Miraclon: honouring excellence in flexography

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Chris Horton, President of the jury of Global Flexo Innovation Award by Miraclon

Miraclon, the home of KODAK FLEXCEL Solutions, is once again returning with the Global Flexo Innovation Awards after the first edition in 2018. Not just awards for print quality, because the panel of judges looks to recognize innovation and honour companies that are at the forefront in the flexo industry’s transformation. Chairing the independent judging panel of industry influencers and experts is Chris Horton, former Senior Vice President of SGS. As an entrepreneur, innovator and executive, Chris has spent the last 30 years of his working career driving exponential gains in the flexo industry. We speak to Chris to find out more about the awards, why companies should enter and what the judges are looking for.

What are the Global Flexo Innovation Awards and why should companies enter?
“These awards are unique a ‘one of a kind’ program for prepress providers, printers and brands who are looking to highlight innovative work that is enabling them to push the boundaries of flexo. We don’t just look at the printed sample, we also recognize the value added by the whole production chain. We’re looking for flexo companies of any and every size to demonstrate how their own innovative approach to flexographic printing, combined with KODAK FLEXCEL NX technology, has enabled them to deliver exceptional value”.

Why do you think it’s important to highlight flexo printing success stories?
“Companies around the globe are accomplishing great things with flexo, differentiating themselves from competitors and adding value for their customers. Our goal is to demonstrate how the flexo process continues to innovate and grow, becoming more powerful as a tool to produce outstanding packaging.
While other awards typically focus on quality print, the Global Flexo Innovation Awards allow the industry to showcase how they’re using flexo technology to be more efficient, reduce waste and leverage environmental benefits, and execute work to a higher level to meet both brand and financial needs. It’s the perfect platform to showcase the transformation – and future – of flexo.
I believe this year is more important than ever to highlight this talent. COVID-19 crisis has been undeniably disruptive, but the flexo printing value chain has played a key role in helping the world to respond to the emergency. We need to recognize and prize the resilience of these businesses”.

What are the judges looking for in the entries?
“We’ll be judging each entry against four criteria: the degree of creativity in the graphic design of the project, conversion from other print processes to flexo, the efficiency of the company’s workflow and the level of sustainable print in the project. We’d also like to get to know the entrant, how their company works and what steps they took to get to the final submission”.

If you had to give three top tips to a company thinking of entering the Global Flexo Innovation Awards, what would they be?
“Know what makes you special and tell it in details; set your bar higher, because this year, the judging will be more rigorous as we have a wider and deeper level of experience in our panel, which includes technical experts, academicians, brand managers and researchers, so each entry will be scrutinized from multiple perspectives to measure on its holistic impact on the value chain. My last advice is back it up with the facts: I’m hoping to see more detailed submissions that clearly demonstrate how modern flexo, with the Flexcel NX technology, is delivering concrete benefits to the bottom line of each entrant’s business as well as the full value chain. As evidence of how brands arrived at the final sample submitted, we’d like to see examples of prints produced by the previous processes they were using. That way, we can really evaluate the conversion process from start to finish. Last time, because some entries only gave a minimal amount of input, we had to go back several times to get more detail, whereas the companies that provided, as part of their entry, the most information about what they did and how they did it stood a greater chance of success”.

Can you comment on some of the wider trends within the flexo printing industry, how they have evolved since the last iteration of the awards and how you expect them to be reflected in this year’s award entries?
“Sustainability is a key driver within the flexo industry, with many printers and brands moving towards a more environmentally friendly approach; the second key trend links in nicely with sustainability, that is the evolution of substrates being used for flexo printing. We’re expecting to see new substrates, such as recyclable materials, and to understand how the modern flexo process addresses the challenges that come with these substrates.
In recent years, we’ve also seen the rise of e-commerce, which has led many brands to re-evaluate their strategies to look beyond bricks-and-mortar stores and consider how products and their packaging may need to be designed differently for online promotion and direct to consumer shipping. I am intrigued to see how this is impacting our entrants’ strategies and how they are implementing that in their print and packaging design and production.
Flexo has been on an upward trajectory for several decades and while the COVID-19 crisis has certainly impacted the industry, equally it has shown how it can be resilient and adaptable to the market. One of flexo print’s primary uses is creating disposable packaging, the use of which has dramatically increased for hygiene reasons.
The Global Flexo Innovation Awards are a great opportunity for prepress providers, printers and brands using flexo to be recognized for their innovation and creativity, so I would urge any who have yet to do so to download an application form from www.transformingflexo.com and submit your entry as soon as possible. The judging panel will review the electronic entry information prior to the final judging and may request additional information, so early submissions are encouraged. Thank in advance to everybody!”