Nudging converters into digital

Philip Morris enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with the converters it relies on for the vast majority of its cartons; but thought leaders in the firm understand that there are times when waiting for the supplier community to develop the next big thing isn’t always the best idea.

Tony Snyder of Philip Morris at Digital Print for Packaging Europe.
Tony Snyder of Philip Morris at Digital Print for Packaging Europe.

“This is especially true for something like digital printing of folding cartons,” says Tony Snyder, President Product Portfolio Management and Deployment at Philip Morris. Which is why the firm--whose corporate headquarters are in New York City and whose Operation Center is in Lausanne, Switzerland--developed its own in-house hybrid digital folding carton printing and converting operation at its Neuchatel Innovation Development Center. Operating there is a Gallus Labelfire 340, a hybrid press that combines the latest digital printing technology with the benefits of conventional printing and further finishing technology. Jointly developed by Gallus and Heidelberg, this inline label printing system features a printing module with SAMBA ink-jet printing heads developed by Fujifilm Dimatix and Fujifilm Corp. This is not about vertical integration or self-manufacturing. The goal is to demonstrate to those on the supplier side just how keen Philip Morris is about moving digital converting technology forward.

“We can’t do it ourselves,” says Snyder, who described his organization’s digital journey at Digital Print for Packaging Europe, produced by Smithers Pira. “We need to connect with the equipment makers, the converters who buy that equipment, and the makers of the inks and lacquers, too, and show them how strongly we believe there is a marketplace for these technologies. If you’re making digital converting equipment today, you don’t need to be persuaded to make it for flexibles or for corrugated, because the markets for those materials are pretty well defined. But if you don’t see customers pushing for the kind of digital equipment we need for our cartons, why would you spend your R&D dollars on digital carton printing and finishing equipment? That’s why we want to show people how keen we are to have such capabilities.”

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