The community of U.S. Esko users descended upon the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona earlier this week to sharpen their skills, answer questions, get product roadmaps, and network with Esko executives and engineers as well as a diverse group of their peers.
June in Arizona might not be the most hospitable time and place for a user conference; “apparently the surface of the sun was booked,” quipped Brad Montgomery, a motivational speaker who kicked off the three-day event with a funny, interactive keynote address, the theme of which was maximizing happiness in the workplace and channeling that happiness into business success. Indeed, the heat only seemed to fuel everyone’s enthusiasm.
EskoWorld also offered an opportunity to meet Esko’s largely new leadership team, and the event was kicked off with an introductory address by new president Udo Panenka, who joined Esko in August 2014, taking the helm of the company at the start of this year. (Panenka has worked with other Danaher—Esko’s parent company—business units for seven years.) Panenka’s background is in automation, and automation has been, and will continue to be, a primary focus of Esko’s product and service portfolio.
The driver of the need for automation in all kinds of printing, but especially packaging printing, is the growing importance of digital. “Many of our established customers that had been dealing with conventional printing technologies are now on their first or second digital press,” said Panenka in an opening address on Sunday. “Ten percent of their revenue, generally, was from digital presses, but this 10 percent of revenue may be 30 or 40 percent of jobs.”
The nature of digital printing drives the need for improved efficiencies to turn jobs around quickly, increase time to market for brand owners, and cope with the increased complexity that many of those jobs present. There are different substrates that need to be managed, and color management has been a perennial gray area. Hence a focus on packaging management.
“If you talk to brand owners, packaging management is asset management,” said Panenka. “We have to control our assets. We not only need to help our customers control assets for packaging, but for media, marketing, and other purposes.” To that end, in March, Esko had acquired a company called MediaBeacon, which specializes in digital asset management. Automation, management…it’s all about, Panenka said, helping customers “focus on what they’re best at and not administration.”
Panenka’s keynote—and much of EskoWorld itself—focused on the changing nature of packaging, and the possibilities that digital has been enabling brand owners, and how Esko’s software and hardware in turn enable print service providers and packaging producers to take full advantage of those possibilities.
One general interest session was called “The Next Big Thing in Package Decoration,” presented on day one of EskoWorld by HP’s Gary Bernier (and on the second day by HP’s Brian Cleary) and looked at current and emerging rends in packaging engendered by digital printing. One growing trend is hyper-customization, where every single package is 100-percent unique. Other customization trends include regionality (customizing packaging and messaging with the understanding that Brooklyn consumers differ from San Diego consumer), seasonality (a Coke bottle festooned with snowflakes will be of less appeal in July than in December or January, although any cold beverage has great appeal in June in Arizona), event and cause marketing, and even make a package something of a collector’s item. The next phase of the famous Share a Coke campaign (which HP had partnered with the Coca-Cola Company to develop and execute, using HP Indigo printers and Mosaic software) involves the ability for consumers to customize Coke bottles using one of as many as two million individual shrink sleeves. (The original Share a Coke campaign boosted sales of Coke by 19 percent.) As part of the new Share a Coke campaign, users can even get the same pattern they chose for their Coke bottle printed on a shirt on-demand—or, believe it or not, on vehicle graphics. A little obsessive perhaps, but there is very little in the way of technology impeding such a thing.
The focus of EskoWorld—now in its 23rd year—is to help users get the most out of the software and hardware they’ve already invested in, solve issues and problems, and offer feedback and wish lists of features for future upgrades. A “Roadmap” session track offered users glimpses at upcoming or in-development revisions to Esko products such as WebCenter, ArtiosCAD, Automation Engine, and the Kongsberg series of cutting tables. A hands-on session looked at digital samplemaking with Kongsberg cutting tables, and watching whizzing blades and scoring wheels fly around never gets old.
The theme of this year’s EskoWorld was “Improve Today. Dream for Tomorrow.” “What will your business look like in five years?” Panenka had asked the assembled crowd at the keynote. EskoWorld offered ample opportunities to think seriously about that question.