Why Thinking Beyond the Tech is Key to Achieving Award-Winning Flexo

  • September 20, 2019
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Flexo is a print process that can really open doors – to greater speed, efficiencies, quality and profits. But like any innovation, its full potential lies not in the technology alone. It’s how you harness it. You have to be able to look for the problems and opportunities others don’t. And you have to act on what you discover.

These print innovators took highest honors at the Global Flexo Innovation Awards. Here they share their key to making flexo truly transformative.

Keep watching the wider world
When the Indian government revealed it was considering Extended Producer Responsibility, which makes consumer brands accountable for what happens to their products after use, Anand Patel sat up and took notice. As Managing Director of Pentaflex, which makes flexible packaging for India’s FMCG sector, he knew that brand owners would now take a greater interest in material recovery and recycling – and that this was an opportunity for his business.

So looking beyond the immediate day-to-day concerns of running a company, Anand did his homework – researching how much plastic and film Indian firms were producing, and how this volume would grow as people’s disposable income increased.

Here he spotted a huge opportunity for flexo: in the reverse-printed laminate market. No one was using that process in India to print on recyclable packs. But with his Bobst press and KODAK FLEXCEL NX Plates, he could.

His first such product was a flexible packaging for salt that was 100 percent recyclable. Salt packets were typically printed with gravure, but Pentaflex did it so well using flexo that no one could tell the difference.

The company has since gone on to work with a manufacturer of ready-to-eat products that’s using flexo in a major rebranding of its products.

And Patel continues to look outward. He’s now noticed that larger brands in the US, Europe and India are beginning to explore alternatives to inks that contain toxic toluene.

Stay close to your customers
Roberto Dolinsky, Managing Director of Uruguay-based Lorytex, knows the importance of long-term relationships – not just when you’re working in a tiny market, but when venturing into a brave new world like flexo too.

“On most projects, we get involved right at the start, at the design stage,” he says. “This is important with flexo, because the process is new territory for creatives used to working in offset. If we understand what the designer and the brand want the packaging to communicate, we can apply our knowledge of the technology to achieve the best results. We also like to be involved in pre-production meetings with the converters; we learn a lot from them, and they help us have everything in place before production.”

If you align closely with customers who share your objectives, you can embed this collaboration at the center of your company culture.

Lorytex’s partnership with its customer Ecoflex SA dates back to 2011 and hinges on the fact that both share a desire to stand out from the competition – through improved efficiencies, faster deliveries and genuine innovation.

Having found this common ground, the two companies launched a program to test the viability of extended color gamut (ECG) printing. Lorytex chose KODAK FLEXCEL NX technology as the foundation of two years of experiments, culminating in two months of optimization tests at Ecoflex.

When Lorytex used ECG to print flexible packaging for Ecoflex, the case for close collaboration couldn’t have been stronger: it turned the job around 30 percent faster, at a high quality, while making critical savings on ink consumption too.

Be ready to support others
UK-based Reproflex 3, which makes flexo packaging for blue-chip FMCG brands, is working hard to establish a presence in Dubai and India.

But Managing Director Andrew Hewitson knows this doesn’t happen automatically. While the major brands have done great work standardizing workflows around flexo, he says the supply chain “isn’t yet firing on all cylinders,” and that there’s “an education job still to be done on some brands, particularly those that have never ventured outside the gravure workflow. Many of them still don’t realize what’s possible with flexo, or how the process has come on leaps and bounds recently.”

Andrew’s answer is the Project Blue initiative, designed to showcase flexo’s potential for quality and consistency. Project Blue puts FLEXCEL NX at the center and demonstrates the importance of working with plates you know are robust and optimized. Reproflex added its own elements to create a bespoke workflow. “Printers can then implement the process inside their businesses to extract value from consistent high quality,” he says.

“If we understand what the designer and the brand want the packaging to communicate, we can apply our knowledge of the technology to achieve the best results.”Roberto Dolinksy

But this kind of educational work is about more than the tech alone. “It’s about the tone of voice in which you speak to the brands, the agencies and the printers, about the service you deliver, the value you add,” says Andrew. “Companies like us need to affirm the value of traditional prepress skills and how they translate designs into print.”

Don’t cut corners
Z Due, an Italian specialist in corrugated cardboard print and flexible packaging, has been operating in the flexo prepress business for 42 years. And in that time, it has developed a meticulous approach to quality control. The company employs 22 qualified operators in its graphics department, tasked with studying vast amounts of data from myriad print tests to prepare files for printing.

To maintain these high standards, the company regularly organizes training courses, so its team remains abreast of the latest developments in software, for example. It even extends training to its customers after set-up. And thanks to this high level of care, Z Due has successfully converted many jobs from offset or gravure to flexo, and now collaborates with the leading companies in the Italian cardboard sector.

The difference? Packaging that was printed in offset and then required other steps is now produced directly in flexo on corrugated cardboard, with high production speeds and matched quality. This means it can produce the goods more efficiently and deliver its products faster.

Learn how these Global Flexo Innovation Award winners have harnessed technology to achieve award-winning results.