As global brands increasingly adopt automated workflows across their supply chains, label and packaging converters must find ways to integrate
A recently announced tie-up between X-rite/Pantone and global packaging supplier L&E International demonstrates the direction of travel for brands as they look to automate and standardize workflows – in this case color management – across their supply chain.
It clearly demonstrates how critical it is for label and package print converters to understand how these systems are evolving and what skills and technology will be necessary to embed themselves seamlessly into these new workflows.
The future will be all about data transparency. Converters will be expected to make their data automatically available to brands on the platforms they specify, and across a wide range of subjects from stock availability to compliance with sustainability and labor policies. What can we learn about this fast-approaching world from the L&E deal?
L&E International is packaging supplier to a number of key global brands, including Adidas, Walmart, Amazon (APASS vendor in Asia) and Target. The company runs package design, engineering, testing and customer service operations across 14 countries, with millions of finished packaging pieces delivered throughout North America, Europe and Asia on a daily basis. The company works with over 300 associates in Southeast Asia.
L+E International decided to standardize color management across its own and its suppliers’ operations using X-Rite’s ColorCert Suite as the central print quality control platform. ColorCert will be used across all L&E locations to monitor, control, and report packaging quality to brands and suppliers across China, India, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
ColorCert will operate in conjunction with PantoneLive, a cloud-based digital color standard database, to communicate accurate and achievable colors for package printing.
ColorCert Suite provides a set of Cloud-based digital tools which will allow L&E’s packaging technologists to define color requirements and collect press-run color data, while coordinating and reporting color performance across the supply chain. L&E will be able to measure color values during production, compare them with the expected target, and access reports for actionable advice to improve results.
ColorCert ScoreCard Server provides L&E with a single dashboard for instant job scoring and reporting print performance. When ColorCert is implemented across all L+E’s suppliers and manufacturing facilities it will validate and monitor packaging quality and report compliance to brands.
Vikas Gupta, director of Creative Solutions & Development for Asia at L&E International, tells L&L that the company had been looking at standardizing and automating its print quality control systems. ‘We quickly saw ColorCert’s potential as a print quality control platform that could provide us increased visibility into our color performance while also delivering real-time data to help us optimize manufacturing efficiencies and reduce waste,’ says Gupta.
PantoneLive syncs directly with ColorCert to give L&E access to digital Pantone and brand packaging color libraries for accurate color regardless of substrate, printing technology, or ink type. This will enable the L&E team to reduce packaging makeready times by targeting realistic packaging colors before going on press. Using the Pantone digital packaging libraries will reduce the rework and press sampling associated with matching physical references on different packaging materials.
What else can we learn from the L+E website about required compliances? L&E clearly states its dedication to ‘internationally accepted compliance guidelines for environmental and human rights policies and holds FSC chain of custody for all its manufacturing operations, which are all subject to strict third-party auditing annually’. So this gives a broad idea of the kinds of certifications and workflows required from the company’s supply partners.
New data platforms
This same push towards new data platforms can be seen in Avery Dennison’s launch of atma.io, a cloud-based platform which assigns a unique digital signature to any product. This will allow brands to simultaneously hit a range of goals including consumer engagement, brand protection, and increased operational efficiency. The atma.io platform currently contains over 10 billion individual items and adds over 50 new connected products every second.
Adidas is utilizing the cloud-based platform in its Infinite Play initiative, which allows the company to buy back products and give them a second life.
atma.io is a highly versatile system which allows recognition of a product’s digital signature to be activated by a range of different ‘digital triggers’ including UHF RFID, NFC or QR codes.
Label converters supplying the fresh food and pharma sectors, where temperature compliance is critical, should note that atma.io is already being deployed for supply chain traceability, including real-time temperature monitoring for individual Covid-19 vaccine vials.
The ability of converters to engage with these emerging digital platforms will start assuming ever-greater importance.