Say you're the marketing person responsible for a national chain of sporting goods stores and you're planning a promotion that differs with each region. The marketing plan requires individualized point-of- purchase (P-O-P) displays, maybe 50 total. Until recently, the cost-effective options for this type of job were somewhat limited.
Customers, however, now have another choice - digital printing.
Earlier this year, Menasha Display, Mequon, Wis., entered the corrugated digital printing market with the installation of two Bel2000 six-array flatbed inkjet presses from Belcom North America Group LLC, Bellwood, Ill. The presses, which currently print two cyans, two magentas, yellow and black, are tailor-made for short run, high-quality, lithographic-like printing jobs similar to the scenario just mentioned with sporting goods stores.
Menasha is the first North American company to be a beta customer of the Bel2000.
Two Lasercomb digital CAD-based diecutters are dedicated to thenew presses.
The facility recently completed the beta test process and is now in full production. "The four or five target beta customers we worked with have enjoyed the result, and the prices they absolutely adore," says Greg Hauber, general manager of Menasha Display.
A Home Run with Customers
Although relatively new to the corrugated container P-O-P industry, digital printing is considered to be the fastest growing segment of the packaging industry. It's an attractive process to printers because it eliminates costly prepress, and it offers a low-cost solution for short run, high quality printing needs, such as P-O-P displays, which is exactly the market Menasha Display is pursuing.
"What's really attractive to a lot of our customers is you can regionalize and customize," Hauber says. "You can run small quantities, especially in the display end if you're distributing displays in different markets or to different retail accounts."
Above: Inkjet heads on the Bel2000. Opposite: A digitally printed prototype container.
Lithographic printing customer quantities usually run between 250 and 500 and cost five times more than a digital printing job, according to Hauber.
"Comparing lithography to flexo and digital, if you take out the tooling altogether, digital comes between litho and flexo, but when you add in the cost of tooling, films, plates, dieboards, digital is 25 percent lower than four-color flexo," says Darrell Truitt, digital production specialist at Menasha.
Known for its tradition of high-end flexographic printing, digital technology is a perfect fit for Menasha Display.
Ric Hartman, director of creative and marketing services at Menasha's Art Center, says he saw an immediate opportunity. He talked to his customers who were printing about 100 P-O-P displays for stores and was amazed at how much money they were spending. He remembers thinking that these are the types of jobs that are perfect for the new press.
"There's a perfect niche for customizing promotions, for localized and regionalized promotions, small new product introductions, for retailers doing their own seasonal promotions," he says.
Several of Menasha's major clients are already taking advantage of the high quality print and cost savings.
Coca-Cola worked with Menasha Display to develop a major in-store promotion which featured Santa and Harry Potter in a floor standee "spectacular" during the holidays. Originally, litho printing was used to produce the units. The promotion was so well- received in the field that an immediate re-run was requested.
With a smaller re-run quantity, the digital press was mobilized to produce the units quickly and cost-effectively. The quality of the digital press run rivaled the litho pieces to the point that they were indistinguishable from each other.
Coca-Cola worked with Menasha Display to develop a major in-store promotion which featured Santa and Harry Potter in a floor standee "spectacular" during theholidays. Originally, litho printing was used to produce the units. At left and on page 24 are samples of Menasha Display's products.
"With digital on demand, we can set up for a run of 150 and change graphics for each one. It takes about two minutes," Hauber says. "We're trying to create an extra value with our existing client base, opening new opportunities for them."
Truitt says the types of accounts that digital printing might appeal to are wide open. "Customers can run 25 or multiples of the same image, but then change out a logo of the store and maybe run 25 of this store and 50 of that one and 100 of another one. And you don't have the printing changing every time, the films, expense and time turnaround."
Press run quantities at Menasha Display range from one to 1,000 with very quick turnaround. With the elimination of films, dieboards and tooling, the cycle time for each job is about 50 to 60 percent less than traditional jobs.
"We can get a file Federal Expressed or e-mailed to us in the morning, prepare the file, RIP it, and turn it around in the same day," says Truitt.
Menasha Display developed a spec sheet for its customers discussing how to prepare art files. If they arrive properly prepared, the job can be on press in 20 minutes.
Successful installation of the two Belcom presses was the result of a strong customer/supplier relationship between Menasha Display and Belcom. From left are Bruce Simons, Belcom; Asa Ziv, Aprion Digital; Greg Hauber, Menasha Display; Errol Doris, Belcom; Ric Hartman, Menasha Display; and Randy Davis, Belcom.
Currently, the facility is running 200# B-flute. The company also has run E-flute and 3¼16-inch foam.
Thickness of the board is not an issue for the press, according to Truitt. It can print on flutes up to 10 millimeters (0.375 inches). The way to compensate for the thickness of the substrate is by the automatic lowering of the vacuum table.
Appleton Papers supplies a special pre-treated liner. Menasha's Hartford, Wis., plant corrugates the paper and ships it to the Mequon facility. The pre-treatment, developed and patented by Aprion, converts any low-grade paperboard into a high holdout, high graphics surface. Ordinary untreated paperboard yields unpleasant color results.
The press also uses specially formulated water-based inks supplied by Aprion Digital Ltd.
Press maintenance is low thanks to a built-in cleaning system that only requires a push of a button. "There's no daily cleaning or changing out the ink beds. A lot of things are more streamlined," Truitt says.
Two to three people oper- ate each of the two presses at Menasha Display.
Files are no different than those used for flexographic printing, Truitt explains. His department uses Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator in TIFF, EPS or PDF formats.
Menasha Display is in control of the entire process. There are no service bureaus.
Besides the cost savings in prepress, Truitt says there are definite advantages to digital printing.
"With traditional printing, you have rotary or flatbed dies and your artwork needs to be printed in such a way that it can run on those," Truitt explains. "By cutting it on our own table, which is pretty much automated - it's got a stacker - so it just keeps cutting until it runs out of stock, you can nest your pieces on the board.
"With traditional diecutting maybe you could get one out or two out or three out," he continues. "By nesting, depending on how the diecut is, you could get twice as many out of one board by cutting it on our table versus traditional diecutting."
Establishing A Game Plan
Menasha Display is Menasha Corp.'s stand alone promotional and display facility that was re-located from Menomonee Falls, Wis., two years ago. About 43 people work at the 150,000-square-foot Mequon plant.
Click above to enlarge
The high-tech Menasha Art Center, located in Menomonee Falls, is a full service graphic design studio.
Using high speed Internet and digital asset management servers, a client could be located anywhere and still maintain a close relationship with the graphic designers who produce work for all of Menasha's facilities across the United States.
The two Belcom presses are the only manufacturing equipment on-site at the Mequon facility. The presses sit in a specially-built temperature and light controlled room. Also in the room are a 50- by 60-inch Lasercomb digital CAD-based diecutter and a larger Lasercomb diecutter that can handle 63- by 102-inch board.
"We have taken a major step and made a significant investment by constructing a state of the art digital press room, including a prepress area and conference facility," Hauber says. "This climate-controlled environment was specially designed to include multiple presses, enough room for paperboard storage and a digital diecutter."
The facility also is home to the Retail Research Center, which specializes in retailer acceptance and preference levels for P-O-P. Customers contract with the center to verify the execution and the effectiveness of their merchandising materials.
Hauber points out that the assortment of products and services from Menasha Corp. and its display division are unique.
"Our mission is to do whatever the customer needs," he says. In addition to corrugated, the plant also works with more permanent materials, making racks and similar products out of wood and plastic. "We do what a lot of people aren't set up to do."
The company's addition of the digital presses is in keeping with this philosophy of delivering what the customer wants. Being the first to unveil new technology is always a risk, but the managers at Menasha Display say it was a win-win situation.
Having worked for graphics company Matthews International and being familiar with Indigo presses, Hauber says he was very comfortable with digital technology.
"We recognize digital technology as the newest technology in corrugated printing and have the desire to position ourselves as pioneers," he says.
"In addition to traditional print methods, the Bel2000 gives us greater versatility in shorter runs making our ordering process seamless," he adds.
Hartman was involved early-on in the purchase and was very excited about the prospects.
"I remember 12 years ago when I came to this company we were putting in MacIntosh workstations," he says. "You can't wait. There comes a point where you do your homework, you get the facts and you say, 'This makes sense.' Fortunately, Menasha is good about that kind of thing."