As brands attempt to design the most eye-catching items, Esko supports the design and production management process with integrated solutions that include 3D visualisation technology. The latter helps these firms to raise productivity and reduce time-to-market for their clients' products.
There are, on average, 35,000-40,000 different products on the supermarket shelves, all vying for the customers' attention. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, packaging companies are constantly looking for new ways in which to catch the eye of the shopper and embed their brand in the public consciousness.
As a provider of integrated design solutions for clients in the packaging industry, Esko is deploying innovative 3D visualisation tools to optimise the design process, creating efficiencies not only in product placement, but also in product manufacture and transportation.
Unsurprisingly, success ultimately lies in perfecting the shape of the packaging. "As a consumer, you're not necessarily reading what's on the pack," says Jan de Roeck, Esko's director of solutions management. "Rather, we read the brands by recognising shape and colour. To that extent, you will recognise a Toblerone package even if the name is not printed on the box, because you're not reading the pack, you're looking for that triangular shape."
Once consensus is reached over what shape the product's packaging will have, the process of brand cultivation can commence. But to get to that point is easier said than done. More often than not, the period between devising a basic design concept and putting the finished product on the shelf is fraught with logistical challenges.
Esko's remedy for this problem was to develop Studio Visualiser, a sophisticated 3D design tool that allows any lingering faults in the product that might otherwise delay its manufacture to be caught and eliminated.
"It's good to have the feedback in 3D while you're doing that, because you may misalign certain design elements, such as logos that are placed on different sides of the box, if you only work in 2D," says de Roeck. "If your package is folded, the flaps may be upside down, or they may be under a twisted angle. It's not always easy to see what your design will really look like unless you see it folded up in three dimensions. And that's especially true for design items - such as an image or logo - that cover multiple flaps," he explains.
As well as expediting the design process, Esko's Virtual Store software allows the company's clients to see how its items will fare against competition on the shop shelf without recourse to the time-consuming creation of a physical mock-up.
"For example, what happens to your design if the consumer picks up the item from the shelf, and puts it back but not at the right angle?" asks de Roeck. "Does your package still convey the correct brand message? When the product is contained within self-ready packaging, where the primary pack is actually left in the shipping package and put on the shelf as such, is the brand still visible? Those kinds of questions are best answered by a full, virtual, 3D visualisation of your design."
Esko's 3D visualisation technology is even allowing clients to apply new efficiencies in product design that contribute significantly towards reducing transit costs.
"Rearranging the product inside the shipping container, making it an inch or so smaller so that more of these boxes can fit in the container, makes a tremendous gain for the brand customer," says de Roeck. "Having more boxes in the container simply means fewer containers on the ship, and therefore a much more environmentally friendly footprint. That kind of access to information as a designer is absolutely crucial."
Employing more than 1,300 people and with direct sales coverage over four continents, Esko is keen to continue providing optimising solutions at all stages in its clients' supply chain.
"Looking forward," says de Roeck, "it is indeed much more about creating an efficient supply chain, digitising that supply chain and enabling communication between the different stakeholders, all to the benefit of cost reduction and faster time-to-market for the brands."