The Deployment of Tracking Technologies in Digital Inkjet Corrugated Production Using Printed Marks for Brand Supply Chain Management (Part I)

Gregory S. D’Amico, Ph.D. and Christopher Bondy, M.S., Rochester Institute of Technology

The potential for growth of supply chain tracking technology is particularly strong in the packaging field. Industry experts state that it would be wise for executives involved in operations and marketing, packaged goods, retail and packaging to pay attention. (1)

It has been stated that smart packaging is still, however, in its embryonic stage and that no industrial application is anywhere near maturity.

Three general areas sighted having the strongest potential for smart packaging applications include: 1. supply chain transformation – traceability, agility (optimization), and sustainability (reducing the environmental footprint); 2. product integrity – authenticity, security, and quality and safety; and, 3. customer experience – traceability, agility (optimization), and sustainability (reducing the environmental footprint).

The potential benefits of smart packaging for brand managers has been noted. According to Michael Elias, at the AIPIA Summit in Shanghai, China, “Regardless of the media used to attract customers and market sales, maintaining a direct, active and online channel of communication with the consumer must be an effort to be conquered through the packaging itself. You can’t ignore the power of packaging since it’s already in the hands of the consumer.”

One particular print packaging area which is poised for growth is supply chain tracking technology that has evolved for the inkjet corrugated market. The digitally driven inkjet process is particularly well suited for printed mark tracking technology (overt/covert). Together, digital inkjet and printed mark technology have the capability to give each and every printed corrugated box a unique identity.

Fueling this market growth potential are the technological advances in inkjet corrugated, which in recent years have been revolutionary. Both pre-print liner (web) and direct print (post-print) corrugated have experienced tremendous inkjet press developments in terms of output, quality, and customization. The break-even point (run length) in each product application area is expected to continue to move higher as inkjet press speeds continue to increase. And, many advantages with respect to customer flexibility (new market applications), cost of operation efficiencies (shorter runs possible/short-term creative campaigns) and print quality (digitalization, customization, coated board) have been realized.