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The digital difference

How digital finishing is becoming increasingly agile in the packaging sector


February 3, 2022
By Simon Lewis

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The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a huge rise in e-commerce, and not just for consumers. Converters and brands are also coming to terms with new ways of doing business, not least through creating dedicated web-to-pack websites. These platforms offer packaging products that help companies, including small to medium businesses, to quickly obtain branded packaging materials that are uniquely customized to their needs.

The benefits of digital finishing are clear and answer many of the challenges facing both folding carton and corrugated converters around the world today: rapid turnaround of jobs, shorter runs, design and production flexibility and immediate error correction and/or changes according to designer or customer requirements. Web-to-pack, whether printed digitally or conventionally followed by highly automated digital finishing, is a perfect fit for operational flexibility and differentiation opportunities. The demand for the requirements afforded by digital, were present even before the effects of the pandemic, of course. However, they seem to have become more important than ever. There is more pressure to maximize operational efficiency and to overcome supply chain shortages. Today, jobs need to be streamlined and optimize production.

In the age of print 4.0, the web-to-pack business model is surely a great fit for the future, with many businesses already reaping the benefits. We see successful converters selecting the right tool(s) for the job, with many running conventional and digital manufacturing approaches in parallel. A full implemented digital manufacturing strategy will dynamically gang jobs onto a single sheet, reducing the number of set-ups to ensure a healthy set-up: production time ratio. Jobs are then finished digitally without mechanical dies, saving time and money.

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In the USA, Digital Room has built their business around the concept of offering customers nearly endless product customization possibilities through a portfolio of e-commerce websites including UPrinting, Packola, and LogoSportswear. Digital Room is leveraging the latest manufacturing and e-commerce technologies to enable this. Chase Cairncross, COO, Digital Room, says, “With the constant increase in e-commerce, customers want to be able to decide the shape, size, colour, and quantity of the items they need – they do not want to be limited to what they are told they can have.”

Heuchemer Verpackungen in Germany is doing something similar at  LAMAXSO.com, a digital packaging platform for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and local manufacturers. They offer customers packaging design templates and a portfolio of customized shipping boxes, bottle packaging, folding boxes, gift boxes, product trays, decorations and more.

The nature of these customized jobs ordered through web-to-pack sites, are short print runs that challenge the conventional manufacturing process. This is where digital manufacturing shines, enabling cost-effective and timely production of such jobs, bringing all the advantages of digital to the post-print part of the packaging manufacturing process.

While the web-to-pack model was accelerated by businesses looking to meet the challenges of the pandemic, the many benefits of digital finishing within it are now starting to be more widely understood. Indeed, you don’t need to go far to see some stunning examples of print and packaging that leverage this technology, achieving stand-out products that wow consumers and increase sales across the value chain.

Simon Lewis is the VP of marketing at Highcon.