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FLEXO Magazine : February 2008
PLANTS & PROCESSES LABELS 44 FLEXO FEBRUARY 2008 www.flexography.org When looking to new printing technology, it's doubtless that Europe is producing some of the most striking and impressive label and packaging technologies. What's in these trends that will find its way to other re- gions of the world? Europe has a quite wealthy consumer economy, which some may say is reflected in the strong Euro. Today's multilingual and multicultural European consumers are setting their demands higher every year. With its newly open borders, there is suf- ficient competition among the European Union (EU) community to respond to these growing consumer demands. And, like oth- er regions of the world, they too are doing so with Asian imports if necessary. The European printing industry is try- ing every day to respond to this boost in consumer demands with innovative approaches in printing and converting technology. This goes hand in hand with European printing machine manufactur- ers, who have historically demonstrated a heightened degree of technology de- velopment with inventions and offers of new, more efficient tools to the printing industry. We can see this clearly after the crisis in Europe at the start of this century, and this upswing is changing the printing market in a most remarkable and positive way. The demands for hybrid printing so- lutions, both in hardware and software, as well as in materials to be printed and converted, are notable. Run lengths are shrinking and order variations are grow- ing. This is apparent in every aspect of label and packaging converting. Equally apparent are demands for lead time reduc- tions and faster outputs to meet increas- ingly competitive marketing challenges brought on by today's no-holds-barred consumer products companies' approach to their consumers. These trends in Europe have effectively materialized into the latest in printing press offerings. This dramatically reduces setup times and the expertise required to bring the latest in European presses through their setup to print procedures. We can see this has also increased press running speeds and contributed to the in- sistence on hybrid flexible press solutions. In package printing, substantial changes have taken place in various respects. INDIA As we neared the end of the last century, we learned that packaging prepress has been consolidated to a small number of manufacturing locations. We experienced this trend based on higher hourly DTP (direct to plate) rates in Western Europe. As such, the production of new packaging prepress was being outsourced to low- salary countries like India. It did not take long for package printing historically done in Western Europe to be outsourced to Eastern Europe and sometimes to China if lead time allowed for it. These are striking examples that the cost price of packaging products is more than ever a deciding factor in where the order is placed. This outsourcing develop- ment has directly challenged the status quo of the European package printing Effective Use of Innovation Challenging Trends in Europe By Eric Hoendervangers Since drupa 2000's kick-off digital short-run label printing exceeds all expectations in Europe.