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FLEXO Magazine : January 2014
ONE SIZE FITS ALL? Standardization of products around the globe has become even more important for brand identity. With a smaller world, a brand must be similarly and easily identifiable anywhere a consumer travels. All brand promotions link together. The move to protecting brand image and, of course, color management, has other ramifications. Consider transpor- tation—the trip from where a product is manufactured and packaged to where it is sold. Mega retailers have a greater influence on how a product will be received and accepted. There are logistic issues encountered by the retailer that affect package design. This brings into consideration factors such as palletization, shapes, weights, dimensions and shelf space. One of the more challenging areas is the current practice of selling shelf space by cubic volume rather than shelf area. A brand owner pays for and is responsible for the area on the shelf, as well as the space above it and below the next shelf. There is a complicated science in building packaging to fit this space. And because there are also ramifications be- tween the shape of packaging and how that affects the size of cartons and palletization, juggling these concerns becomes extremely complicated. Working with shapes and weights of high profile packaging on shelves directly correlates to fitting on a pallet, which also has some directives from retailers. If things do not fit correctly on the pallet, it ’s back to the drawing board. All of this means that process controls must be set into place to assure that standardization is accepted. Measurable processes must exist to: • Arrive at standard color • Assure acceptable product formats • Deliver cost effective shipping though efficient use of space on a pallet And these need to be achieved without compromising on appearance on a store’s shelves. STEADY IMPROVEMENTS While there have been significant changes in technology— high definition flexo plates and their impact on quality come to mind—the true nature of flexo’s evolution is based on the model of continuous improvement. That is, subsets of pro- cesses are continuously improved, be it color management, anilox rolls, presses or incremental plate technologies. For example, plate technologies have included a number of improvements: • Higher resolution • Better screening in highlights • The inclusion of screening technologies specific to shadows • Inline exposure that enhances dot quality and allows an imager to select flat top and regular dots on the same plate In the past four years, this has been supported from many vendors with a new range of plates that have been created There are a lot of gears in the packaging machine: Rather than designing a package without any constraints, brand owners have to consider the shelf space they are allotted, the space those packages will take up in a carton and palletization. 18 FLEXO JANUARY 2014 www.flexography.org