Inline digital printing – a smart printing solution for lean packaging

Inline digital printing – a smart printing solution for lean packaging

Imagine thousands of different product variations that are packed and labeled on the same production line. Each product variant differs depending on product, strength, language and country-specific regulations. In order to label such a large variety of products, a smart and optimized packaging and labeling solution is key. In this article, I will describe inline digital printing and in what ways the technology can help to optimize your production as well as your marketing.

Improve your production by optimizing your packaging and labeling process

There are many different packaging industries that together include a big variety of products. One thing that all these products have in common is that they need to be labeled. The packaging and labeling process varies depending on the product and can be an excellent place to start if you want to improve and optimize your production.

Thousands of labeling variants in the pharmaceutical industry

To state how complex a packaging and labeling process can be, I will take a common example from the pharmaceutical industry: The tablets are in a packaging form called blister, and the backside of the blister contains information about the pharmaceutical. The information indicates what pharmaceutical it is, the strength as well as expiration date and batch number. The pharmaceutical comes in four different strengths. The pharmaceutical is produced for 25 different countries, which means information about the four variants must be printed in 25 different languages that also include country-specific regulations. Thus, one specific pharmaceutical needs 100 labeling variations. If the producer packs a total of 5 different pharmaceuticals, the producer needs 500 different labeling variations. In addition, the labeling must not only be printed on the blister but also on the carton as well as on several larger cartons needed to transport the pharmaceutical to drugstores around the globe. To sum it up, the pharmaceutical producer needs thousands of different packaging variants.

To label such a large variety of products, it is crucial to have a lean and smart packaging and labeling solution. Lean methods minimize processes and eliminates waste wherever it occurs. The goal with Lean methods is to maintain only those production and process flows that add value.

Inline printing can be realized with both traditional and digital printing

Industries such as the pharmaceutical industry often use inline printing, which means that the products are labeled on the production line during production and packaging. Inline printing can be realized with both traditional and digital printing solutions. However, the digital printing technique comes with many advantages compared to traditional printing. Digital printing is a technology where no prefabrication is needed for the printing process. It is a flexible technique since a digital printer can print on surfaces with different textures. Also, the printing speed is higher with digital printing.

Inline printing is designed to be agile without compromising on the productions speed, quality or reliability. It is an effective printing technique that is time efficient since process steps, packaging and labeling are done in the same line. In addition, the technology corresponds with the principles of Lean.

Inline digital printing enables late stage customization

Inline digital printing enables late stage customization
Photographer: Jordi Sanchez Teruel

Inline digital printing enables late stage customization, which means that you can print your information on the packaging material when you need it. This allows you to pre-produce for example blisters, without any print, for storage. When you get an order, you print according to the specific customer’s needs and finalize the blisters, which enables quick delivery. This also opens up the possibility to separate the production process and printing process geographically.

Aside from quick delivery, inline digital printing can be used as a marketing tool. Thanks to the ability to adjust the print to various products (not only pharmaceuticals), surfaces and appearances, digital printing can be used in marketing activities to create brand awareness. Inline digital printing can be used to personalize your product and make it stand out from the rest. To have things personalized, such as calendars, smartphones and coffee mugs creates more interaction with the consumer. Therefore, this could be the next step in product packaging.

Hapa’s and FlexLink’s ambition – to help create a lean production

Hapa leads the pharma inline print packaging industry and develops system solutions driven by customer needs. With FlexLink as a sister company, our ambition is to help our customers create a lean production and packaging processes. With optimized automated production flow solutions and packaging and labeling solutions, we work hard to reduce our customers’ total cost of ownership as well as increase both their flexibility and agility. To help our customers improve their productions, we believe the packaging and printing process is a great place to start!

What are your experiences of using inline digital printing? Please let us know your thoughts in the comment field. Also, feel free to visit Hapa’s website FlexLink’s website or our social media channels for more information.

Patrick Schmid 1 Article
Patrick Schmid works as Supervisor Marketing at Hapa, one of FlexLink’s sister companies. He is located in Switzerland and has worked at Hapa since 2008.

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