Key mega trends shaping carton manufacturing and how the latest technology responds shared at customer event
The trends and drivers shaping the future of carton manufacturing were identified and discussed last month when Koenig & Bauer Durst invited carton printers to Radebeul, Germany, home of the sheetfed production centre.
Around 100 interested carton converters, from across Europe and North America, listened to the wide-ranging discussions and learned more about Koenig & Bauer Durst’s solution to help them capitalise on emerging opportunities.
After Ralf Sammeck, Member of the Board at Koenig & Bauer with responsibility for Sheetfed, joined Koenig & Bauer Managing Director Robert Stabler to officially open the event, Dr Sean Smyth, print technologist and consultant for Smithers, listed the mega trends influencing today’s packaging environment.
They included sustainability and carton production’s place in a circular economy. Also detailed were the advantages of digital printing in eliminating the need for plates, water, and chemistry, and reducing set up time and waste, while improving responsiveness to demand.
The impact of micro and macroeconomics were explored – demographic shifts from the growth in affluent, educated consumers, to changing population age profiles and the rise in individual preferences. Sean expanded on how technology specific to packaging is evolving to deliver higher quality in an increasingly agile and responsive way.
Legislation is also shaping printing requirements both in terms of on pack information and post use disposal while enhanced supply chain management and track and trace capabilities enable improved stock oversight and brand protection.
These, he said, were set against a back drop of positive growth for carton makers in 2022. Growth that is expected to continue with cartons predicted to reach the equivalent of a billion A4 prints by 2028 and digital carton volumes in North America and Europe predicted to enjoy a compound annual growth rate of just under 20% to 2027.
At the same time average runs are falling with operations under pressure to manage many more short-medium runs. Sean pointed out that a shift in all carton volume from 26% to 29% equates to 20 million more jobs and asked: “How do you manage more jobs in your shop effectively?”
Robert Stabler detailed how to build a business case in digital printing in folding carton markets and outlined key solutions developed for carton converters.
He highlighted how the latest technology in the modular VariJET 106, that can utilise offset and flexo functionality, helps future proof investment. The B1 5,500sph press platform for folding carton packaging makes simple work of limited-run seasonal and personalised, targeted packaging.
A water based, food safe and deinkable ink set, developed with exceptional rub resistant characteristics, ensures food safe production meeting current and future regulatory and environmental standards. The most recent of which is the updated The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive that aims to ensure that all packaging is reusable or recyclable in an economically feasible way by 2030.
The VariJET 106 leverages the know-how and expertise of Koenig & Bauer’s leadership in offset printing with Durst’s digital inkjet prowess. This enables the delivery of offset quality while harnessing the flexibility of digital allowing customers to build new, highly responsive business models. Based on Koenig & Bauer’s standard high performance Rapida 106, it features standard components for infeed, priming, coating and delivery. It incorporates Durst printhead electronics, inkjet expertise, proprietary workflow, and RIP technology.
Highly automated file submission, approval and delivery to the press is managed by Durst Workflow. It also automates unique coding and numbering applications for track and trace applications. The optional Smart Shop module provides a full e-commerce front end, including design and job submission tools while the comprehensive analytics tool set, reports detailed performance data and KPIs that aid press optimisation.
All of which help contribute to a convincing TCO (total cost of ownership) when evaluating whether an investment will pay off, where the volume break even points are to ensure more accurate costings, and how the most effective technology utilisation can be achieved. Other benefits such as how digital just-in-time print production can help reduce storage costs and obsolescence were also explored.
Attendees watched as the press was put through its paces and seamlessly ran five carton jobs in just over 15 minutes, which included job-changes on the fly at a top speed of 5,500sph. “Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!” Three featured the same stock with design and ink coverage changes. Next was a spot varnished job on a different board with a changeover of varnish plate. The final job included board size change and another spot varnish.
The event included updates on the installation of the first beta press that will be up and running this month (May). Preparations are underway to install a second in June and a commercial customer is planning production from Q3. Other systems are under construction.
- Koenig & Bauer Durst announces customer and beta site details
- Built on market-proven technology, the VariJET 106 aligns with customer individual requirements
- Building program accelerates to keep up with folding carton digital printing growth
Würzburg, Germany 04.05.2023
Koenig & Bauer Durst is scaling up its VariJET 106 build program to cope with high demands for digital production in folding carton markets, which it expects to accelerate further this year. The announcement comes as two beta sites get under way and the first commercial customer will start live production in the second half of the year.
Printing starts in May at a first beta site of the VariJET 106 B1 single pass digital press for folding carton markets. A second beta test customer, also in central Europe, will begin a few weeks later. The VariJET 106 is the first joint development between Durst and Koenig & Bauer. The announcements were made at Koenig & Bauer Durst VariJET 106’s Open House at Sheetfed Division of Koenig & Bauer where more than 60 delegates have been hosted in Radebeul, Germany, on April 26-27.
Robert Stabler, Managing Director of Koenig & Bauer Durst, said: “Built on market-proven technology, the VariJET 106 installations represent huge statements to the market – and we are really pleased with the substantial progress that has been made. Production is being ramped up and new machines will become available in the second half of 2023 on the back of the relatively high demand we are witnessing.”
He added: These presses are tailored to individual requirements and afford a major opportunity for those companies that can optimize their production and reduce costs while offering new high added value business models. Challenges like these are what our VariJET 106 has been developed to answer. The VariJET 106 combines the best of both worlds of Koenig & Bauer’s Rapida 106 technology and all the digital know-how and expertise of Durst. It brings together the strengths of digital inkjet and classic offset printing.”
Koenig & Bauer Durst’s VariJET 106 is equipped to be able to address a wide range of applications. The press produces up to 5,500 sheets per hour. It uses water-based inks that comply with all the main food security standards. The inks are also de-inkable which is important to future proof an investment in the light of tightening legislation around recyclability and reusage rates.
Industry analyst and commentator Dr Sean Smyth was the keynote speaker at VariJET 106 Open House in Radebeul. Sustainability, waste reduction targets and potential new European regulations on recyclability among the topics. Backing up the production demos, there were expert discussions on all facets of the printing process including a deep dive into how workflows and analytics support customers to cost effectively manage high volumes of shorter run length print jobs.
Diversification of the product range demanded by the packaging market means that print companies face a constant increase in the share of short and medium runs. If these jobs are to be produced sustainably and efficiently, an objective and holistic comparison of the print and process costs is imperative. Against this background, Koenig & Bauer Durst has teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) to examine the opportunities for and challenges facing digital and offset printing from the supply chain perspective. Senior product manager Oliver Baar and strategy and business development manager Jochen Sproll from Koenig & Bauer Durst explain the conclusions of this analysis and what the results mean for the industry as a whole.
The industry is looking back at a few turbulent months. Where do you see the biggest challenges confronting printers today?
Oliver Baar: The most significant aspect is almost certainly substrate availability, where we can even speak of paper rationing in some cases. Shortages like this drive cost pressures, but the print companies are neither willing nor indeed able to pass on the full additional cost to their customers. At the same time, the folding carton market is moving in the direction of ever shorter runs, shorter product lifecycles and even greater diversification. And last but not least, printing companies, too, are struggling with the general shortage of qualified employees and the massive rise in energy costs.
Short runs – is that not actually a point where digital printing could make use of its particular strengths?
Jochen Sproll: Yes, of course. But we wanted to look at the situation in more detail, and to consider the whole supply chain rather than just the printing costs. Our focus was therefore also directed at, among other things, the current developments and the cost of total value chain waste. It is important to keep an eye on storage costs and not just on waste during the production process. These are all factors that determine whether a particular run length can be produced more efficiently in a digital or offset process.
How exactly did you perform the analysis?
Jochen Sproll: First of all, it was very important for us to work on this project together with an external partner with corresponding supply chain expertise, in order to obtain a truly objective picture – and we found that partner in the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund. We then set about developing a calculation model reflecting the entire supply chain. This model was fed with real production data from a printing company, with data relating to the digital printing process from us, and with information covering the whole logistics and supply chain side from Fraunhofer.
Oliver Baar: Being able to work with real production data from an actual printing company brought great benefits. The company granted us unfiltered insights into its processes and its cost and run length structures, which meant that, instead of a purely theoretical evaluation, we could produce a real-life case analysis for an industrial application. This makes the study far more than just a comparison of machine costs – instead, it draws its comparisons across the entire production process, including the associated supply chain. It is simply the case that the upstream and downstream processes, in particular, must play a significant role in any well-founded comparison. And that is what makes the whitepaper so exciting.
Why is that so important?
Oliver Baar: Well, there is no doubt about the huge advantages of digital printing. It is fast, it is flexible and it is individual. There are, however, also potentially problematic factors. Let’s just think about the logistics, for example. If you are producing more and more small jobs, that will also mean more transport processes. On the other hand, digital printing enables you to avoid unnecessary overproduction and waste. Both aspects must be taken into account in a comparison. And that is why I believe that the study that we have conducted into this is objective and valuable to brands and converters as they assess their waste and sustainability credentials.
Does sustainability also play a role?
Jochen Sproll: Definitely! In two respects, in fact. Sustainability is one of the three pillars of Koenig & Bauer’s Exceeding Print strategy, but at the same time also one of the key demands coming from our customers in the market – and that with the expectation of clear proof by way of certifications or the like. This means that our task as a press manufacturer is to offer our customers not only a technically optimal solution, but also the best solution for sustainable production. And in this context it becomes evident, for example, that digital printing with its short runs and reduced makeready times enables considerable savings – if fewer waste sheets are thrown away during makeready, we are also wasting less ink and substrate. What’s more, both print companies and brand owners can reduce their warehouse capacities if overproduction is avoided, and there are no additional products to be held in intermediate storage and possibly sent to waste after all at a later date. These savings are, of course, effective in terms of both costs and sustainability.
“Our task as press manufacturer is to offer our customers not only a technically optimum solution, but also the best solution for sustainable production.” – Jochen Sproll
When all these factors are taken into account, for which run lengths does digital printing have an edge?
Jochen Sproll: It’s not possible to generalise, of course. That said, our analysis did reveal that, after taking all process costs into account, a digital press like our VariJET 106 can actually be more profitable for medium runs. People tend to consider just the costs of printing. The threshold below which it becomes meaningful to choose a digital press is then often found at around 3,000 sheets. If we consider the overall process costs, however, the break-even point shifts to run lengths totalling between 6,000 and 10,000 sheets.
Oliver Baar: And that, in turn, opens up a whole new range of options for a print company’s existing offset presses. The investment in a digital press must not be viewed in isolation, because it has the potential to increase the overall volume of production. If a company takes short runs out of its offset process and transfers them – for example – to a VariJET, it achieves three things: in addition to the various benefits that have already been mentioned several times, the additional option of digital printing enables the company to enhance the portfolio of services it offers to customers, and at the same time to produce higher volumes at lower costs using its existing presses. A process evaluation that takes the company’s entire production output into account is immensely important for such a decision.
But that also goes to show that the decision to embrace digital printing means more than just the installation of another press. Do print companies also need to reorganise their in-house processes if they take this step?
Oliver Baar: Definitely. To be able to exploit the benefits of digital printing to the full, internal processes must also be adapted accordingly – similarly digitised, so to speak. You are unlikely to find people still walking around with paper job dockets in their hands nowadays, but a leaner workflow brings benefits for overall production. The decisive point is: if my digital press is going to be printing more jobs than I used to handle in offset, my fixed costs per job cannot remain constant. Adapting my organisation to process more jobs also means accelerating the passage of each individual job through the company – through automation, with workflow systems, via a web-to-print shop, by way of effective reporting. It represents a demand that digital printing must satisfy, but also an opportunity for business as a whole.
Jochen Sproll: Optimum use of the technology triggers a chain reaction: brand owners can call up smaller batches, the print company is in a position to produce them efficiently, less intermediate storage capacity is needed and the risk of obsolescence is minimised. In this way, less waste is produced and the result is a more environment-friendly overall process.
“The investment in a digital press has the potential to increase the overall volume of production.” – Oliver Baar
Does the experience gained in folding carton production permit conclusions to be drawn for other market segments?
Jochen Sproll: I think so, yes. In corrugated packaging, for example, we have a very similar situation. This is why it makes sense to include the factors of waste and flexo plate costs in the direct cost comparison in order to obtain a more realistic picture of the full value creation chain in this case as well. Even the substrate itself is a relevant variable, because the contactless digital printing process by the Delta SPC 130 enables thinner topliners to be used without limiting the functionality of the corrugated packaging. On the other hand, the ink costs do, of course, become higher, but they will eventually play only a marginal role in the overall evaluation. Therefore: it always pays to factor the entire value creation chain into your analysis.
By Jochen Sproll, Business Development Manager, Koenig & Bauer Durst
By Johannes Pieger, Digital Print Manager, Schumacher Packaging
- Double celebration planned for corrugated box manufacturer
- Brands continue to drive transformation to meet changing market demands
- Koenig & Bauer Durst brings complete digital printing solution for food packaging
Rondo Ganahl, one of Europe’s foremost corrugated board and packaging manufacturers, has unveiled plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary milestone and official opening of a digital print production plant in a €25 million investment. The company in Styria, Austria, is determined to capitalize on continued business growth where digital production volumes continue to rise by 25 to 30% a year.
Taking center stage in the dedicated digital production facility is Koenig & Bauer Durst’s Delta SPC 130 single-pass press with water-based ink technology that is driving business growth and providing the food packaging industry solutions demanded by brands. The Delta SPC 130 has been successfully transferred across to the new plant and production has started as planned from the start of April.
The official opening ceremony for the new building together with the 50th anniversary celebration of Rondo St Ruprecht will be in September. The firm, which is part of the Rondo Group that has eight plants across Europe, invested in the Delta SPC 130 three years ago to start digital production – and has never looked back. About 90% of the Rondo digital printing business is for the food industry.
With lead times continuing to go down, Rondo says it must further develop the digital technology where the excellent print quality already matches litho production.
Karl Pucher, Managing Director of Rondo Ganahl St. Ruprecht, said: “It has been an incredible success story. Digital printing was a big step for us three years ago with an unknown future, but we have never looked back. The transformation is being driven by brands who need to get products to the market quickly, and with digital printing we are very fast from development to getting the products to customers, among them Lindt & Sprüngli who are very big in display products and have been with us on our digital journey from the start.”
“Digital printing is the future and is really helping us get a whole raft of new customers. Quality is no longer a topic of conversation. Digital is a very important development for us because we now have a total solution for our customers that has been integrated into our whole plant process. We are running the SPC 130 very well in a two-shift operation, sometimes even in three shifts. We have a lot of customers in the food industry and one of the main reasons for going with Koenig & Bauer Durst is because of its food-safe inks. They provided all permissions we need for the food industry.”
Mr Pucher added: “The interaction with Koenig & Bauer Durst is excellent – we are very happy with the support. We didn’t just buy a machine. We bought a complete system. The software is the main part because it helps us to optimize the printing and make the right decisions for customers.”
Robert Stabler, Managing Director, Koenig & Bauer Durst, said: “In a true partnership approach, we have been with Rondo every step of the way from its start in digital printing. Investing heavily in a dedicated digital production plant speaks volumes about where markets are heading – all driven by brands. “Converters increasingly recognise that they need a highly automated, reliable, versatile, and all-in-one digital solution for fast turnaround of jobs. Rondo is also a perfect example of how companies ensure jobs run seamlessly through their plants by investing in complete workflows and colour management systems.”
5 – 6 December 2022, Berlin
Two technology leaders in printing and packaging joined forces three years ago to pool expertise and resources in a research and development project costing millions of euros. Durst and Koenig & Bauer formed the joint venture company – Koenig & Bauer Durst – in 2019. The result of their seamless integration and cooperation was the worldwide launch of the VariJET 106 in October 2021. This is the background to the challenges and their achievements.
By David Zwang, Principal Consultant, Zwang & Company