By Cassandra Balentine
Standing out in today’s global label and packaging market is no easy feat. It takes constant evaluation of existing equipment and workflows, and implementing the latest technologies when and where it makes the most sense. For Essentra Packaging, investments in not only digital print engines, but hybrid options and automation in its workflows have proved prudent.
Essentra is a multi-national, secondary packaging manufacturer specializing in providing cartons, labels, leaflets, and printed foils for global healthcare, personal care, and beauty industries. It works closely with 18 of the top 20 global pharmaceutical companies, offering bespoke solutions and added value services based on deep marketing understanding gained through years of experience.
Headquartered in the U.K., the company operates 22 facilities across Europe, India, and North America, including Greensboro, NC within the U.S. as well as Bradford and Newport, U.K.; Dublin, Ireland; Madrid, Spain; and Lublin, Poland.
The company has 3,100 employees and utilizes an in-house packaging design hub as well as R&D centers. Essentra is known for fast-tracking product launches and optimizing packaging line capabilities for customers in a way that drives supply chain efficiencies and reduces environmental footprints as well as thwarts patient safety threats, including tamper evidence.
Essentra recently invested in a Mark Andy Digital Series HD hybrid printer for its Lublin site in Poland. Here, the packaging provider focuses on both digital and hybrid label production.
Overall, the Lublin site is a very well equipped facility. Its primary focus is producing cartons and labels for pharmaceutical and beauty markets. Within the shop, it employs offset, digital, and flexographic equipment—including hybrid options. All are available on site to respond properly to the varying demands of its customers and products.
When it comes down to selecting the right technology for the job at hand, Piotr Skalecki, site operations leader, Lublin, Essentra Packaging, says the breakeven point depends on several factors, including whether they are printing labels or cartons, the size of the product, the quantity of the inks used, and the format size of the machine. “There are simply too many variables to incorporate into this analysis—our breakeven could be in hundreds of sheets or in some cases, thousands, it depends on the nature of the production run,” he asserts.
“The beauty of hybrid printing is that it handles all the materials typically printed on conventional flexographic presses,” says Skalecki. He points out that the Mark Andy Digital Series in particular is well suited for its entire complex, demanding designs where precision and delicate elements are required.
The recent move to invest in a hybrid printing solution came about as run lengths continue to decline and customers seek more complex products. “Combining the best attributes of digital and flexography in one complementary and high-performance machine is the perfect answer for our label printing business in Lublin,” shares Skalecki. “As a printer that blends tried-and-tested traditional print methods with cutting-edge technology, the acquisition of a new hybrid technology significantly boosts the diversity, precision, and speed of what we can accomplish.”
“The customers who work with short batches and lead times love this type of equipment and capability from our business,” says Skalecki.
The machine has strengthened the location’s capacity, and rounded out its solutions offerings to a point where it is confident that it can meet any need its customers might have—no matter the design complexity involved.
“The Mark Andy hybrid press keeps our workflow and material management streamlined, while also making our print room more flexible. Decorative tactile finishes, such as cold foil stamping, are simple and fast. In fact, more screenprinting effects can be replicated, giving us a new level of agility for our customers,” notes Skalecki.
Sustainability is another area of importance to Essentra, and the hybrid press also plays to this, delivering over a 50 percent reduction in its waste for short and mid runs, reducing its carbon footprint. He says it also operates on around 50 percent of the energy required for a typical ten to 12 station flexographic press and creates a minimal amount of ink scrap. “This is always an issue in flexographic printing where we are regularly printing a high number of special and spot colors,” admits Skalecki.
“The addition of the Mark Andy hybrid flexographic press offers all the best of digital and offset printing, enabling us to underpin our solid reputation for quality and diversity,” says Skalecki.
Essentra finds digital to be a fantastic solution for today’s label market where run lengths are declining to a point where flexographic printing is becoming less economical. Additionally, fast turnaround times are increasingly required that also support digital.
“The technology has come leaps and bounds in recent years with respect to the levels of print quality that can now be achieved, including perfect registration and meeting the needs of our healthcare and pharmaceutical customers, who often require variable data printing and serialization of their packaging,” says Skalecki.
The lesser setup requirements of digital print technology factor into its effectiveness, as press preparation time is greatly reduced and the need for printing plates and color matching is eliminated. “Everything can happen in one process, meaning less man hours are required,” he continues.
From the sustainability angle, digital printing gives Essentra the flexibility and service it is seeking for its customers while simultaneously maintaining the quality of print that it is renewed for. “Undoubtedly, we will be investing further as our business grows around the world,” offers Skalecki.
The company plans to continue on the road of digital investments, and expects to install a Landa press at its Bradford U.K. facility at some point this year.
Its digital and hybrid capabilities are optimized by an automated workflow. The Lublin site operates on Essentra’s divisional standard systems, Esko WebCenter and Esko Automated Engine SaaS. This provides the label and packaging provider with a completely integrated, connected, and automated digital workflow management solution from artwork to print. “Using a cloud-based solution like this creates process simplification, minimizes errors and waste, and ensures we have a completely standardized solution across our business for maximum customer service and satisfaction,” shares Skalecki.
The high-performance workflow solution from Esko, Automation Engine, is flexible and adapts to changing business needs, scalable, and customizable to optimize individual prepress workflows.
At one point, Essentra, which has acquired some of its growth through automation, struggled with different systems and software levels across the business. To address this, the company decided to implement Esko’s Automation Engine. It chose the Lublin facility as a pilot because it is a multi-product manufacturing site that would be able to test the system from a folding carton and label perspective.
The Esko Automation Engine SaaS is able to standardize jobs, centrally store workflows, and provides the flexibility to share knowledge and artwork from all sites within the group.
In terms of imposition, there’s been major success with automation. From a manual process that took up to 30 minutes, imposition can now happen in two or three seconds with the help of the Esko Automation Engine.
Modern Label Makers
Essentra Packaging employs a range of technologies to cost effectively and productivity produce labels and cartons. Its Lublin facility utilizes the latest in hybrid printing technology to get the best of both worlds in terms of quality, flexibility, security, and customization capabilities for label applications.
Jun2022, DPS Magazine