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FLEXO Magazine : January 2012
part of our packaging success,” Shadle said. “As usual, CSW came through by assisting both Shop-Vac and BCM with the project,” particularly with advice on best practices on the printing side of the corrugated industry. CORRUGATORS CHALLENGED Shop-Vac has assembled color swatches and other refer- ence materials into a color control binder that he gave each corrugated vendor and assigned unique company names to each of the specified colors. The program asks for color measurement readings at the beginning, the middle, and the end of a pressrun, and the data is emailed to Shop-Vac, where it is reviewed and retained for future reference. When a shipment of corrugated packaging comes in, Shop-Vac technicians pull random samples and take an average of five measurements per sample with the spectrophotometer. Shop-Vac initially set its tolerance at 3 delta E, where 1 delta E can be said to represent the smallest value where an average observer can tell the difference between colors. “A lot of people told me that 3 delta E is pretty forgiving, but we figured that since we were getting into this we might as well be easy to work with,” Shadle says. After the color control program went into effect, Shop-Vac’s rejection rate went down significantly—from up to seven inter- nal complaints per week to one issue a month. Having seen substantial progress with its first tolerance, Shop-Vac asked its corrugated vendors if they could be 2 Delta E. “At first there was hesitation by some of our vendors, but surprisingly the corrugators that purchased the X-Rite equipment said they were completely amazed by the tools and said they would give it a try,” he says. “ Some of the ven- dors told me that they were able to pick up business because they told prospec- tive customers that they were using color- gauging equipment. ” Shadle says it took about six months of experience and practice to get the program operational. Some corrugators asked to use up their inventories of old inks before purchasing new inks to meet the new requirements, and it took time for everyone to work through questions that are inevitable when implementing any new system. Shop-Vac is now looking to set stan- dards of color management in its offset, lithography, and plastic poly bag printing. “ Now that we have gotten the color so good on the corrugated, we are seeing the inconsistencies from vendor to vendor on the spot labels and accessory cards,” Shadle says. Shadle says retailers today are stingy with space, so packaging has to help sell the product. Studies show that consum- ers judge the product by its package, and everything from poor print quality to holes in the cardboard packaging can cause them to pass on a purchase. “Our research shows that Shop-Vac is perceived as a high quality product, and it sends a message to both the customers and store management when the products are delivered in a top-quality package.” “ Overall, the program is a great success,” Shadle adds. “And our retail customers are very happy with the whole situa- tion because it takes the guesswork out of their end too.” According to Shadle, achieving consistent color takes a combination of science, diplomacy and patience, he says— science in the form of good color measurements and reliable ink formulations, diplomacy in handling resistance to change by large and small corrugators alike, and patience to give the changes time to take hold. But, if a company is willing to tackle all three, it has a great chance of bolstering its reputation for quality with consistent color in its packaging. “ When you are striving for brand recognition, you must have to have consistency in your colors,” concludes Shadle.n About the Author: Matthew Gryczan is principal of SciTech Communications LLC, a Grand Rapids, MI firm that creates original material for print and online media, websites and companies with complex selling propositions. 14 FLEXO january 2012 www.flexography.org