There has been a lot of focus in our sister publication Packaging Today on out the box thinking. Innovation seems to be getting further and further from the probable as people try to discover the next big thing, and companies look to make themselves stand out in more and more crowded stores and e-commerce spaces.
However, it seems to me that there is a disconnect between this rather lateral thinking and development, and the more technical reality of making said product, and it's one that is causing problems all the way across converting companies and their suppliers.
Digital print means companies can use smaller and smaller runs to test a product, which is great - but a short run of labels for a London test, and an international roll-out are completely different propositions. The make do and mend attitude of 1,000 labels for tea boxes in Selfridges is quirky and fun, and covered in the costs - but you cannot apply this mentality to 10,000 or 100,000 labels, as you would see the business lost quickly.
There is a constant struggle between the creative and the technical, and it's one that I see repeated over and over again across all product categories. It is also pertinent to this month's edition of Converting Today. With slitting and rewinding there must be a uniformity of width and material in order to provide the volume required efficiently. Constant change will lead to diminished output and productivity. Recycled content is great for meeting sustainability targets but the varied material thickness plays havoc with the fine margins and speeds being incorporated in line. For static control, with the margins involved fluctuations in width will lead to overload of charges and all sorts of costly errors if not immediately dealt with. At the heart of all these issues is a need to maintain quality , reduce bottom line costs and still turn out a better product.
This is not to say the converting industry in inflexible. There have been multiple developments across flexibility, output, energy saving, sustainability and print production, and these changes are continuing in 2015. But they are changes based on constants for large production cycles, and as we see further moves towards personalisation and shorter runs we are going to need to see quicker adaptation from machinery and equipment to keep pace.