2024 Labels and Packaging Leaders Forum: Brenton King, Hybrid Software

For Hybrid Software, 2024 will see the role out of our solutions to some of the most prominent vendors in the Australian labels and packaging market and will be an excellent opportunity for everyone to take advantage of our solutions. Although you may not be a direct customer, either through our OEM partners or customers, Hybrid Software will be driving the packages we see on shelf every day.

Hybrid Software specialises in workflow and prepress automation software targeting the packaging and label industries. Our specialised solutions, open architecture, and integration possibilities enable us to work with our customers’ current environment to minimise pain points and mundane as well as inefficient touches in job management and prepress tasks.

Traditionally, companies have different solutions and silos for every process, from MIS, prepress, print, finishing and invoicing. Knocking down those silos and creating a fully integrated solution, as well as creating innovative software solutions to reduce production turnaround, is our focus.

Hybrid Software Group is uniquely placed in the market. Our OEM business through global graphics gives us a deep understanding of the software and electronics that drive digital presses and the challenges front-end users face to create complex graphics and S&R those graphics to get those files on the factory floor. 2023 was our first full year under the Hybrid Software Group, and the acquisition of IC3D Color Logic, and Quadraxis gave us an exciting new direction for the company, all of which was showcased at Labelexpo in Brussels.

Labelexpo was the first time Hybrid Software was able to showcase a fully integrated workflow solution from Web to Print via Infigo, MIS with our Premium MIS partners CERM, prepress automation utilising Hybrid Software Cloudflow; the product printed on HP Indigo 6K and finished on AB Graphic’s DigiJet. All these systems were connected to create a seamless connection, allowing a user to make a customer beer can via a website; apart from operators on the machines, the job not being touched again until it was delivered to the customer.

Following on from Labelexpo, drupa has always been the standout show for the printing industry. Having missed out on 2020, this year’s drupa will continue to be an important show for both vendors and customers. For Hybrid Software, drupa holds a special place in our CEO Guido van der Schueren as it will be his 11th drupa showcasing innovative labels and packaging solutions.

The biggest trend facing this category continues to be the migration from traditional flexo or offset to a hybrid environment that includes digital output. Digital presses have been around for a long time but what is surprising is the choice and applications these days. Locally in this market, we have seen the first installations of digital presses from new vendors and increased application for substrates of digital presses. However, within the flexibles, corrugated, paper and metal categories flexo and offset aren’t going anywhere. Still, companies need to be agile and adjust to market trends, and only by having a hybrid environment can they keep up with those trends.

The key product for Hybrid Software this year will be Cloudflow – our enterprise workflow solution. It has been a worldwide success for years and very successful in the higher to mid-range converters. 2024 brings our Discovery version aimed at bringing the same efficiencies that larger companies benefit from to the mid to smaller market. Colour Management is also a major priority this year as the move to digital means customers must move away from traditional Colour Management best practices to a standardised model. Doing press checks on a digital device is a recipe for failure and wasted time on repeats.

This year I expect the labels and packaging industry will continue to do the same thing it has been doing for years – innovate, adapt, and thrive. I’m excited not only by the innovative products and solutions Hybrid Software has but also by being continuously amazed at what other vendors can achieve. Digital finishing is one of the last hurdles that has held back some innovative products, as we needed to use analogue dies or knives. Removing those barriers will lead to more innovative variable designs and greater efficiency on the factory floor.

I am very passionate about making sure the label and packaging industry is thriving not only today but for years to come, and we can only do that by bringing younger talent and inspiring them to be part of the industry. We need to embrace and train apprentices and understand that the same processes and procedures that traditionally have been in place don’t always resonate with younger apprentices. Industrial automation, web2print innovation, and integration are part of everyday life, and as stakeholders in the labels and packaging industry, we need to embrace this in our workplace.

I see 2024 having many of the same challenges as previous years – economic and political conditions worldwide will remain challenging, affecting consumer and business behaviour. Businesses will always go through peaks and troughs. The positive news is that these economic conditions will turn around, and companies with that stable foundation of efficient processes will strive when things turn around.

There are always concerns to consider. You just have to look at the news every night or look at inflation figures to see things are challenging at times, but without challenges, there is never the opportunity to grow and be more successful. I’m sure there will be challenging times this year for some companies, and I wish success to all.

As long as the population grows, so will the label and packaging industry. How did the sector perform last year? We grew. Yes, there is consolidation and offshoring, but as an industry we grew and we will continue to and it is exciting to be part of that growth.

This article was first published in the 2024 February edition of ProPack.pro magazine

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