By Chris Waterhouse
One of the current mega-trends in labelling is greater content and, whichever sector you’re involved in, digital colour management is ever more established.
More reliable over recent years, the benefits of digital colour management has vastly improved definition of colour at design stage: Harmonised colour across substrates, link to central standards, keeping all sites producing the same colour palette globally, cost reduction through streamlined workflow, less shipment of proofs for approval, less colour rework.
Surely it’s time for the graphics side to embrace the digital revolution. Content needs to enjoy the same benefits: Central digitisation of elements, internal harmonisation, faster approval and fewer artwork versions. Anything involving coding, product descriptions, ingredient lists, nutritional information, common logos or symbols can gain an advantage in this way.
For many organisations, any artwork change involves significant manual interventions, involving the artwork management team, and client own staff, a high man-hours cost.
Artwork changes were historically managed through the process. Thermal proofs and physical approvals took many days for even a small range of SKUs.
More recently, online artwork approval processes and digital colour management has condensed approval timelines, the key savings created through Cloud connectivity and improved communications
The advances in artwork generation mean that changes can be verified rapidly, using databases which link current files to a central information source. For many files with similar ‘elements’, the ‘element’ can be changed once instead of every time for each file. Treating data as electronic elements rather than as whole documents ensures consistent and compliant messaging, and eliminates data duplication. Through such systems, labels affected by regulation change, seasonal variety, informational updates can be identified and changed in seconds.
With this more efficient artwork approval process, time to market and launch is optimised. Closer control and centralisation of the content also aids anti-counterfeiting.
Print-on-demand in-factory labelling also gives rise to the possibilities of quickly changing designs with seasonality. Coupled with digital print technology we have seen increases in speed, reliability, quality, ink and media flexibility, and scalability, all driving the opportunity to bring print to the production site. If you have produce which must be sourced from different regions dependent on availability, the labelling can be changed to reflect this on a batch basis, keeping stock write-off to effectively zero. The same can be achieved for time-limited promotional events.
Combining centralised content control with print-on-demand, maximises the prospects for late-stage customisation.
Automatically generated direct to pack printing is surely the future, speeding up quality outputs and allowing for greater integration with smart, invisible barcodes, augmented and virtual reality for personalised packs, allergy warnings, recipe building, gifting, labels which talk directly to the consumer with the system, instructions for use, building kits, dosage of medicine, and so on.
The optimum system will be a smooth integration of these elements, taking cues from the experiences of automatic cloud-based colour management, to provide central control and deliver a clear line of sight across all packaging activities. Creativity can flourish, agility is increased, and strategic alignment is improved. The future of labelling is bright, in any wording, shape, style, format, media, and colour you can imagine.