Inside HP Indigo digital press’ print appeal

A sector-specific workload, larger packs doing better than smaller ones, consumption pattern turning more home-bound, are some of the recent trends in print-packaging. One lesson learnt the hard way during the pandemic is: the importance of digital operations. In this interaction with Noel D’Cunha, HP Indigo’s general manager A Appadurai unravels the untapped possibilities of digital print equipment

23 Mar 2021 | By Noel D'Cunha

A Appadurai, HP Indigo’s general manager

Let’s start with the industry as a whole. How should printers face the present situation and how they should be interacting with the brands. What according to you is the impact of consumerism on packaging?
The consumers, as we know, are changing – millennials and supermarkets are transforming how brands narrate their story. And the quality package is an intrinsic part of a brand’s story, which influences a customer’s buying behaviour. Hence, there is no better time than today to invest in quality packaging to build greater brand trust.

How is packaging changing for the e-Commerce? Is there any difference?
Let us first talk about how e-Commerce is changing the market. Today a small startup can compete with a large brand as it doesn’t need to have the most expensive supply chain and logistics investment and experience, thanks to e-Commerce. Packaging has become even more critical with e-Commerce. It becomes the most important touch-point and the biggest communication tool to connect with the consumer.

Today, brand owners are looking at new ways to make their packaging talk. For example, Kellogg’s developed cereal boxes for visually impaired consumers with smartphone playback via on-pack code detection. Or, for that matter, Amazon’s packaging with second use – create your own augmented reality. Hence, the role of packaging is becoming bigger.

What role does and can the print equipment manufacturer, HP, play in creating awareness with brand owners?
Great question. We believe that we have a big supporting role to play in awareness creation. We have built a multi-disciplinary brand and consumer engagement team and are investing significantly in this space. Actually, we go much beyond awareness creation, and we are involved in numerous ideation workshops on packaging and print. We are reaching out to over 250 startups every month.
Almost all of these are executed in partnership with our HP Indigo users in the country. The brands, print buyers, converters and print service providers appreciate this and contribute to making these initiatives better.

HP Indigo V12 can print at speed of up to 120 meters in six-colour configuration

You have launched a number of products, both digital as well as inkjet. How does one go about selecting, which technology is best for the target segment?
Our positioning has remained consistent, offering the highest quality, the most versatile and the best productivity. HP Indigo technology has always stood for – one investment, multiple revenue options. Packaging solution providers like Janus International and Trigon Digipack are the greatest examples for doing a wide variety of packaging applications from labels, flexible packaging, shrink sleeves, inmould labels, cartons, aluminium foil printing and lamitubes – all these applications on the same press. The 250+ customers, which produce pro-photos, consumer photos, marketing collaterals and plastic cards using our sheetfed presses, do so seamlessly on a single device. While selecting the technology, one must look at its service and support infrastructure and geography. We are quite ahead in this.

It is also important to consider the focus and R&D budgets of the manufacturers. In short, if a print or packaging job is a challenge you have to overcome, digital operation is your best bet.

With the HP Indigo V12 in six-colour configuration, are you challenging conventional flexo presses?
We have to look at productivity in a comprehensive way than just metres per minute. Our 6900 was one of the superproductive considering the zero downtime in job changeovers, colour matching and substrate changeovers. The 8K press, with its sheer speed and cost advantages, made sense even in mid-run lengths. The V12 certainly is a game-changer with 120 meters at six colours printing.

When it comes to HP digital printing press: how do you justify the higher cost of an HP Indigo press?
Firstly, HP Indigo presses are – one investment with multiple revenue streams. In packaging, I would like to call this a 5-in-1 presses – flexo, gravure, letterpress, screen and offset, all of this in one device, and digital. Indigo presses are built to last and have one of the industry’s highest service life. Most importantly, the backward compatibility that we provide for most of the new products that we have introduced, all of these totals to value. HP Indigo presses have the best value for money.

According to one estimate in 2020, HP customers have almost doubled business during the previous year from over 100 million print orders... That’s quite a number?
Speed is only one of the hallmarks of productivity. HP Indigo press is the world’s most productive digital solution that is engineered for higher productivity with true digital non-stop print capabilities at 6,000 sheets per hour. It generates the highest number of digital B2 sheets throughput in the market with over twomillion B2 sheets per month.

The other important factor is uptime. It’s perhaps the highest in the market. There’s a lot of intelligence and analytic tools under the hood; a lot of sensors. Recently, we have implemented an amazing technology called – predictive press care (PPC).

I think, what HP Indigo presses do is: it ensures the highest image quality and unmatched colour consistency through non-stop colour calibration along with exceptional reliability with a highly predictable paper handling architecture.

Apart from having the right technology and ability to convert, do you think that converters need to shout about the work they can do or produce – something like Janus International does at the F&B shows?
Marketing and storytelling are very important. The biggest area of improvement for the Indian printing community is marketing. It is about telling the brands and the print buyers on what business problems are they solving through print and packaging. It could be increasing the brand’s sales by personalisation or stopping the counterfeit by track and trace solution or giving them flexibility in print runs with no MoQ’s. Every brand wants atleast one of it today, if not all.

But the biggest differentiator here is cost, more than speed?
Cost is a direct proportion of productivity and speed. A faster machine running for long runs will naturally be more cost-efficient. From that perspective, the number of jobs in the label industry could be as high as 60% of the overall label market. That’s where the V12 machine has a significant advantage.

The development around HP Indigo ElectroInks biodegrade, which can be sent for recycling and be turned into a lower grade substrate (fertiliser) is interesting. Anything that can increase recycling and accelerate a circular economy is a welcome step...
At HP, we do not approach sustainability from an ink perspective alone. Sustainability is one of HP Indigo business drivers, with day-to-day operations tightly focused on a circular and low-carbon economy that spans our entire value chain and beyond.

Where does the cycle start?
We’re innovating right from sourcing practices and operational excellence to the design, delivery, and recovery of our leading products and solutions. With extended producer responsibility (EPR) coming in and manufacturers being asked to increase the recyclability count, print packaging is an all-encompassing industry term for the technology and design work to protect or enclose every sort of product destined for storage, shipping, display and sale.

Research suggests that more than 20% of the printed packaged materials in the world never reach the consumer. This happens because the industry prints more than it sells. And this is where the concept of digital can make a huge difference.

When it comes to sustainability, people only talk about plastic, but there is a lot more to it?
HP Indigo digital presses offer all the environmental benefits of print-ondemand. Short- to mid-run printing capabilities allow for smaller print inventories and fewer wasted sheets. HP is committed to driving down the levels of energy and consumables required to produce every print. Recycling, recovery, and reuse programmes both for consumables and hardware are being continuously developed and expanded.

One of the ways to reduce carbon footprint and drive efficiency is to reduce power consumption. How much electric power does an HP Indigo press consume?
HP Indigo commercial sheetfed presses consume about 12 kW of power which is less than half of what traditional analogue offset presses would consume. Therefore, in comparison to any other conventional technology, HP Indigo technology provides you compare it with the competing digital consumption is much lesser on compostable materials.

HP Indigo ink can be recycled or compostable in future form. Having said that, the mantra should be, ‘print only what you need, where and when you need it, go digital—and be more huge cost and energy savings. Even when technologies using UV, HP Indigo’s power HP Indigo has been certified for printing sustainable’.

The HP Indigo 100K four-colour press can print at a speed of up to 6,000 sheets per hour​

What is predictive press care (PPC) all about?
HP predictive press care is an HP PrintOS cloud-based application that provides early warning alerts for potential problems. This information-rich application allows customers to schedule pre-emptive repairs and maintenance at their convenience and reduce unplanned press downtime. With predictive press care, our customers can maximise the utilisation of their investment and gain confidence in their ability to deliver results on time.

Is this predictive risk analysis, a part of your overall annual maintenance contract?
Yes, this is part of our overall maintenance. When we sign up with the customers, we actually enable people to use the tool. On top of it, we bundle it with some of the spare part maintenance procedures that we have.

How is colour managed on HP Indigo presses vis-a-vis extended colour gamut done through flexo?
With flexo, there is minimum wastage of 15 to 20 meters with each colour, regardless of the technology used. It not just about colour management or a quick turnaround on colours. There are job changeovers and media changeovers which means it is not a linear transition.

HP is catering to the variable job and printing needs of customers. Today, we are catering to variable jobs, variable printing or track-and-trace applications. That’s where HP Indigo takes the edge. HP offers tools like exclusive plug-ins like HP Collage and HP Mosaic that lets customers create virtually unlimited design variations. As a result, the HP Indigo machine can be profitable and productive even when printing 1,500 linear meters.
Talking about colours and the hexachromes, I believe production goes beyond these six colours. Today, we’re talking about special colours, like invisible ink or silver ink or fluorescent. With HP Indigo, the possibilities are just unlimited

Your other big announcement has been the Spot Master…
Spot Master is a game-changer for the whole industry when it comes to colour matching. What took 30 minutes in the past can now be done in three minutes. That’s the kind of advantage Spot Master can bring to a business and transform operations. This, coupled with HP Indigo’s colour capabilities of producing more than 97% of the colours in the gamut defined by Pantone, certainly give HP Indigo convertors a massive edge.

Given the present scenario, it is the right time to invest?
The best time for planting a tree was 10 years ago; the next best time is now. No one can stop the changing consumer and the demands associated with it like short runs, faster time to market, personalisation, track and trace and print premiumisation. Consumers will change the way brands, and print companies service the brands.

The question is whether you want to be proactive or reactive? How has it been for HP Indigo, going through this pandemic?
E-Commerce took 10 years to get to 10% penetration, and the next 10% came in just eight weeks because of the pandemic. The pandemic has indeed transformed our world and had a lasting impact on the global economy. It has also been a catalyst for change – altering how people live, work and shop with lasting consequences. Consumer preferences and consumer channels has shifted dramatically, creating new megatrends, such as sustainability, automation, security and e-Commerce.

HP’s digital printing solutions enable quicker turnaround time for converters, leading to faster time to market for brands. Our business in the packaging segment has grown in double digits in recent months. As the world around us changes rapidly, our digital printing solution is equipped to meet growing business needs, enabling customers to leverage the latest technologies and techniques to ensure their business is adequately future-proofed.

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