The printing industry, as with virtually every manufacturing industry today, is having to reinvent itself to take advantage of the opportunities that new technologies offer to both suppliers and clients.
A prime example of how a print-based company has embraced new technology by offering value-add client services is Sunbranding Solutions, one of the UK’s largest packaging production companies boasting a blue-chip client list that includes such names as Tetra Pak, Fortnum and Mason, Marks and Spencer and Danone.
Packaging production is a complex and highly-varied environment, bringing together many business process disciplines outside of just producing print-ready material for offset and/or flexo printing. Sunbranding Solutions’s IT and production teams, working with UK DALIM SOFTWARE distributor, have added a number of varied software layers and services around their DALIM SOFTWARE-based production system to create an online system designed to support all aspects of their client’s packaging production needs. Sunbranding Solutions brands the integrated system as ”ODIN”, standing for “Online Digital Information Network.”
ODIN is a result of the realisation by Sunbranding Solutions of the changing supplier-client role, and was developed in close collaboration with a number of clients to offer a product development tool that supports every aspect associated with a product’s packaging. As well as the more obvious elements such as artwork, pack copy, images and related materials, ODIN also integrates production tasks such as digital asset management, artwork/data approval management and, of course, the appropriate print production work. As a result, ODIN consolidates the many manual and automatic production workflows into a single, cohesive, easy-to-use interface for anything packaging-related.
As well as its production complexity, the packaging industry thrives on change. A food package, for example, may only be on a supermarket shelf for six weeks before an updated package design is introduced. Such a fast production throughput and turnover presents a challenge to packaging production companies such as Sunbranding Solutions, where ODIN allows the project management and tracking of literally thousands of product lines every week.
Understandably, Sunbranding Solutions are reticent about describing precisely what the ODIN system is comprised of, other than it consists of a number of integrated software and middleware components. Apart from TWIST, which acts as the system’s core “premedia engine”, ODIN features softproofing using Kodak Real-time proof and asset management that incorporates some of the functionality of Xinet’s WebNative. Sunbranding Solutions chose to incorporate DALIM SOFTWARE technology in ODIN due to their considerable experience of the product line, built up over many years. The flexibility of the system has allowed ODIN to be continually refined and updated as client requirements evolve.
Each job or project enters ODIN as a new job, and processes vary depending on the nature of the work. ODIN can be tailored to work with any type of project or job, regardless of its complexity, because ODIN manages a critical path for each element in a project.
Much of the production workflow is dynamically driven, based upon XML metadata. For example, producing packaging for seven different varieties of frozen pizza used to mean the creation of seven separate packs. Now, using TWIST’s ability to drive production workflows based upon XML, the text for each pizza variety is set within the ODIN interface and seven different pizza packages – complete with the appropriate image, artwork, ingredients and nutritional information – are generated totally automatically.
The ongoing development of ODIN is proceeding at an impressive rate, and fits perfectly with Sunbranding Solutions’s ongoing business strategy. The company’s internal web development team has increased 300% in recent years, reflecting the new importance of web-based client services. Sunbranding Solutions’s also intends to get more involved in client projects that deliver back to e-Commerce websites. For example, a food product’s list of ingredients could be automatically repurposed and fed back to a product web page, allowing a web visitor to check that a product doesn’t contain nuts, is gluten-free, etc.
The packaging production industry has indeed evolved, and Sunbranding Solutions are one company that is leading the evolution. The favourable client reaction from ODIN has allowed the company to break free of the “traditional” perception of what constitutes a premedia company. Today’s commercial model is based more on the company’s added-value services (consultancy, legal, design etc) than repro ‘click charges’ which have now become part of the fabric of the service, rather than the service itself.