PrintWeek India (PWI): Three tiny tips to manage brand colour in India?
Kulakkada Pradeep (KP): First and foremost, keep standards in graphic exchange and reproduction as per global norms. Then maintain the "heartbeat" of your printing machine as perfectly as possible. And finally, remember that devices are 'smart' now. People shall also be smart and brilliant. Therefore, skilling and re-skilling are essential.
PWI: To what extent does G7 help in managing, maintaining, and auditing brand colour consistency with multiple suppliers and print service providers in the consumer packaging goods supply-chain?
KP: One of the critical challenges in managing colour lies in its measurement and evaluation, and how it can communicate among the stakeholders. The days of CMYK values and machine proofing are over. G7 certification is going to help build a workforce which will be knowledgeable and confidant about communicating various aspects of colour far more accurately. G7 will help to learn and explore the possibilities of using colour as a powerful medium for communication and win the trust of the consumers. It assures them that the brand is consistent in its look and feel as its products.
PWI: You are hosting a session at Anaswara?
KP: Yes, we are planning it at Anaswara. G7 training in a press room without calibration is useless.
PWI: What is the difficulty of adoption of G7 on an Indian shopfloor?
KP: First of all, there should be a realisation among all stake holders-printers and print buyers that colour is essential. Reproducing colours well has its merits and after that, getting the print business owners to support it and invest in the technology and the process.
PWI: What about the print buyers?
KP: I feel, the print buyers should see the value of all these and shall be ready to shell out that extra to get the colour right. Once the stakeholders align with this need, then everything else can fall in place.
PWI: These days, seven-colour process printing in flexography, offset and digital has become the norm. In your view, how can one work with expanded gamut printing?
KP: Seven-colour printing in the various print processes is common with a wide possibility of packaging printing. It is an attempt to extend the colour gamut - CMYK to extended-CMYK. It replaces spot colour, especially in packaging, enhancing the vividness of colour, saving the time, errors and money. Due to personalisation and customisation, run lengths quantity for printing are reduced nowadays.
PWI: What is the role of the ECG?
KP: The extended colour gamut (ECG) is seven-colour printing where more colours are added to the CMYK process set-up. Here the ECG is rendered scientifically by using complex mathematical equations that suit sustainable packaging requirement with a defined quality by avoiding additional wash-ups. In any method, an achievable target is obtained by defining press conditions specifically along with ECG.
PWI: How so?
KP: Usually through pre-press, spot target, and process control specifications. These are clearly defined with limited tolerance, colour measurements, measuring conditions, viewing conditions, quality monitoring tool etc in a standardised way. As per the new guidelines of CIE Technical committee, methods are suggested to communicate a colour gamut, gamut boundary description (boundary and volume) and comparison of gamut (gamut metrics). This comparison of gamut may be of press gamut to proof gamut or press gamut to press gamut (another press or another technology). The data collected through this comparison is derived by using complex mathematical calculations. It will be achieved by the Graphic Comparison Index (GCI) that will tell you how closely the prints are matchable or how much it shall be out of gamut.
PWI: Any press requirement for ECG?
KP: Yes. Extended gamut process involves optimisation of press and pre-press operations. Plus there has to be seamless coordination with print buyer-designer-pre-press and the press. One can explore as much as possible, but once the colours are decided, one has to get it right. And then the press conditions and machine settings have to be close to perfection. As I said at the outset, the heart should beat just right.
PWI: What is your view about the importance of process control? Why is it something all print service providers, brands, and brand owners should be doing every single day?
KP: This is the greatest challenge in our country. Despite our brilliance in adopting technology and smartness in learning things quickly, the adoption of the process is very slow. There are well-defined workflows and processes with multiple checks and balances that can eliminate a lot of errors, imperfections and quality issues. It's all about mindset, and we need to infuse it within the workforce. It may take few minutes more to adhere to a process, but it can avoid many occurrences like stoppage of machines, repeat of certain operations, and re-printing.
PWI: Many experts say, process control is similar to a Formula 1 race. It is all about culture, leadership, vision, planning, empowerment, buy-in, investment in staff knowledge and technology, process management and ownership, operating procedures, goals, planning, control systems, values, and exceptional communication. How does one achieve this in India?
KP: All this starts with - a vision and commitment to adhere to it. In the new era, a press owner has to be a corporate CEO who can set the benchmark very high. The CEO has to ensure that the entire organisation can be pulled along to achieve the targets, no matter what happens. On the way, there might be challenges typical to them, their clients and workforce. But with the technology, knowledge resource, and support systems available, all these can be overcome easily. And there's one thing more – willingness to learn, re-learn and unlearn. This important lever is lacking in the Indian printing industry. I think initiatives like Future Schoolz are trying to bridge this gap by introducing courses and modules, keeping in mind the typical Indian workforce.
PWI: Are these short-term courses beneficial? Let me rephrase this. Can mid-sized companies have operational efficiency for brands and agencies around the world that allow them to work more seamlessly with vendors?
KP: In India, this is a major gap. The avenues are minimal or depleting faster. They mostly rely on the knowledge of their predecessors, who might have gained those know-how years back, when print in India was at a nascent stage. They still fear many things, and this puts restrictions on experimenting and innovating.
PWI: Is Future Schoolz planning to bridge this gap by introducing suitable courses in this spectrum?
KP: Yes. Recently we conducted courses across Kerala to educate the stakeholders about the importance of preparation and supplying perfect print-ready files. The response was so far is very encouraging, and we plan to have more such initiatives.
PWI: What kind of defects exist with the ink keys, on process control, colour management, chemistry, on-site brand checks? What does it take to deliver reproduction excellence run after run, brand after brand?
KP: If you are aware of the science behind printing, it is easy to control the colour value consistently. In CPC machines the ink keys are working with the basic principle of colour capturing capacity of eyes. The minimum delta E value needed for perceiving a colour difference is 4. If the operator is aware of this scientific fact, it is easy to manage ink control. Similarly, the proportion between the surface area of inking rollers and plate cylinder is also a constant one for all machines. Whatever may be the ink opening, it should be distributed to plate as per a mathematical equation, and not based on assumptions. As a pure science, we are liable to obey the strict norms to achieve target values based on the data analysation. For this, we should be careful in educating the workforce time and again, with the advancement in technology. Strict implementations of SOP’s and strategic implementation of processes with checkpoints will make the target of consistent printing easier and error-free. The problem seen in the industry is in the basement level, the ignorance of basic things. No institutions are available to transfer these basics, but essentials.
PWI: Simple system to maintain and update Pantone colour libraries? Is Adobe Creative Cloud the best way?
KP: No. It has no guarantee in colour values in Pantone colour libraries. Xrite supports the colour libraries of Pantone. Now, from May 2019 onwards, after the introduction of Chroma QA, the colour management system, Techkon is supporting Pantone Colour LIVE too.
PWI: How important is grey balance and printing device calibrations?
KP: The reproduction of correct grey value is one of the significant challenges faced day to day by the pressman. The human eye finds it visually disturbing when print grey value deviates from the substrate to substrate, perceived as being colour neutral. While printing grey, the pressman should be careful enough in the calibration of tonal value increase. For that, he regulates the ink film thickness at the press. If the ink thickness is more, the dot gain can deviate too far from the optimal values. So it is challenging to get grey values just by changing the ink film thickness. So it is essential to go with defined print conditions, test chart, colour measurements, measuring conditions, viewing conditions, monitoring tools etc. Measure the printed sheets with a suitable, reliable measuring tool. Without proper calibration, we can't depend on the data received from printout to attain target colour values.
PWI: Three tiny gadgets which every print firm should invest in?
KP: Spectrodensitometer is an essential gadget on the print floor to measure colour and density. In the print ecosystem, it is important to maintain the flow of micro electric current during printing. So, I will strongly recommend a conductivity meter to measure the conductivity of water as well as a dampening solution. The third one is a Nip Control Strip that will define the "heartbeat" of the machine.
SquareDots to provide scholarship to students for G7 training
Idealliance USA, in partnership with Chennai-based SquareDots, will be conducting a G7 expert and professional certification training between 11 and 13 October 2019 at Kochi.
In a novel attempt to better prepare students for the industry, SquareDots in association with Kochi-based Future Schoolz will conduct an online eligibility test to identify the ideal candidate and provide them with a scholarship for the training.
"We are entrusted by SquareDots to conduct an online eligibility test to find out a passionate candidate to give scholarship (100% free entry to training). For that purpose, we are planning to conduct an online eligibility test (multiple choice type) for 20 minutes on 3 October 2019. Printing Technology final year/ last semester students can submit their interest on or before 30 September 2019, 5 pm to firstname.lastname@example.org," said Kulakkada Pradeep, CEO of Future Schoolz.
Led by G7 expert trainer Jeff Collins, the training will cover G7 methodology, implementation, and strategies developed to maintain the highest possible process control and colour management consistency. Plus fidelity for alignment across any print technology.
"We are thrilled to provide this opportunity to the students and ensure we help them get industry-ready," said E Neelakandan, director, SquareDots.
Answara Offset and Kerala Master Printers Association (KMPA) are the event partners.