Modern marketing trends in all areas of packaging are increasing the pressure on flexographic printers. Whether you print flexible packaging, folding cartons or corrugated products, the pain-points have multiplied – shorter runs, faster turnarounds, more accurate color and increased quality demands have all contributed to squeezed margins.
While waiting for plate suppliers to develop plates that are faster and less expensive to produce (which they will), there are a number of things that can be done to improve press performance and profitability.
Profitability comes, in part, from repeatedly delivering quality products to customers on time, and this can be achieved by systematically controlling every stage of production and eliminating bottlenecks. Maximizing press and other equipment usage is also a key factor to profitability.
Start at the beginning
Ensuring the efficiency of the prepress department is the first step. It may not even require capital investment, just the systematic deployment of best practices. Once plates are on the press, a verification system using an approved digital artwork reference, like QuadTech’s PDF Verification, will ensure that errors like missing or mis-sized image elements, incorrect content and other faults are detected before waste is run.
Achieving color targets quickly and accurately with an in-line color management system using L*a*b* and Delta-E values will ensure that consistent color is run for each color, on every press and even in different locations. The job information and color targets can be stored for use on repeat jobs.
Closed-loop solutions that are capable of registering varnishes, lacquers and cold-seal adhesives and front-to-back registration as well as colors can prevent expensive waste. The QuadTech Autotron with ClearLogic provides such assurance and can maximize output. Once the job is running and perfect register has been achieved, there are still a host of process faults that can arise. A web viewer (like the QuadTech Web Viewing System) will provide real time viewing of the moving web.
Getting the most from your press
For complete assurance, a 100% web inspection system that inspects 100% of the web 100% of the time, will detect process and random faults as well as color variation, mis-register, and mis-prints and alert operators so that remedial action can be taken. Using a QuadTech Inspection System, defect information is automatically sent to QuadTech’s optional Data Central reporting tool for analysis by quality control personnel – who can decide whether copy needs to be removed. That information is then sent to the rewinder. The system controls the rewinder, running it at optimum speeds between areas where defective copy is to be excised.
Some packaging converters put inspection systems on their finishing lines so that they can inspect the output of multiple presses. This is a false economy. Inline (on-press) inspection systems detect errors immediately, allowing the printer to take instant corrective action. Not only does this prevent material waste, but maximizes valuable press time as well.
Solutions like these, available from QuadTech for in-line and CI flexo presses, address the major factors that impact margins and profitability; the immediate results of such systems also mean that there can be a rapid return on investment. As the packaging markets change, packaging converters need to improve both efficiency and quality control to keep and obtain high-value customers in a sector that is becoming increasingly commoditized. By being a converter that never delivers defective copy, consistently achieves accurate brand colors and can maintain competitive pricing, your future looks bright.