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FLEXO Magazine : January 2014
certainly its competitors’—strategic direction and mission. To remain competitive, all suppliers must provide more than a machine, ink or consumable. We must deliver solutions that drive process control, consistency and standardization, pack- aged together with adoptable workflows and lean solutions. At Mark Andy, Rotoflex and other capital equipment manufacturers, process control and continuous improvement go hand in hand. Our focus on the converter, providing the technology to support consistent workflows and tools for improvement, are primary business drivers. Key areas where converters have a lot of opportunity are: • On board automation. Reducing material, ink and overhead costs with automated functions from prepress to finishing are critical to success. On board automation tools provide measurability, traceability and true visibility for better decision making and production floor planning • Personnel development and standardization. Educating operators and floor personnel to fully utilize new technol- ogy and automated systems enable better management of industry standardizations and quality control. Focusing on ongoing development empowers us all to deliver sale- able finished product and can further elevate converters’ competitive positioning in securing new business • Continuous improvement. As the industry matures and competition gets more intense, it is imperative to invest time, education and resources in continuous improve- ment. Always challenging ourselves to uncover problems and opportunities, and addressing them, drives discov- ery necessary for our industry to remain viable FUTURE TRENDS Inline printing machinery has evolved beyond a standalone mechanical press, where manually managed operations, segregated from other pressroom procedures, have become ineffective and costly. Cost measurement, color management, standardization tools, integrated consumable and supply management will become sophisticated electronic and infor- mation technology tools. These tools are already enabling communication and automation throughout the entire printing workflow, but the trend is just beginning. Basic user interfaces will become passé. New information technology based systems will con- tinue to evolve rapidly across prepress, press and postpress platforms, allowing access to powerful data and workflow information. These will become powerful tools to support business management and intuitive process control, all at the converter’s fingertips. The machine designers, raw material suppliers, prepress and job management providers will drive more and more value by sharing technological resources that will afford converters new ways to examine their businesses and identify waste and excess cost; thereby empowering them in ways not yet even heard of today. TOP PRIORITIES As information and workflow management tools become more sophisticated, so too must the actual printing equip- ment. It must be developed with the electronic and informa- tion system management tools integrated. One common machine development goal prevails: supply high quality, innovative solutions that drive converter profitability. Successful print equipment builders must concentrate their research and development (R&D) efforts to fully maximize value to the converter, not necessarily anchoring to one single print technology, given the continued advancements of print- ing processes—specifically digital printing and its penetration into label and package production. Future designs will be driven by the focused objective of “building the best quality innovative solutions that allow converters to deliver saleable quality, maximizing margin and business profitability.” This will be translated into the best integration of multiple technologies. We see the trend heading into a highly func- tional hybrid flexo/digital printing environment. It is a logical printing equipment strategy that embraces the top values of both printing processes (flexo and digital inkjet). A key factor in successful hybrid printing equipment is putting a new level of flexibility, configurability and ultimately control in the hands of the converter. Affording converters the opportunity to be competitive and profitable, creating their own best practices with new state of the art equipment, will create a more positive, creative solution based business envi- ronment and sustain our industry for years to come. n About the Author: Mary Sullivan is director of global mar- keting at Mark Andy Inc. She is responsible for managing strategic direction of its product lines and works closely with both internal and external customers to effectively build awareness of the benefits of flexographic printing and con- verting. Currently, she serves on FTA’s Board of Directors and its Foundation’s Board of Trustees. 40 FLEXO JANUARY 2014 www.flexography.org