Why consider bringing print in-house? Do you fit the business profile?

By Simon Smith, Senior Packaging & Innovation Consultant at iDi Pac Ltd

Whatever your motivation, path of discovery or stage of business maturity that has led you to consider printing your own material – the following scenarios would be familiar to you and may be impacting your operations:
• Pressure to produce short production runs, often
• Active product portfolio with frequent artwork content changes
• Limited ability to react to short lead time customer orders
• High cost of stock-holding and manage inventory

More positively, digitally printed decoration can be introduced specifically on or at line to create opportunities and deliver value for a range of product applications. Additionally, digital technology has the ability to revive existing ‘analogue’ print methods and when married together as a hybrid solution, it can extend functionality of legacy technology to deliver, optimally, the best of both worlds.

Print Ownership
The traditional print supply model has you as the customer spending ‘X’ amount for finished stock from a supplier. Within that figure, costed, is the responsibility of print ownership; the expertise & overheads of managing high-volume equipment, investment in complicated, expensive lines and their highly trained operators and of course margins. By comparison digital print is now accessible to anybody that can use desktop software and operate simple print units. As a technical exercise this is straightforward, with an array of equipment available that meets the needs of entry level through to industrial capacity machines. The technology is proven and many have taken advantage of the operational benefits. The truth is, printing is the easy bit..!

Before embarking on this journey you’ll need to identify skill and process gaps in introducing and assuming ownership for print. Having the right people to implement such a project is important due to the many touch points that print (& packaging) has in an organisation. Those with the ability to embrace change, competent in delivering projects, motivated by learning new skills are key to enabling successful delivery.

Process management
Depending on the complexities of the industries you serve and the production principles of your operation, ensuring processes are aligned and reflect revised working methods and responsibilities is a nettle to grasp and requires testing & qualifying to ensure that product & production integrity is not compromised. As examples, a change in production practice and ownership of new responsibilities may include;
1. Artwork approval/ artwork revision management
2. Production; start-up to exit press,
3. Material handling/material release
4. Print approval
5. Planning/scheduling
6. Job bag system (borrowed from the print industry to manage work)

Build business case profile
While this exhaustive analysis may sound like more work upfront, it’s important to capture and identify as part of building your business case scenario and formulate a clear production strategy to support resources involved. To understand the benefits (and to offset implementation resources required/asset ROI) it’s essential to identify and evaluate all benefits to your operation;
i. Fewer SKUs to manage
ii. In-line production/streamlined
iii. Reduced write off
iv. Less stock-holding & WC
v. Artwork samples/examples rapidly made
vi. Etc

Putting value against each of these points will help you calculate payback from your investment and identify the true cost opportunity and operational advantage– a gauntlet to throw down & fiscal demonstration of the impact of implementing an-house print strategy.
Technology solutions
When matching your print demand requirements to suitable digital solutions there is a choice from fixed price ‘entry level’ desktop units up to machines increasing in speed, quality and adaptability depending on your requirements.
It makes sense review your portfolio to determine suitable press capability, taking into account order volumes, customer requirements and how work could be run in parallel – start ‘thinking’ like a print scheduler. This is also the opportunity to revisit print specs and look at possible alternatives that match performance. Finishing options (such as coatings, effects, diecutting) will determine either in-line or off-line specified equipment and will require thought to align to your production strategy.

Evaluating these print portfolio requirements is part of delivering business case goals, production strategy will determine the best utilisation of time & output on the printer and create a brief to procure the best digital solution to meet your future needs.

Next steps
iDi Pac has the experience of these technology implementation programmes and are able to guide you through business case delivery. With project management skills we ensure the optimal strategy is defined and tech solutions are identified, trialled, commissioned and embedded in your business. Get in touch to have us on-board and start to see the potential of in-house print sooner.

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