Digital Packaging Summit 2022 Recap: Packaging Continues to Be a Key Opportunity

Plus, what needs to happen for digital printing to become more mainstream?

Nov 22, 2022 11:22:28 AM


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This year marks the eighth Digital Packaging Summit put on by the PRINTING United Alliance in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. I’ve been fortunate enough to be the co-chairperson of the event from the beginning, sharing the duties with Marco Boer of I.T. Strategies, and I have seen the show grow each year. The invitation-only format brings together buyers and sellers of solutions targeted specifically for packaging applications.


In the early years the focus was on digital label production systems, but it has since expanded to cover the four main package printing genres: labels, corrugated, flexible, and folding cartons. In addition to addressing the printing of packaging, all areas of need are brought to the attendees, from workflow tools, color management, and cloud-based services to finishing, and, of course, digital printing.


The familiar (and very successful) program was jam packed with information on topics, including a state of the industry presentation by Marco Boer; digital’s role in a complex workflow by Cory Francer of NAPCO Media Research; an outstanding brand owner panel moderated by Linda Casey, Editor-in-Chief of Packaging Impressions; as well as two user panels moderated by yours truly.


Kevin Karstedt, Vice President of Keypoint Intelligence’s Packaging & Labels Division,
addressesthe crowd at this year’s Digital Packaging Summit.


Having been part of the content development team since the start, I have seen a lot of great information shared from the podium, in breakout rooms, and in one-on-one sessions. There has been subtle yet distinct growth in much of what is discussed. In years past, the focus of discussion was on how print is being done (it is the Digital Packaging Summit, after all), but in the past two years, there’s been a shift toward talking about how digital printing is simply another way of getting more work through a converters plant, making them more efficient and—here is the big change—more profitable. Yes, there are outstanding examples of companies that are 100% digital, and of those that serve the growing e-commerce businesses and startups very successfully. There are still examples of marketing projects that could only be done with digital technologies, but, in more and more discussions, the topic now centers around solutions that are making businesses more efficient, effective, and that are helping raise profits.


There are two things that need to occur to enable digital printing to become a mainstream production process on a global basis. First, that it must be readily available for all types of packaging in all regions of the world. Global brands need to be able to count on the benefits brought to them by their supply chain partners, which means that this group of partners needs to be able to react as needed for any type of packaging, bringing all components of the brand’s requirements to them with equal efficiency. If digital printing is part of the tool set, then it has to be equally available for all the brand’s needs.


The second thing needed to make digital ubiquitous in the marketplace is that it must be looked at by converters as a tool that can be deployed as needed, wherever it’s needed, and when needed to improve efficiency and profitability of the entire operation. This has occurred in other markets where digital printing has been deployed, including transactional, wide format, textile printing, and (to an extent) in the labels sector—but it is still a way off in the other packaging sectors.


Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

All those attending summits and conferences around the world see the promise and possibilities that digital printing can bring to packaging. The companies developing the current digital solutions have collectively invested billions of dollars in the past decade alone to bring viable digital solutions to market. To capitalize on that investment, solutions need to become universally accepted and available on a global basis. For that to happen, they need to move from being a “nice to have” solution to a “must have”—one that makes them more efficient, effective, and profitable (not to mention widely available).


How close are we to that point? The short answer is we are not quite there yet, but we are headed in the right direction. And if prospective buyers of digital solutions and those developing these solutions were not already aware, here’s my humble advice:


It’s not just about print.


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