Proving that there is so much more to digital than just producing short runs, three visionary printing companies have formed a new partnership that works closely with brands to make them ‘smarter’. Neel Madsen was keen to hear more.

Ultimate Group

The complete package

Proving that there is so much more to digital than just producing short runs, three visionary printing companies have formed a new partnership that works closely with brands to make them ‘smarter’. Neel Madsen was keen to hear more.

It has been under development for a while, but Ultimate Digital and Kalas Packaging are now ready to announce that they have teamed up to offer a new solution to brand owners. Linking their expertise and printing capabilities in digital flexible packaging and folding cartons, the unique service is enabled by Ultimate’s Smartflow software, which delivers an end-to-end digital workflow for packaging. Adding labels to the offering, Amberley Adhesive Labels has now also joined the cooperation, which thus encompasses the full range of HP Indigo technology.

‘We’re finding that brands are increasingly demanding complete campaigns not just digital print from us,’ explained Chris Tonge, executive director at Ultimate Group, which has just installed its second HP 20000 digital press. He said, ‘With Kalas onboard with their new 30000 and Amberley and its HP Indigo label presses, we can deliver all the packaging across the product range. We will all be using Smartflow, so when we go in to look at a campaign, we will go in together and offer that complete solution. And we can manage the whole process.’

Expressing his surprise that nobody else has thought to set up a similar venture, Mr Tonge continued, ‘This relationship is very exciting, because we’re not just putting products together, we’re thinking about big campaigns and I strongly believe that personalisation is just the start of it. Making the pack king, making it the centre of the whole campaign, that’s where the big excitement really is!’

Managing the global process

The recent personalised KitKat web-to-print campaign, which Ultimate carried out for Nestlé, is a great example of how a printing company can be a complete solutions provider, cutting out several links in the supply chain to offer full project management to the brand. This saw the company take control of the whole process from building the portal and taking the data from the website where customers uploaded their photos and messages, creating the artwork and printing the chocolate wrappers, to fulfilment with each personalised chocolate bar packed and delivered in cartons directly from Ultimate.

Smartflow is a cloud-based technology that streamlines workflow in digital production and enables brands to interact with their customers by fully utilising the variable data opportunities that digital print brings to packaging production. If customers require, Ultimate can also create campaign websites and will handle all the artwork, including supplying 3D visualisations, which can be sent as print-ready files to anywhere in the world.

For the KitKat campaign, the software not only handled all the data, but also provided complete supply chain control and traceability as well as individual product and detailed report analysis; all invaluable information for brands.

The campaign also marked a step change in the supply chain management. Mr Evans noted, ‘Because big brands produce in such high volume, although they theoretically has have the capabilities to do the packing themselves, digital is just too small an element for them to logistically be able to deliver.’ Mr Tonge said, ‘That is the bit that has really surprised me. I never imagined that we would get into fulfilment, but I think we will do it more and more, because that is what the brands want; they want that complete solution and it is really exciting for us.’

When two becomes three

Label printing company Amberley Adhesive Labels, which is based in Blandford Forum in Dorset, is also very much part of the cooperation. The company is an innovator in self-adhesive labels and supplies to big brands, such as Coca-Cola, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Farrow & Ball and Fortnum & Mason, as well as smaller artisan brands and craft gin distilleries. It installed its first HP Indigo press back in 2003.

‘As one of the very early adopters of digital print production, Amberley is delighted to be working alongside Ultimate and Kalas as the label partner in this exciting new venture,’ commented managing director Trevor Smith. ‘Having worked on digital packaging campaigns, such as Share a Coke and IrnBru’s Your Clan, we have seen the value that packaging can bring to a marketing or sales campaign.’

He continued, ‘With these three market-leading, experienced companies working closely together, we will be able to cover virtually any digital packaging campaign requirement and ensure seamless integration across the various formats. It really is a great opportunity for brands to leverage their marketing spend to a new level.’

‘Amberley is a very forward-thinking company,’ commented Mr Tonge. ‘They supply labels to a whole range of brands that would very much like to buy what Kalas and Ultimate can offer as well.’ Mr Evans added, ‘And they are different brands to the ones we normally deal with, so we complement each other really well. The great thing about us all using the HP format is that the files are exactly the same, so there is no issue with consistency across the different types of packaging.’

Developing a niche

When Kalas Packaging decided to invest in the UK’s first HP Indigo 30000, the founders Jonathan Padley and Matt Evans looked to Ultimate Packaging for guidance on how to develop a new market. The Lincolnshire-based company is a specialist in horticultural labels supplying the likes of Morrison’s and Asda, but wanted to branch out into digital folding cartons.

While the two founders had plenty of experience in carton printing from having worked in that sector for many years, understanding the true value of digital print was a completely new challenge. ‘We had been looking at digital for a couple of years, but it wasn’t until HP added lightfast inks some 18 months ago that we felt the 30000 would really offer us what we wanted,’ said sales director Matt Evans. He continued, ‘Although we know the carton market well, we are entering a whole new world of opportunities with this press and developing a niche market that didn’t exist before.’

‘Kalas is where Ultimate was six years ago,’ said Chris Tonge. ‘We also had to develop a brand new business when we first installed the WS6600. To me, joining a 20000 with a 30000 is a perfect scenario, because nearly every brand is buying both flexibles and cartons. We’re five years further down the line and have already opened up a lot of these brands.’

Stretching over four units in the Haven Business Park on the outskirts of Boston, the company has extended out to accommodate the new investment. The press runs inline with a Tresu iCoat 30000, which has a corona unit, UV and aqueous varnish capabilities, 100% inspection from AVT and a special system supporting high viscosity inks. In another first, a world first, Kalas also opted for the HP synthetics kit to further broaden the applications on the 30000. This allows printing of a wide range of synthetic materials and also adds corona refreshment treatment to the configuration. Finishing is done on a Bobst 76 die-cutter, while a new Duran Machinery Omega Allpro 70 folder-gluer has been supplied by Friedheim International. This is capable of handling a sheet size of 720mm and adding Braille to the cartons inline.

Mr Evans concluded, ‘When talking about digital most people only think about being able to run tiny numbers, not about what you can do that is actually different and exciting. We are offering something different, so watch this space!’


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