How to manage stocks for spot colours in packaging printing

For packaging printers – like manufacturers generally – good procurement planning and inventory management are critical to overall business performance. This is even more the case, given the recent supply chain disruption.

One of the big challenges for supply chain managers is to balance the need for controlled stock levels with the need for customer service: how do we make sure that the right amount of raw materials is available, at the right moment, to deliver ‘on time and in full’?

Stockholding is becoming more costly – and risky

Too much stock eats into profit margins and capital reserves – especially with high interest rates making stockholding even more expensive today. Yet if stocks fall too low, there is a risk of production stoppages and delayed deliveries – with huge operational expenditure needed to close the service gap.

The Covid pandemic and its aftermath exposed vulnerabilities in the package printing value chain. Buyers were ordering substrates and ink ‘just in case’ instead of ‘just in time’, both because of unstable demand and scarce raw material supplies. At the same time, steep increases in the prices of ink and paper drove up stockholding costs further.

Making sure sufficient raw materials are available is a complex affair – but thanks to recent advances in planning and procurement software, help is at hand for packaging printers.

MRP software: reliable raw material inventory management – except for blended inks!

Software today plays an important role in helping converters stay resilient and responsive in a disrupted supply chain, helping organizations understand exactly what resources are needed, and where.

Materials requirements planning (MRP) software, as an integral part of an ERP system, is most commonly used by manufacturers. It provides visibility of inventory levels, schedules procurement and plans the use or processing of raw materials in the production workflow, as efficiently as possible.

Why ink inventory control is challenging with dispensed spot colours

However, ERP systems do not provide a workable solution for purchasing or planning the use of inks intended for blended ‘spot’ colours. Furthermore, they cannot keep track of base colour expiry dates, needed for quality control purposes.

Unlike other raw materials, these inks take complex ‘non-linear’ routes through the printing house’s workflow. They are gradually dosed from an ink dispenser, as ingredients for new colours and, sometimes, returned after production for use in yet new ink mixtures.

Ink management software optimizes spot colour stock control

This is why packaging converters need specialist ink management software for accurately and efficiently replenishing stocks of inks and varnishes, without the risk of error. The latest software also include MRP functionality and offer a host of functionalities that give converters better understanding of their inventories, bringing improved planning and operating efficiencies. These include:

  • Availability of real-time ink stock data
  • Automated ink purchasing advice
  • Automatic booking in of new ink stocks
  • Connectivity with ERP systems or cloud applications for effortless data exchange

In the next blog, learn how software for automatically purchasing and booking in ink stocks is cutting administration and improving reliability in the stock replenishment process.