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EFTA Benelux focuses on training to raise performance in Flexo

Adrian Tippetts talks to Roel Seele, president, EFTA Benelux on why a workforce trained in the latest technologies and best practices – including ink logistics – is essential for the industry’s success

Roel Seele is the president of EFTA Benelux, the trade association for flexographic printers in the Netherlands and the Flemish region of Belgium. The organisation was established in 1981, to give members full understanding of the latest technological advances in the flexo. It also provides networking opportunities to share best practices, and provides advice on issues such as legislation on the environment, taxation and the workplace.

For Mr. Seele, the former managing director of Euroflex Printing Holland bv and Amcor Flexibles Envi, training and ink logistics are vital for ensuring the competitiveness of flexo – and with GSE Dispensing’s help, he is educating printers about the importance of this discipline.

You have made ink logistics a component of your course. Why is this concept so important?
Certainly, efficient ink logistics is essential for the competitiveness of flexography. Inks are an expensive raw material, and simply by reusing returned inks you can save lots of money.

Ink logistics has evolved into a major driver of process efficiency and quality control today, and this is reflected in the development of GSE Dispensing’s technology. I have been aware of the importance of ink logistics during my 30 years in the industry, and invested in two GSE systems in that time. In the 1980s, the concept of ink logistics was limited to dispensing – a basic ink kitchen to get the exact colour and quantity. But nowadays, GSE offers much more interesting, comprehensive solutions that extend beyond just dispensing equipment, to include the reuse of return inks, proofing and software. With this approach, you can tackle waste in the widest sense – not just material loss alone. The solutions are more expensive today, but they generate much bigger savings to printers.

Where do you see the greatest potential for waste reduction in flexo printing?
With the demand for shorter production runs, productivity depends on uptime even more than printing speed. Studies have shown that most time is lost in the makeready phase. And 40 per cent of makeready time is spent on colour preparation. With GSE’s software and offline proofers, you get the colour right in a maximum of two attempts, saving not only time, but ink and substrate waste.

What other recent ink logistics developments do you find exciting?
The latest software developments that enable greater traceability of packaging components are of great value to the supply chain as a whole. Tracing of ink batches used in each printing job allows a printer to identify, quickly, exactly where a problem lies. This is extremely important in flexo, as virtually every flexo printer needs food safety certification, such as the BRC Global Certification for Food Safety. In the event of a recall, suppliers must provide the data of components used within four hours of notification. Until recently, this was very difficult to do, because so many orders are printed with the same inks, including return inks. GSE’s software makes that a much simpler task.

How could flexo printer further improve their processes?
While virtually all flexo printers in the Benelux have invested in ink kitchens, I don’t see nearly enough professional colour measurement taking place at the press. All too often this is being measured by human eye – yet every person sees differently, and results differ according to light levels, as well as a host of other conditions. In offset, measurement is standardised and this needs to be the case in flexo too. Spectrophotometers are the solution for assuring objective results and repeatable quality.

What do you see as the main challenges for flexography?
There have been remarkable developments in plate, imaging and press technology, leading to significant quality improvements, especially with image sharpness. In an increasingly service-driven market, the focus now needs to be on improving response time.

These developments are a reminder for all involved in the flexo process to seek continuous improvements in efficiency – and an educated workforce, equipped with a full understanding of the latest best practices in technology and management is essential to drive change.

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