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Flexo plate making in times of crisis – Part 4

13 October 2020
Uwe Stebani – General Manager Xeikon Prepress

In a series of publications, we have explained our response to the challenges in flexographic pre-press due to the corona crisis (1). We dare a first look back and try to check if and how fore-casts have come true.

Much has changed due to the Corona crisis and it will certainly influence our daily lives for the foreseeable future. The most visible and sometimes controversial effect is wearing masks in daily life. “Social distancing” has also become common practice, although it still feels impolite if you cannot shake hands after a good conversation and have to say goodbye with a wave or a mutual “elbow bump”.

Another change often mentioned is a surge in digitalisation in daily life and in the industry. Prominent examples are the attempt to establish meaningful “home schooling” and the drastic increase of video conferences and telework as standard business practice.

ARE THESE NOW THE FIRST SIGNS OF REAL CHANGE, OR ARE THEY AIDS TO SURVIVE THE CRISIS AND THEN RETURN TO WHAT WAS DONE SUCCESSFULLY SO FAR?

We would like to answer this question with a few observations and also business facts, from our own perspective, of course. One of the observations is that the number of video conferences and online meetings has actually in-creased. This is certainly not new news to many readers, but for us as manufacturers of special machinery in the capital goods sector, it is surprising how much the acceptance of online demonstrations has increased. Due to the difficulty of planning travels because of constant changes and restrictions, we were able to demonstrate our machines to a few visitors on site, but this was more than compensated for by live video conferences.

A business fact is that the effects of Corona crisis are reflected in the order books. We know from discussions with other suppliers and colleagues that the business with consumables for packaging printing experienced a boom during the first wave in March and April of this year. Private stock-piling, hording of consumer goods contribute-ed to a significant increase in sales. However, with the change in buyer behavior following the first relaxation of lock-down measures in June, this special economic ac-activity has flattened again significantly. In the capital goods business, in this case machines and systems, the trend was exactly the opposite: In order to secure short-term liquidity, some projects were initially postponed or even discontinued. Fortunately, there has been a considerable turnaround since the middle of the year, so that a genre-al economic recovery still seems possible – provided the feared second wave doesn’t change everything again. For the sake of completeness, we would like to add that the economic recovery has been and is developing very differently from region to region. The recovery can be closely associated with the success in combating the virus: Regions that have been able to contain its spread through consistent measures have resumed postponed or new investment projects much earlier than those with an in-consistent strategy.

In any case, we can proudly say that the new Catena product line from Xeikon Prepress is a resounding success. The possibilities of automatic production monitoring generate an interest of which we are very positively surprised. Automatic generation of a “job ID” or “plate ID” based on stored production data that can be retrieved at any time, remote access to real-time production data and the link with job order data inspire potential customers. Thanks to our comprehensive system offer with excellent service, both in terms of equipment support and application-related service, and given our excellent flexo plate portfolio, potential customers become actual customers at increasing speed …

Another observation from our immediate environment is the increased trend towards automation. It may be that this trend already existed before the crisis, but the cur-rent situation has certainly strengthened or focused on this trend. Automation not only includes the integration of several work steps, that were previously associated with manual intervention, but also the monitoring and constant control of these processes.

[1] Flexo plate making in times of crisis – part 1-3; published on LinkedIn #ThermoFLexX

Job ID with processing data
Real time production data control

Thank you for reading – STAY BRAVE and STAY HEALTHY