Esko variable date printing has delivered what it calls a world first in connected packaging production. It says it has supercharged secure variable data print capabilities. This is in terms of speed and scale for a new collaboration with Scantrust and packaging company ePac Flexible Packaging.
Esko Automation Engine is at the heart of the operation. Its variable data printing technology enables printing of serialised and secure QR codes on flexible packaging on a mass scale. Esko says this unleashes the power of variable data printing for the new connected packaging and connected goods service, ePacConnect.
Paul Land, product manager at Esko, says, “Variable data printing has the ability to take the role of packaging to a whole new level. Certainly, it offers opportunities for localisation, serialisation, personalisation and traceability. In addition, advances in automation mean we can further harness the technology to transform the prepress environment.
“Automation Engine uses cloud deployment for 24/7 global access to data and new scalability capabilities. As a result, it enables ePac to realise the power of variable data printing for an organisation without the downsides.
“By connecting the variable data printing module in Automation Engine with Scantrust, we have created a framework for codes that makes it easy for converters to use. This implementation the first of its kind. Also, it unlocks capabilities previously difficult to achieve.”
Every ePacConnect flexible pack includes a Scantrust QR code, so every pouch becomes an online gateway. The on-pack code, smaller than a postage stamp, activates the Scantrust suite of connected goods and connected packaging tools. Accessible features range from consumer engagement tools to active brand protection. Further, anti-counterfeiting features work through scans of a safe QR code on the pack.
Peter Kostur is sales and partnership director at Scantrust. He says, “Scantrust gives every single physical product a unique digital identifier. Therefore, it adds complexity for prepress and production. Our platform can deliver protection against counterfeiting and improve traceability within the supply chain. For example, every single label, pouch, or bottle can be traced, even when in the hands of the consumers.
“Brands utilise such digital interface technology to connect with consumers. It means they can integrate with loyalty platforms and customer relationship management tools. Also, it helps for internal supply chain operations. It helps when incentivising consumers to interact with the products. It can significantly improve the relationship and trust between brand and consumer. In addition, it helps by crowdsourcing the supply chain data for further strategic improvement.
“There are three building blocks to making the connected packaging. There’s the variable QR code and a mobile environment enabling the user interactions. Also, a platform enables the customer to manage the codes, product content, and extract the data. However, each project starts with a question from the brand: How do we get the variable data on our product?”
Land says, “Automation Engine makes the integration of variable data printing requirements as easy as a few mouse clicks. It is now simple to integrate the variable data printing requirements into the process. The process can even happen in the cloud. As a result, it adds flexibility in terms of printing a job at any location.
“Typically, once the order details are entered, the information is passed through into Automation Engine. It then acts as the enabling platform between all the systems. “It consolidates and pulls the variable data information through, determining the quantities and parameters of the job. So for example, with a quantity of 100,000 records, it expands the files and the variable elements for printing. Then it automatically expands the template file to the quantities needed. Each has its own QR code. It then lays them out for production. So, a process that used to take hours or days is now completed in just a few minutes.”
Scale – where the rubber meets the road
Ryan Kiley, director of market development at ePac Flexible Packaging, says, “Scale is where the rubber meets the road. Scale is what we can accomplish through working together. Now, with a single click, a customer can turn their packaging into an interactive platform. It can deliver consumer engagement, proof of provenance, and brand protection. Further, it reduces touchpoints in prepress and production.
“We can accelerate our rate of growth as we add plants, people, systems, languages, currencies, substrates, structures and other technologies. In addition, with Automation Engine being cloud-based, we have total control over our production. Our teams can access files from anywhere, at any time for 24/7 operation. Also they can scale production up or down to meet demand. Consequently, we can divert the production to any plant around the world.
“As a result, our ePacConnect service has achieved customised, flexible packaging with connected packaging features that require very little or no up front costs, lower minimum order requirements, and minimal technical setup.”