Bobst Group reflects on 2019 and reveals its focus for the year ahead with drupa 2020 in mind


    In spite of a soft economic downturn and overall pessimistic predictions, 2019 was a good business year for BOBST. Throughout 2019, a consistent theme in conversation with our clients – both brand owners and converters – was the need for greater automation to enable faster product launches and better customization. The word “workflow” has been gaining importance as all the stakeholders involved with packaging production recognize the need to improve packaging production. Today, it is a linear process with disconnected control points. In the future, it will become agile and flexible, fully controlled, connected, secured and designed for a sustainable & circular economy.
    Sustainability continues to grow in importance, and is now fully integrated into packaging design principles: shape, substrate, color, sustainability and costs. Furthermore, the unmet needs around workflow and connectivity are on the table, and solutions – largely linked to the digitalization of the process – will form a major element of discussions at drupa 2020.

    Folding Carton and Corrugated Boards – Sheet-fed business unit
    In 2019, the sheet-fed business unit leveraged the demand for more automation and more connectivity into IT infrastructures. The trend of automation is growing both in mature and growing markets, where the need to run efficient operations is increasingly top of the agenda.
    In 2019, we celebrated the 300th MASTERCUT installation at Avance Cartón based in Madrid. The iconic die-cutter offers matchless quality, high running speed, fewer stops and shorter make-readies, and is perfectly designed to cope with the future of packaging production.
    Germany has been a major market for the latest MASTERCUT and EXPERTCUT 145 PER 2.0 featuring the latest technologies for converters who are seeking to industrialize production further. Industrie Grapfiche Bressan, one of the most renowned manufacturers of pharmaceutical folding carton in Italy, selected the most advanced folder gluer available – the EXPERTFOLD 110 with GYROBOX, ACCUCKECK an ACCUBRAILLE – helping them to deliver against the most demanding regulation requirements.
    In growing markets, India is embracing greater automation with the installation of the AMBITION 106 A2 folder gluer at Packaging Printer BP Lipeds in Baddi and the VISIONFOLD 110 A2 folder gluer at Vasai-based Kalapi Printing. Mahonar Packaging closed a very large deal at PrintPack India for a greenfield operation to be equipped with three NOVACUT E die cutters and three EXPERTFOLD folder gluers defined as “rock solid, sturdy and reliable” by Aditya Patwardhan, Director of the Mahonar Packaging Group.
    Going hand-in-hand with die-cutters, the tooling solutions are ramping up quickly, improving quality and productivity for converters. A certified die-maker program has been launched in Europe and USA, and by the end of 2019, 15 die makers will already be certified. Peripheral to printing sheets and die-cut blanks, the BOBST Digital Inspection Table was awarded the first prize from the European Digital Print Association (EDP) and installations across Europe and America are accelerating.
    In corrugated board, the year was set up for success by installations of the MASTERFLUTE TOUCH in-line laminator in USA, Spain, Portugal and another NOVAFLUTE line in China, featuring the most economic glue consumption resulting in dry and flat boards. Within a market still fueled by the e-commerce growth, the FFG 8.20 EXPERTLINE continued to be the best seller. For High-Graphics packaging production, 2019 saw the recently launched THQ FlexoCloud technology gain traction within key clients. The Extended Color Gamut (ECG) solution – able to reach 95% of the gamut – is helping converters to expand the flexo technology to new markets leveraging their existing equipment and preserving their investments.

    Overall in folding carton and corrugated boards production, the labor shortage in North America and Western Europe combined with brand owners requiring more complex boxes almost on-demand, is necessitating process optimization, for which BOBST is developing a wide range of services on a Web platform. In 2019, the deployment of such services was exceptional, with many tangible benefits of the newly digitized and connected solutions – more information will be shared at drupa. Regularly maintained equipment, certified tooling and well-trained operators can achieve record levels of production with a high Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). China, while impacted by commercial relationships with the USA, demonstrated a growing interest for higher quality machines able to reduce the environmental impact and to increase quality and productivity at the same time. The China 4.0 plans launched in 2018, which aim to deliver proximity and performance, are on track.

    Looking forward to 2020, we expect the folding carton and corrugated markets to focus on pre-press enhancements, color management improvements, entire workflow digitalization, and more robotics and automation, making packaging production more agile. We foresee flexo technology expanding into new territories (e.g. high quality graphics, quality controls and shorter run management) fueled by more digitalization and greater automation. BOBST made significant investments for the corrugated board industry with a new Competence Center to expand its leadership in corrugated board production. All of them will become operational in 2020. Finally, we expect process optimization delivered by the BOBST Service organization to play a major role within clients impacted by lower investments but where quality and productivity standards need to be further amplified.

    From a geographical standpoints we expect growing countries to continue to invest in higher technology products, closing quality and productivity gaps with mature countries. Africa, Brazil, SEA and Russia have demonstrated tangible progress, which we believe will continue.

    Labels and Flexible Packaging – Web-fed business unit
    In 2019, the year could be defined by three key phrases: digitalization, color control and sustainability. Major BOBST product announcements showcased how an entire industry is becoming more agile, supporting brand owners needs effectively.
    BOBST launched revolutionary innovations. The Ink-On-Demand TM (IoD) and DigiColor TM technology solutions embedded in the MASTER M5 are transforming the dynamics of the label industry in terms of color consistency, repeatability and sustainable operation. The BOBST MASTER DM5 hybrid press, launched at Labelexpo 2019 with Mouvent TM Inkjet technology inside, sets a new benchmark. This is the most digitalized label press to date, capable of dealing with almost any job. This press delivers the highest print quality, along with a full range of added value capabilities, including coating, varnishes, tactile effects, cold foil, embossing, die cutting, flexo and digital Variable Data Printing (VDP) in a single pass with non-stop productivity. It was the star of Labelexpo and represents the rebirth of flexo printing.
    At K 2019, the announcement of high barrier solutions designed for recyclability very tangibly demonstrated BOBST’s commitments around sustainability. The VISION CI Flexo press was announced at K 2019, offering flexible packaging production, suitable for all run lengths from ultrashort to long, with solvent-based or water-based inks. Compact, ergonomic, easy to operate, it includes exclusive smart technologies for enhanced machine productivity and sustainability benefits.
    After having tried and tested the Mouvent digital printing solutions for labels, the first two customers testified their full satisfaction for the new LB702-UV 6 color and 7 color label press with in-line finishing. It prints up to 100m per minute cost effectively, helping them to enter into new applications that they could not address with their existing equipment
    The water-based label press LB702-WB was installed at renowned Belgium company right after the Brussels show and will be further enhanced to become the most efficient water-based label press on the market. It will be featured at drupa 2020 responding to brand owners sustainability pledges.
    Engaging with customers directly was at the core of 2019 and maximizing use of the BOBST facilities was instrumental. Four Competence Centers have evolved to help carry the new industry vision. The new Competence Center in Bobst Italia features the Coating Excellence Line, the only one in the industry that can replicate real production conditions with 30 different coating methods, four different drying technologies and a fully equipped laboratory. The new extended Competence Center and REVO Academy in Bobst Firenze provides an in-house pre-press facility showing end-to-end turnkey solutions and customer tests. Bobst Bielefeld’s redesigned Competence Center is a one-stop-shop to develop and demonstrate CI flexo printing, including plate making for solvent-based, water-based and E-beam printing. Finally, the modernized Bobst Manchester Competence Center offers the most advanced coating solutions where metallizing trials, testing of barrier and adhesion levels can be performed in the on-site laboratory.
    Engagement with customers has been reinforced in 2019. We deployed the first Packaging MASTERCLASS aimed at brand owners, which was attended by 100 participants in our headquarters in Switzerland. This success confirms brand owner interest in finding new solutions to support the new roles of packaging, notably sustainability and greater customer engagement. A new edition is planned for October 2020.

    Looking forward to 2020, we foresee a growing demand for sustainable flexible packaging production. We expect some plastic-based packages to move to folding carton and others to use thinner and more advanced flexible material. The move to replace non-recyclable multi-material packaging structures with recyclable mono-material alternatives will grow significantly. We will continue to invest with partners to develop new innovative solutions to help brand owners fulfil their commitments around greater recyclability. The demand for printing applications and processes using water-based and EB ink printing will grow. The label market will drive towards full digitalization and demand for more embellishment. The use of Extended Color Gamut will accelerate, with the potential to make spot colors a less critical element in the future.

    Finally, and obvious for many readers, 2020 will be the landmark for drupa – the world largest trade fair for printing and packaging technologies – where we will present our vision for the packaging industry. We believe that the entire production chain needs to be redefined leveraging the Industry 4.0 principles. The packaging factories will evolve with more connectivity, more digitalization and more automation – impacting machines, processes and humans. We call it BOBST Packaging 4.0 and we will bring solutions to help packaging converters answer the new requirements from brand owners effectively.