I’ve always been a fan of the innovation that drives the industry forward. That’s what I saw when I first saw Flexcel NX. It was around 10 years ago, and I was working for Simplot, a $1.5 billion turnover food business here in Australia. We were one of the first to really jump across from seven-color process with standard flexo plates, to four-and-five color with NX.
It was a bit of a leap of faith, but we took it. For me, it was a good cost-down opportunity. It allowed us to use fewer plates, and it made the printer more efficient. It reduced our waste, as we weren’t throwing out as many plates or using as many chemicals. That gave added environmental benefits. We got better results off the press too. It just ran better.
“I’ll be asking what each entrant is doing that’s benefitting the consumer, the print manufacturing and the pre-press and packing operations.”
This kind of continuous improvement was a key part of my role in the food business for 15 years. So as a judge for the Global Flexo Innovation Awards, I’ll be keen to see ingenuity that drives positive change within the industry. I’ll be asking what each entrant is doing that’s benefitting the consumer, the print manufacturing and the pre-press and packing operations.
So for me, judging the awards isn’t about picking something just because it’s printed perfectly. There are enough judges on the panel who are technical gurus who will assess that side of things. Any entry is really about the story. It’s about how the work is going to lead to change.
“I need to know the business case behind it, and whether it delivers on that. It would be great to see some sales results”
It would be great to see a focus on aspects that are less technical and more innovation-based. It’s all about value: if you add cost and no one’s prepared to pay for it, that doesn’t tend to be very sustainable, and you really need to question what you’re doing. I need to know the business case behind it, and whether it delivers on that. It would be great to see some sales results, which prove the work does actually deliver what the brand set out to achieve.
It has, of course, been a tough year. With Melbourne basically being in lockdown since March, it’s been difficult for me to see any technical development. I just can’t get out and see this stuff. It’s difficult for everyone in packaging, as so much trialing of innovative products is about touch and feel, and about getting together to observe the outcomes.
In the next 10 years, based on what I’ve seen here in Australia, we’ll see a switch out of gravure into flexo. The big volumes within the industry are with the long-run commodity items – things like toilet paper, frozen veg, frozen potatoes and the chip aisle. Digital just isn’t there yet. Yes, it can print a nice label for a beverage container, but until you can run a digital press at 700m per minute, at a cost almost comparable to flexo, I can’t see companies moving across. And I haven’t heard of anyone actually launching a commercial digital press that’s anywhere near comparable in run speeds. Flexo, meanwhile, will continue to grow. Which is a good thing. Because if you stand still, you’re actually going backwards.
Jason Goode is merchandising systems and packing lead at Reece Group, and a judge for Global Flexo Innovation Awards.