Did you know that industry experts predict that the flexible packaging market will grow between 3 and 4% through 2024, the label market will grow at a rate of approximately 4% and the corrugated market in excess of 3.5%? While this compound annual growth bodes well for the future of flexography, we have to be ready for it.

But if you live and breathe flexo like the Pamarco team and I do, then you likely already know that it’s a great time to be part of this industry. How exciting that the future is shaping up to be even better than today! We can see the signs of this predicted growth in several ways that I’ll dive into in a moment, but first, take a second to think over your answers to these two questions: how are you going to make the most of this growth opportunity? What steps can you take to become more efficient?

While you’re pondering those questions, I’d like to dive into a few specific indicators that tell us why the future looks so bright and then I’ll leave you with some quick tips to increase efficiency and help you make the most of the exciting time ahead.

Let’s start with why these predictions exist. Simply put: technology continues to advance, brand owners are relentlessly supporting the growth of flexography, and, most importantly, we are able to deliver real value to the consumer product companies while meeting sustainability targets. It is incredible to see how the packaging industry works with brand owners on minimizing waste and reducing the size of packaging while increasing the shelf life of the goods that are being produced. All these steps are multiplying value throughout the supply chain down to the consumer.

So how can you be ready for what’s coming? For any flexo converter to take full advantage of this growth, efficiency is essential. When I speak with my clients today, regardless of the subject matter or where the conversation starts, it always comes back to efficiency. Every. Single. Time. How do I get more production out of my converting equipment? How do I reduce the amount of downtime at my printing press? How can I improve the consistency of color throughout my operation while reducing the amount of time that it takes me to hit my color targets and stay within the desired Delta E?

As I talk clients through solutions, I’ve come to see that the anilox roll plays such a big part in ensuring maximum productivity at the printing press, but it is often overlooked. At Pamarco, we have said for years that the anilox roll is at the heart of the printing press, but its importance has never been higher for achieving efficiency. Regardless of the specification of the roll, maintaining a consistent specified BCM has become paramount to running an efficient plant.

Let me give you a quick example of why the anilox is so important to your growth. For time’s sake, we’ll be assuming that the anilox roll has been properly specified (check out this handy chart or this blog post if you need more info on specifications). To start, an ink set will be produced and brought press side to be put into the inking system. At this point, there should only be minor adjustments needed for the ink, if any, and production begins.

While it sounds simple, how often it actually happens this smoothly depends on whether or not that particular anilox roll has been properly maintained. I cannot overstate that maintenance is the only way to be sure that your anilox roll is capable of matching the specified BCM. Even a 7% drop in BCM for a mid-volume roll can very quickly cause an operator to spend significant time at press side to adjust ink that (should have) arrived at the press ready for production.

But where would that 7% (or possibly even more) drop in volume come from? It could be that the anilox roll is worn down, but in my experience it is far more likely that the issue has been caused by plugging from poor cleaning practices or a complete lack of a proper maintenance program.

A plugged roll will soon reduce volume below the 7% window, which can be a real time killer when you’re struggling to produce multiple jobs each shift. Not to mention that a plugged anilox can also contribute to dirty print and shortened anilox life, both time killers as well. These issues have become increasingly evident as run lengths continue to shorten and, in turn, the need for efficiency has continued to grow.

With this in mind, let’s revisit our two questions: how are you going to make the most of this growth opportunity? What steps do you need to take to become more efficient? My biggest piece of advice: don’t let a plugged anilox roll lower your level of efficiency. If you don’t already have a maintenance program, or if you’d like to revisit your current one and find ways to improve upon it, we would be happy to assist you so that you are ready for whatever the future brings.

As always, if you would like more information about this topic or details about our anilox audits or other customizable programs designed with your efficiency in mind, your Pamarco rep is here to help.

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