Smart software solutions for the converting industry13 February 2018
As technology develops, the capabilities of software – and what it can do for the converting industry – grow immeasurably. Through flexibility, accuracy and intelligent interfaces, it opens up numerous opportunities for creative and modern design. Emma-Jane Batey speaks with key industry players to learn how they are harnessing this potential.
For the converting industry, software advances go far beyond packaging design to remote engineering, complete flexibility and cost-efficient solutions. With short to long runs benefitting from the immediacy that smart software can deliver, it’s no surprise that manufacturers using the best software are benefitting too.
Barcelona-based software solutions company Wincom Consulting works with a broad range of clients, delivering components that are easy to install into existing set-ups. With over 20 years’ experience and clients across industry sectors including luxury goods and automotive, Wincom’s ‘sounds like the future’ capabilities are based on using innovative, custom-built software to “reduce the cost of ownership and reduce the risks that are typically involved in customisation”. This is primarily achieved by working with companies that use 3D CAD tools to design machines, with the Wincom approach being to ‘add in’ specific components to a client’s existing set-up in order to simplify the available customisation of the system.
The trend for customisation
“Essentially, Wincom is the end of the chain; Comexi makes the huge machines for its packaging manufacturing clients and they are almost always custom-made, with highly specific requirements for each customer depending on what packaging requirements they have,” explains Wincom managing director and technical architect Simon Heath. “The big issue here is that while manufacturing the same thing over and over is relatively straightforward, product variants bring problems, and bespoke products bring even more.
“This is why smart software is appealing. Software can support different manufacturers of machines and our imbedded software means that the customer can achieve what they can imagine; better, faster and with more variants. Wincom makes software that helps customers like Comexi to design its machines according to the myriad specifications of its customers. We make productivity, improvement and usability tools that address all the issues our clients are frustrated by,” he continues.
In terms of software for the converting industry, Wincom has been working with packaging giant Comexi and harnessing its increasingly impressive manufacturing 4.0 and internet of things (IoT) capabilities to create machines that talk back to their ‘owners’ and resolve issues quickly, effectively and remotely. “We’re also creating some really exciting stuff like 3D digital twins, which means we can see exactly what’s happening online to our customers’ machines and can see the machine running remotely,” Heath says. “It means that we can actually fix machines before they break, because we can see issues as they’re developing, rather than waiting for them to break. We call it predictive analysis. The downtime this saves is incredible.”
Flexible packaging machinery supplier Comexi was founded in 1954 and continues to be a leading force in the converting sector. A global supplier with three manufacturing sites in Spain, Brazil and Italy, Comexi has long been focused on delivering customised solutions with a high degree of specialisation. With five core product lines offering flexographic printing, offset printing, gravure printing, laminating and slitting, it is clear that software advances like those provided by Wincom are valuable additions to Comexi’s portfolio.
“We make complex, unique machines, each with a degree of customisation that meets the special needs of each individual customer,” says Comexi’s technical director, Pere Roger. “Integrating innovative software allows us to achieve the high level of bespoke capabilities that our customers expect, without creating more issues for us in terms of manufacture and production.”
Software has also long been used to ensure that packaging is as beautiful as the designer imagined, providing optimum shelf appeal. For leading Hungerford-based label manufacturer Berkshire Labels, working with customers in a flexible manner means that they can accept a range of file types, or can create the design following detailed consultation with the client using its in-house design team.
A recent success story from Berkshire Labels is its collaboration with the UK’s number one ladies’ toiletries brand, Baylis & Harding, on its new Beauticology range, which includes the colourful Record Store and Carnival products.
“We are very proud of the Baylis & Harding labels, [it is] a great brand to be involved with,” says business development manager Simon Millin. “[We used] shrink sleeves, printed on our Mark Andy flexo press. The beauty of shrink sleeves is that it enables you to wrap the entire bottle, and the Baylis & Harding design on this range really makes the most of this, with the finished product looking fantastic. For this project, we received the design direct from the client as a high-resolution PDF on an ai file. Our studio work on Macs and they use Illustrator to prepare all the files into a print ready format.”
Baylis & Harding supply chain manager Chris Bell, who works closely with Berkshire Labels, agrees that the dynamic and attractive packaging is integral to the fact that Baylis & Harding is found in one in every two homes in the UK. “We proudly say that Baylis & Harding offers ‘affordable luxury’, and the look, feel and performance of the packaging is certainly a big part of that,” Bell says. “Our new Beauticology Carnival and Record Store collections are a particularly good example – our founders Tania and Adrian Slater have happy memories of saving their pocket money to spend at the local record store and have great memories of trips to the fairground.
“The packaging for these products is the real showstopper; [the Carnival collection] is striking in traditional red and white candy stripes with carousel horses, dancing acrobat, big top tent and Ferris wheel themes. The Record Store collection packaging features fabulously fun record and cassette tape designs. By providing the designs in ai files we can be assured that the packaging will be exactly as our designers so carefully created. We’re delighted with it,” Bell adds.
Freelance packaging branding design director Gareth Roberts, who has worked on brand development projects for leading agencies including Interbrand, LPK and ColeyPorterBell, shares his perspective. “Gone is the time when a creative can get by on sketch pads and pens alone,” he says. “Although we may yearn for the good old days, the reality is that the industry has moved forward at a rapid rate, with increasing amounts of designers turning to 3D and motion software packages alongside the standard use of Illustrator and Photoshop to solve some of their age-old packaging design problems. It’s no surprise that some of the more successful design agencies have some of the slickest and most highly finished presentations and pitches in the business. The downside is that, as a result, the pace of work has become quicker, and clients have demanded increasingly speedy delivery of work.”
Speed, quality, flexibility – these are the trends that never go out of fashion. With software advancements coming thick and fast, it’s no surprise that technical developments manage to touch every aspect of the converting industry. They continue to revolutionise what we do and how we do it, offering up numerous possibilities that allow industry players to ask – what can be done next?