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Esko's Carsten Knudsen on packaging's digital transformation

Published on December 6, 2012

Carsten Knudsen, President & CEO of Esko is with Cary Sherburne discussing the movement in the packaging sector from analog to digital technologies.

Cary Sherburne: I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink and it’s my pleasure to be here with Carsten Knudsen who’s the CEO and President of Esko. Welcome.

Carsten Knudsen: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here as well.

Cary Sherburne: So Esko is clearly a leader in the packaging market which is undergoing a lot of dramatic changes right now in terms of its transition from analog to digital. Maybe you could just talk a little bit at a strategic level about what you see, you know, in that movement today and kind of where you see it going.

Carsten Knudsen: The movement has been dramatic both on the printing side and on the digital data side. Latest we've seen HP come out and other comes out with new machines both on the flexible end – now we see B2 format as well for folding carton. It’s gonna be very exciting to see what that’ll bring to the market. That’s on the printing side. If you go to the data side a lot of interest from our customers to drive efficient, to drive speed, to drive quality through the supply chains. Also for the analog printing processes. That’s what we see.

Cary Sherburne: And also – so things like some of your partners like X-Rite Pantone, for example, with Pantone Live is one way that sort of begins digitizing that and that integrates with your Color Suite 12, right?

Carsten Knudsen: Absolutely and what you see there is we go all the way up front, digitalize it and take it all the way back to the business as well.

Cary Sherburne: So now we have it printed but then you get to what’s always been the bottleneck is finishing. So what happens there?

Carsten Knudsen: Oh, speed, speed and speed and speed. Take a look at our stand here. No, but if you look at it to get speed on is critical. The digital presses, digital printers are flatbeds are getting faster and faster and we have to get speed up. We’re pushing speed very hard. Accuracy is one thing but, of course, that is a given. Speed has been – and automation – has been a driver and that’s what we are pushing at our business.

Cary Sherburne: So when you look at, for example, the Kongsberg tables and the laser die cutting and stuff that you’re doing, are you planning on moving those even further up market in terms of run lengths? Because right now, you know, you can go up to a certain level and then it becomes the time and cost and so…

Carsten Knudsen: Initially it started being almost hand cut. It’s moved to become short run enterprises the next level. An enterprise being stag-in stag-out, automation and automated running for hours without attending.

Cary Sherburne: And so in terms of – and also in terms of the run lengths for packaging – and I see it particularly in folding carton but, you know, and labels I think. But the run lengths are coming down because there’s more skews and there’s more customization and more variation. So, you know, you’re in a position to help them deal with those smaller run lengths.

Carsten Knudsen: Yeah but it comes in both places. Both in the finishing but also up front.

Cary Sherburne: Right.

Carsten Knudsen: If you don’t get it up front many of our customers are going to clock out and that’s why we need to capture the data in the front of the business, run it through both from an MIS perspective, integration to MIS, to the prepress, to the press and then pick it up at the end. So it’s a business system that we are seeing – a business system change that we see.

Cary Sherburne: That’s great. And then do you have a feeling for when we might reach some crossover point where – because right now the amount – let’s face it, the amount being printed digitally is minor, very minor. When do you see that becoming really more of a critical mass? Is that five years out? Ten years out?

Carsten Knudsen: I think it will be in short time. And I think we have to – the added value in digital printing is high today and you’ll see that continue to go up. The crossover point – five years, ten years. I don’t know. Five years.

Cary Sherburne: Five years.

Carsten Knudsen: But we are trying to drive that. We are trying to drive that from an information perspective very hard.
Cary Sherburne: Well, we’ll see.

Carsten Knudsen: Thank you.

Cary Sherburne: Thank you.

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