The dictionary definition of dynamic uses words like energetic or active, which certainly applies to the label and packaging industries in the past year. The narrow web market has witnessed a resurgence in confidence that has seen technology manufacturers enjoying levels of sales and installations well beyond expectations. Whenever there are two or more mainstream events in one year, the technology tends to leap forward driven by the efforts to show off new machines, products and procedures. You only have to glance back through this year’s past issues of NarrowWebTech to see this exponential growth coming to life in our pages. Long may this trend continue!
Although digital print as a process has been building over the past twenty years it is only now that we see serious attempts to harness this technological revolution in a more constructive way. At a “print for packaging” seminar held recently in the UK, participants acknowledged this continued growth in digital print and the part it has to play as a complement to existing analogue techniques. Opinions varied on whether it would eventually be the “only show in town”, but all agreed that what it offers is a new level of creativity and innovation at all levels of the “converting” process.
Now, there’s an interesting conundrum! One might assume that creativity would go hand-in-hand with new technology, and in principle it does – but in the harsh light of day-to-day commercial operations, this is not always the case.
The problem is that so often innovation can be created in a vacuum of science and statistics, which has little practical application to the industry that is expected to adopt it and make it financially viable. Innovation
also implies change, which is not normally an area in which the print-related industries feel comfortable. So introducing change in a creative way requires buying into the new ideas and actively engaging with them!
Moreover, change in a controlled way can very quickly lead to success. “No man is an island”, and the interdependence and trust that we have in those with which we work closely is of prime importance. By communicating regularly with each other, all the good creativity and innovation can be brought to bear in a meaningful and commercial way. It sounds obvious, but how many can hold their hand up and say “We have changed the way we work to our benefit”? We work and earn our living in the communications market, yet at times we lack the conviction of our own success by not putting theory into practice sooner.
What this year has offered is the opportunity to see how potential progress can and should be harnessed. If you were ever in doubt, then a few days spent walking the halls of drupa or Labelexpo Americas will help to convince you. It’s true that digital still represents a small proportion of narrow web print production overall, and even less in the wide web/sheet fed markets, but it is growing in stature and application as the vast amount of floor space given over to the technology at these events bore witness. Whether used as a standalone technique or inline with other processes, as the rash of new hybrid machines allow, digital is your opportunity to use the creativity that this innovation provides to grow your business.
But, if you think there has been little other than digital launches to celebrate this year, take a look at the effort that the flexo press manufacturers are putting into the ways in which you can diversify from labels into the flexible packaging and folding carton markets. As I said at the beginning, this market never stands still.
It’s been a busy and exciting year for our part of the printing industry, and on behalf of all of us at Narrow-WebTech, I thank you for your continued support and wish you all success in 2017.