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How Technology Is Affecting Our World

By Dave Burgess

April 2, 2018

width=231As the holidays came and went, I kept noticing an abundance of next-day delivery trucks constantly parading around the neighborhood, even to the extent that on Sundays, the U.S. Postal Service was used as a contractor to ensure the on-time delivery of the massive amount of packages that were being ordered online. You only had to look up to see a UPS or a FedEx vehicle loaded from top to bottom with boxes of every size and shape. The e-commerce revolution has indeed taken off, and luckily for us, every article purchased had to be shipped inside a container that could withstand multiple transportation modes and a box that would clearly identify the seller’s name—usually Amazon.com.

So, what is this online revolution doing to our business? The answer is that it is changing it rapidly and radically. Now, every converter needs to be able to produce boxes at high speeds to deliver multiple-colored containers in long and short runs to support the very large and very small manufacturers—and even to be able to print on the inside and outside of the box. And as online retailers carry such a varying inventory of product and do not want to carry large corrugated inventories, most of these boxes need to be produced almost on an on-​demand basis.

What this has brought about for our industry is a massive re-equipping cycle on the traditional flexos and die cutters to ensure speed, accuracy, and print quality. It has also has pushed many converters to look seriously at the new digital print technology, which has now truly arrived!

Digital print is now an established method of print in the corrugated container market. We were the last real market to adopt digital as a process, due primarily to size and the many grades of substrates that we use. But I think that within the next two to three years, every major converter will have some form of digital offering, or will struggle to generate new business.

Digital gives us incredible flexibility, regionalization and personalization of market segments, and speed to market, color, and graphics that can be quickly changed with a keystroke. Digital print is also helping to bring bright young people into this business who are tech-savvy and have new, dynamic ideas to help preserve the packaging business, traditionally staffed by an aging workforce.

As a manufacturer who sells mostly into the flexo market arena, I want to make it abundantly clear that I do not think the growth of digital will mean the death of flexo; I think they are complementary. We have seen many cases in which a company has installed digital and opened up new, short-run markets for graphics, and then found that this has led to longer and longer runs and higher volumes of high-quality product. That is where flexo can continue to grow. We think that the company of the future will need to invest in new digital and flexo equipment. It will need the ability to print inside and outside of the box, build strategic geographical partners to produce for the national and global markets, and look at equipment reinvestment on a much faster cycle. No longer will a 25-year-old piece of equipment be able to compete.

In corrugated, the future is now, and those who adopt and embrace the new technologies will be the winners!


This article was written by Dave Burgess.