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Esko—Firing on All Cylinders

Esko has been the premier provider of software and hardware solutions for label and packaging prepress. Now that the market is changing, what are they doing to address these new requirements? A lot!

By David Zwang
Published: December 4, 2018

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David Zwang travels around the globe helping companies increase their productivity, margins and market reach. He specializes in production optimization, strategic business planning, market analysis, and related services to companies in the vertical media communications market. Clients have included printers, manufacturers, retailers, publishers, premedia and US Government agencies. He can be reached at david@zwang.com.

 

Discussion

By Marriott Winchester on Dec 04, 2018

Hello David, I think you have captured the history of Esko and the current product offering accurately. As a large Esko user for most of my packaging career, I think what is missing is how the relationship with Esko's traditional customers, the prepress trade shops are changing.

The CPC is looking for shorter production times, high-quality services at lower costs. The nearly 7 billion dollar packaging graphics industry (design thru image carrier) are primed for transformation.

The tools that companies like Esko and its competitors provide are powerful and can automate many of the traditional steps and allow for a more productive workflow between the CPC & Retailer, design firms, prepress companies, and the printer/converter.

How this transformation will happen and who will drive it remains the big question. Esko has created a suite of packaging development tools that can make a significant impact on the process but are far from a "hands-free, lights out" workflow. What is missing is the definition of who will use these automation and software tools, who will provide the services and who will be responsible for the liability if something goes wrong.

There is plenty of work to go around and lots of companies trying to figure out what the future will look like in the next year. For instance, an automated workflow cannot work effectively if the essential project inputs are missing, inaccurate or not known. It will require the CPC to work collaboratively to ensure that these mostly administrative specifications are accurate and available to allow the best use of downstream automation. There are many customer project management software available. Making sure yours speaks with the downstream production software is critical.

The role of the design firm could expand to accomplish many of the traditional prepress functions if they or the in-house CPC design firm elects to integrate more of the downstream graphics tasks. The role of the printer/converter is also changing as more determine they now have the tools available to accomplish many of the upstream tasks that they relied on their prepress firm to provide. This puts a big squeeze on the prepress firms to maintain their roles. Printers are moving back to producing flexo and gravure image carriers in-house to control timing and costs.

All these adjustments to the production workflow make it both a complex and uncomfortable environment for companies like Esko as they try to bring to market automation tools that will in many cases eliminate tasks that their current customers provide today. Once you add into the mix the impact of the digital shelf, and how 3-D images and CGI in many cases are becoming the “hero” in the consumers buying decision, will these eliminate some of the traditional on-shelf packaging color fidelity requirements? Most CPCs have placed an extremely high value on color accuracy and achieving a delta 2 target on printed materials, but if the consumers are making their buy decision more and more on digital and mobile devices will the color tolerance expand to maybe delta 3? How would that lower the costs?
It feels a lot like 1997 when many conventional prepress companies where trying to navigate the desktop publishing and CTP revolution. Many of these companies are no longer in business today.

The winners will be the companies that are transparent with their intentions and prove they can eliminate wasted effort in the process. This is what will achieve the CPC goal of faster, better and cheaper.




 

By David L. Zwang on Dec 04, 2018

Marriott... I agree with everything you said.. It will be interesting to see how Esko moves to face these challenges.

 

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