to its digital technologies—from print to finish.
“We’re hopeful there will be more growth in innovative packaging formats and digital direct-to-substrate prototype printing is a helpful tool for enabling speed to market,” concludes Walling.
Driving the Industry
Digital package printing and prototypes generate revenue not only for the people who produce them, but the digital print industry as a whole.
More print providers and packaging converters recognize the benefits of adding digital to their workflow to create lifelike prototypes that impress customers. As these businesses invest in updating and enhancing their shops, it encourages the industry to cater to their needs and create new or upgrade old products accordingly. dps
May2016, DPS Magazine