Sustainability and savings are top of the agenda for the brands Colombian converter Litoplas is working with. We spoke to Luis Mora at the company to find out how their printing workflow delivers cost effective, consistent, more sustainable flexo printing…
Converting in Colombia
Litoplas began creating packaging over 50 years ago, and now employs a 500-strong team, with a new production site about to open as it increases its flexible packaging printing capacity, primarily for the food industry.
To help work towards finding better solutions for flexible packaging recycling, Litoplas created the recycling business Polyrec and is currently recycling an equivalent weight of plastic to 50-60% of the material the business prints.
Luis Mora is Chief Customer Officer at Litoplas, overseeing Sales & Marketing.
Rising pressures on flexible packaging printing
“From our customers, in the short term we hear a lot about productivity,” says Mora. “Inflation is an issue and brands are trying to absorb those rising costs in flexo printing tech, to be more productive in order not to pass all of this inflation on to the end customer.”
“We’re working on total cost of ownership to deliver value; there’s no magic formula for a better price overnight. We need to provide value year by year”
Longer-term, Mora says companies are looking to become more sustainable but are trying to save on costs or at least be cost neutral in the process. However, this is challenging with the current technology and infrastructure.
Finding printing workflow productivity
“We’ve always had to create process innovation to stay productive,” says Mora. Referring to the introduction of Extended Color Gamut (ECG) at Litoplas over five years ago, Mora says strict statistical process control was necessary to make ECG a productive process.
“We don’t offer ECG without a Delta E color control quality certificate,” he explains. “We can’t print with ECG with subjective color criteria. We can’t have a customer saying on the third job the red isn’t bright enough or we need a lower blue. We work that out in a service level agreement to build trust in the long term.”
Mora adds that a long-term relationship is important for ECG to deliver productivity gains, as over time the initial investment in ECG equipment and setup can be recouped.
“We’re working on total cost of ownership to deliver value; there’s no magic formula for a better price overnight. We need to provide value year by year,” he explains.
Color consistency in flexible packaging print
“What impressed me the most with KODAK FLEXCEL NX Plates was how fast we could achieve color. In the past we needed to make adjustments on the press, we had variable ink deposition. So it seemed like magic: you place the inks and you get the Delta E you wanted,” says Mora.
“So we’ve made what we call an adaptive leap in Stage 6 to eliminate adhesive and reduce ink by 50-60%.”
Being able to deliver consistent, cost-effective color is important in the conversations Litoplas has with its customers. “We take customers on a journey in color. In food retail, we believe there’s a one-second buying decision and brands need to increase the persuasive capacity of their packaging in that moment, rather than focus on obtaining a precise color. We’ve experienced that it’s better to focus on producing rich colors that would be eye-catching, which is something we can deliver in ECG flexo printing with FLEXCEL NX Plates and still be competitive on price.”
As inflation looms, targeting higher levels of sustainability on substrates can be challenging. In a project known as Stage 6, Litoplas has worked with one of its suppliers to develop flexible packaging printing on a substrate that can be efficiently recycled, giving productivity gains to the recycler.
“Often a recycler can’t sell material for a good enough price compared to the costs to recycle it,” says Mora. “Our recycler told us that eliminating adhesive and reducing ink would give a big boost to their productivity. So we’ve made what we call an adaptive leap in Stage 6 to eliminate adhesive and reduce ink by 50-60%. We’ve made some launches and our customers and recyclers are very happy with this so it’s something we’re scaling up.”
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