Three hot ink management trends that printers need to know about

At Labelexpo Europe, converters turn to automated ink logistics for meeting sustainability goals, managing expanded gamut jobs and speeding up processes.

Judging by the many enquiries at the GSE Labelexpo Europe booth this month, label and packaging converters are recognizing the importance of managing flexo and gravure inks with ink dispensing and management software.

Interestingly, our discussions at the show with converters and ink manufacturers from over 40 countries revealed that cost control is not the only motivation for this. Converters are seeking standardization and automation of their ink processes in order to meet sustainability targets, manage non-blended inks alongside spot colours, and to speed up operations – in the latter case, with integrated software packages.

Meeting sustainability targets through efficient ink logistics

For brand owners, demonstrating leadership on sustainability is critical to long-term financial performance: it is crucial for gaining the consumer loyalty, and for winning the support of shareholders who also base their investment decisions on a corporation’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) record.

ESG is essentially the framework for measuring how sustainable a company is: it includes a set of criteria that enable stakeholders to assess a company’s impact on society and the environment, as well as its corporate governance practices. In order to meet their ESG promises, brands will only be able to do business with those suppliers that share the same commitment to sustainability.

CO2 emissions – or carbon footprint – is a key environmental benchmark within ESG. Ink dispensing and ink management software enable converters to reduce their CO2 emissions in various ways:

  • Reducing ink consumption by dispensing the exact amount of ink needed for a job, and re-using returned inks in recipes for new jobs
  • Ensuring repeatable colour accuracy at every first attempt – without errors, scrap or remakes
  • Allowing inks to be purchased in bulk and mixed on-site, reducing the shipment mileage
  • Providing ink consumption data per job via software modules – allowing carbon emissions to be quantified.

Centralized management of all inks – from spot colours to expanded gamut

Flexo printers are increasingly using non-blended inks alongside spot colours in their production schedules. These can be standard process colour printing jobs using CMYK, or ‘expanded gamut’ (EG) printing with additional orange, green and violet; but it can also include whites, varnishes and coatings.

In today’s increasingly regulated, service-oriented supply chain, converters need to control ink costs, have visibility of ink inventory and per-job ink costs – and for food-contact applications, the ability to trace ink ingredients to orders.

Luckily, ink logistics solutions are available that manage ink inventories for both spot colours and non-blended inks. GSE’s new single-ingredient dispenser and Ink manager software suite proved popular at the show as it allows converters to meet these requirements and manage all inks efficiently under one roof.

For scheduling process or expanded gamut colour jobs, the single ingredient dispenser not only enables inks to be purchased economically in bulk; with its weighing scale and the inclusion of optional Ink manager software programs, the dispenser acts as a single point for automatically controlling inventory without the need for a ‘paper trail’. The software can manage multiple ink dispensers – so if dedicated dispensers are needed for spot and process colour printing, the operator has a full view of all ink stocks in the business.

Integrated ink management software improves efficiency

A third trend was the need for integrating software programs in order to drive automation and efficiency across the entire production process. A smooth production process depend on the smooth exchange of data between software systems in order to complete processes.

Ink manager software can optionally integrate and exchange data with other software systems, whether on-premise or cloud-based. This includes ERP (enterprise resource planning) software as well as colour formulation or ink recipe software. This makes it possible to import ink recipes, or export inventory data, immediately, without human input, costly administration, or risks of error. This ease of information exchange makes an important contribution to improving process efficiency and responsiveness.

Overall, therefore, converters are increasingly recognizing that automated ink logistics is a necessity for competitive label and package printing today. As well as delivering repeatable colour quality, it reduces waste and environmental impact, provides a central point for managing all inventories, and improves responsiveness by accelerating processes.

If you’re seeking help to improve ink processes in your business, contact us for a consultation.