Remedy the curve, eliminate sloppiness - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

No print job is rubbish, says, Venugopal Menon, “It boils down to recognising if the job or business one is doing is adding to the bottomline or ending up paying from your pocket to service your client.”

In this Sunday Column, the Bobst man in India stresses on how firms can build purpose-led practices

21 Jun 2020 | By Noel D'Cunha

Disruptions are happening very quickly and in every field. Post Covid-19 we could imagine quite a few things will change from the way we communicate, to the way we travel and on how we perceive safety and hygiene as a daily habit. The consumer buying behaviour, how the brands want to communicate and promote their products, the new-age millennials – how and on what they want to spend will also drive the change in print and packaging.

eCommerce, which is flourishing and growing, used what was a simple brown box with the name and logo of the firm. Now you see in the US and Europe, the eCommerce companies want to communicate with buyers. So you see print inside the box to give a different experience when you unbox plus promotions.

From the print perspective, I feel all the technologies like flexo, gravure, offset will remain but digital printing will grow. Application and the medium will evolve.

Curbs on single-use plastics
I feel it was a step in the right direction. The intention was clear though it was a bit abrupt and led to causing disruption. But I feel what they have specified as single-use plastics can be replaced with paper and paperboard. This is happening whether it is paper cups, take away plates /trays, carry-bags or straws. Also global board majors like Metsa Board and BillerudKorsnas who have developed fibreboard for food trays which can reduce the use of plastic by 85% and is easily recyclable.

The result - consistency
Today’s modern presses with all the automation and technology built-in, ensures the  first saleable sheet with no more than 50-80 sheets waste depending if it is a conventional print or UV print. And so, with the right pre-press, printing press standardisation, adopting technology alongside the skill upliftment of the press manager through training; ensuring print consistency and repeatability is possible. Some of the top firms within India in both commercial and packaging print have adopted the right processes from the word go. And the results are impressive.

Print industry – pain points
The print fraternity needs to ensure print packaging gets an industry status and is recognised by the government.

From the business turnover standpoint, tax revenue standpoint and employment generation it provides, it is high time we get the act together to make our voice heard. I feel our challenges and pain points are similar as faced by any other industry segment under MSMEs. Once we are recognised as an industry with some clout, we could push our agenda with the government body to address the industry concern. 

When do you say ‘No’ to rubbish jobs?
I would put it in a different way. I feel no job is rubbish in the literal sense. It boils down to recognising if the job or business one is doing is adding to the bottomline or ending up paying from pocket to service the client. If one can identify and have this realisation - any prudent businessman or account or frontline salesman knows - when to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to a job.

Entrepreneurs need to drive financial literacy down the line in the firm. Every person irrespective of his department has a role to play about the profit or loss a company makes. This depends on each and every action or decision he/she makes.

How much of waste is acceptable?
It is true that firms work in islands and see each process in silos. This results in inefficiencies. I have seen many firms do not really know their real wastage and are at times a guess estimate.

The layout wastage when it comes to board and how to calculate it is an important parameter for quoting. The rest is “an educated guess” from past experience. There is one waste which is paid and accounted in costing and the other is not identified and calculated. This creates a hole in the pocket.

For example, in packaging, an average of 65% to 75% is raw material cost. Thus every 1% saved goes to the bottomline. When you allocate a job for execution, from the printing up to converting you need to keep track of the sheets, ink, varnish, and foil that was issued for that job. Then you need to study what was finally produced as well as saleable output. This has to be done diligently to arrive at your wastage.

Wastage depends upon the run length of the orders – short runs, more waste; long runs, less waste. Whether the job is a conventional print or UV print, does it have many embellishments or it’s a conventional converting process, it cannot be generalised. The spoilage rate has to be below 10%.

The performing segments
Food and pharma take the lion share of the packaging segment globally. They are the top two growing segments. Food packaging has grown over the years and post Covid-19 it will grow further due to safety and hygiene habits, which are bound to change. Food packaging in processed food, ready to eat, confectionery, spices, beverage, frozen food and fast-food QSR segment will grow.

With the ban in single-use plastic, we will see many more food-grade trays and clamshell design boxes for takeaway and in home delivery segment.    

If one is targeting the food packaging segment, then organise the hygiene in the plant, GMP standards, accreditations like British Retail Consortium / Institute of Packaging (BRC–IOP), FSSAI, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) standards will be mandatory. Brand owners are finicky when it comes to plant audits and plant hygiene. All the above steps will only boost their confidence to certify you as their preferred supplier.

Fakes and forgers
Counterfeiting in print packaging is a growing menace and a matter of concern. Just in ‘prescription drugs’ it is a USD72 billion counterfeit markets (Smithers Pira 2015). It is a huge subject and cannot be penned in a few words. There are many techniques and application available for anti-counterfeit in packaging. One is the cost of application and whether the end-user will pay for it. The other challenge remains whether the end consumer can identify it and report. In India, we will have to create simple techniques which the masses can identify and brands have to invest in it especially in health care, food and cosmetics. In Africa, for example, when someone buys a pharmaceutical box/bottle the buyer has to simply SMS the code printed on the blister pack to a specific number. The next moment you get a reply if the product is fake or genuine

Plan your future
Innovation and adapting quickly to the changing trends will be the key to success. One would need to create a niche and the specialisation will be the differentiator. 

Do not follow the bandwagon and plan your own future.

Plans for the rest of 2020...
This will be an unprecedented year in many ways. One’s perseverance and resilience will be put to test. I remain optimistic and hope for the best.