As we near the end of 2019, Bobst takes time to look back at the past 12 months and define its expectations and predictions for the year ahead.
In spite of a soft economic downturn and overall pessimistic predictions, 2019 was a good business year for Bobst. Throughout 2019, a consistent theme in conversation with its clients – both brand owners and converters – was the need for greater automation to enable faster product launches and better customization. The word ‘workflow’ has been gaining importance as all the stakeholders involved with packaging production recognize the need to improve packaging production. Today, it is a linear process with disconnected control points. In the future, it will become agile and flexible, fully controlled, connected, secured and designed for a sustainable and circular economy.
Sustainability continues to grow in importance and is now fully integrated into packaging design principles – shape, substrate, color, sustainability, and costs. Furthermore, the unmet needs around workflow and connectivity are on the table, and solutions – largely linked to the digitalization of the process – will form a significant element of discussions at drupa 2020.
Folding carton and corrugated boards – Sheetfed business unit
In 2019, the sheetfed business unit leveraged the demand for more automation and more connectivity into IT infrastructures. The trend of automation is growing both in mature and growing markets, where the need to run efficient operations is increasingly top of the agenda.
In 2019, Bobst celebrated the 300th Mastercut installation at Avance Cartón based in Madrid. The die-cutter offers quality, high running speed, fewer stops and shorter make-readies.
Germany has been a major market for the latest Mastercut and Expertcut 145 PER 2.0 featuring the latest technologies for converters who are seeking to industrialize production further. Industrie Grapfiche Bressan, a renowned manufacturer of pharmaceutical folding carton in Italy, selected the most advanced folder-gluer available – the Expertfold 110 with Gyrobox, Accu-check and Accu-Braille – helping them to deliver against the most demanding regulation requirements.
In growing markets, India is embracing greater automation with the installation of the Ambition 106 A2 folder-gluer at Packaging Printer BP Lipeds in Baddi and the Visionfold 110 A2 folder-gluer at Vasai-based Kalapi Printing. Mahonar Packaging closed a huge deal at PrintPack India for a greenfield operation to be equipped with three Novacut E die-cutters and three Expertfold folder-gluers defined as “rock solid, sturdy and reliable” by Aditya Patwardhan, director of the Mahonar Packaging Group.
Going hand-in-hand with die-cutters, the tooling solutions are ramping up quickly, improving quality and productivity for converters. A certified die-maker program has been launched in Europe and the USA, and by the end of 2019, 15 die-makers will already be certified.
In corrugated board, the year was set up for success by installations of the Master Flute Touch in-line laminator in the USA, Spain, Portugal, and another Nova Flute line in China, featuring the most economic glue consumption resulting in dry and flat boards. Within a market still fueled by eCommerce growth, the FFG 8.20 ExpertLine continued to be the best seller. For high-graphics packaging production, 2019 saw the recently launched THQ FlexoCloud technology gain traction within key clients. The Extended Color Gamut (ECG) solution – able to reach 95% of the gamut – is helping converters to expand the flexo technology to new markets leveraging their existing equipment and preserving their investments.
Overall, in folding carton and corrugated boards production, the labor shortage in North America and Western Europe combined with brand owners requiring more complex boxes almost on-demand is necessitating process optimization, for which Bobst is developing a wide range of services on a web platform. In 2019, the deployment of such services was exceptional, with many tangible benefits of the newly digitized and connected solutions – more information will be shared at drupa 2020. Regularly maintained equipment, certified tooling and well-trained operators can achieve record levels of production with a high Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). China, while impacted by commercial relationships with the USA, demonstrated a growing interest for higher quality machines able to reduce the environmental impact and to increase quality and productivity at the same time. The China 4.0 plans launched in 2018, which aim to deliver proximity and performance, are on track.
Looking forward to 2020, Bobst expects the folding carton and corrugated markets to focus on prepress enhancements, color management improvements, complete workflow digitalization and more robotics and automation, making packaging production more agile. The company foresees flexo technology expanding into new territories (high-quality graphics, quality controls, and shorter run management) fueled by more digitalization and greater automation. Bobst made significant investments for the corrugated board industry with a new Competence Center to expand its leadership in corrugated board production. All of them will become operational in 2020. Finally, the company expects process optimization delivered by the Bobst service organization to play a major role within clients impacted by lower investments but where quality and productivity standards need to be further amplified.
Labels and flexible packaging – Web-fed business unit
In 2019, the year could be defined by three key phrases – digitalization, color control and sustainability.
Bobst launched the Ink-On-Demand (IoD) and DigiColor technology solutions embedded in the Master M5 for the label industry in terms of color consistency, repeatability and sustainable operation. The Bobst Master DM5 hybrid press, launched at Labelexpo 2019 with Mouvent Inkjet technology inside, delivers high print quality, along with a full range of added value capabilities, including coating, varnishes, tactile effects, cold foil, embossing, die-cutting, flexo and digital Variable Data Printing (VDP) in a single pass with non-stop productivity.
At K 2019, Bobst announced high barrier solutions designed for recyclability. The Vision CI Flexo press was announced at K 2019, offering flexible packaging production, suitable for all run lengths from ultrashort to long, with solvent-based or water-based inks. Compact, ergonomic, easy to operate, it includes exclusive smart technologies for enhanced machine productivity and sustainability benefits.
After having tried and tested the Mouvent digital printing solutions for labels, the first two customers testified their satisfaction for the new LB702-UV 6 color and seven color label press with in-line finishing. It prints up to 100 meters a minute cost-effectively, helping them to enter into new applications.
The water-based label press LB702-WB was installed at a renowned Belgium company right after the Brussels show. It will be featured at drupa 2020, responding to brand owners’ sustainability pledges.
For better customer engagement, the new Competence Center in Bobst Italia features the Coating Excellence Line, the only one in the industry that can replicate real production conditions with 30 different coating methods, four different drying technologies and a fully equipped laboratory. The new extended Competence Center and REVO Academy in Bobst Firenze provides an in-house prepress facility showing end-to-end turnkey solutions and customer tests. Bobst Bielefeld’s redesigned Competence Center is a one-stop-shop to develop and demonstrate CI flexo printing, including plate making for solvent-based, water-based and E-beam printing. Finally, the modernized Bobst Manchester Competence Center offers advanced coating solutions where metalizing trials, testing of barrier and adhesion levels can be performed in the on-site laboratory.
Bobst deployed the first Packaging Masterclass aimed at brand owners, which was attended by 100 participants in our headquarters in Switzerland to help brand owners find new solutions to support the new roles of packaging, notably sustainability and greater customer engagement. A new edition is planned for October 2020.
Looking forward to 2020, the demand for sustainable flexible packaging production is expected to grow. Plastic-based packaging is likely to move to folding cartons and others to use thinner and more advanced flexible material. The move to replace non-recyclable multi-material packaging structures with recyclable mono-material alternatives will grow significantly. The demand for printing applications and processes using water-based and EB ink printing will grow. The label market will drive towards full digitalization and demand for more embellishment. The use of Extended Color Gamut will accelerate, with the potential to make spot colors a less critical element in the future.
Finally, and obvious for many readers, 2020 will be the landmark for drupa 2020 – the world’s largest trade fair for printing and packaging technologies – where Bobst will present solutions to help packaging converters answer the new requirements from brand owners effectively.