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The Path to Evolution

(December/January 2018) posted on Tue Feb 05, 2019

The secret to being more successful five years from now than you are today? Accepting that your company will not, and cannot, be the same.

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By Steve Duccilli

Connecting Brands and Consumers
Jones Packaging isn’t the type of company most Screen Printing readers would initially consider to be a peer. Founded in 1882 and now in its fourth generation of family leadership, with operations in Canada, the UK, and Spain, the company began as a folding carton printer and remains a pharmaceutical packaging specialist to this day.

Coming out of the Great Recession, the company’s board of directors viewed the consolidation taking place throughout the converting space with alarm. Big players weren’t just taking competitors out of the market to grow their share; they were expanding vertically as well, making upstream acquisitions to take control of their supply chain.

“We saw the writing on the wall,” says James Lee, director of the company’s Innovation Solutions Group. “We saw the consolidation happening around us and the number of competitors that were dwindling as they were eaten up by the giants. We thought, ‘OK, what are we going to do about this? We don’t want to be acquired. We don’t want anything to do with forestry management or purchasing paper mills because it’s not in our wheelhouse. How do we survive? We can’t compete based upon price.’ It forced us to look at things differently.”

In the strategic planning that followed, company executives considered the success that the largest commercial printers were having as they realized that handling data, not cranking out printed paper, was their key value proposition, and wondered how to bring the same dynamic to packaging. They felt that if they could turn packages into sensors, they could build an entirely new interface between brands and consumers. This led them, improbably, into printed circuits.

Aided by a Canadian government initiative to foster the growth of printed electronics, the company began an intensive R&D process in 2013 to learn how to print carbon inks onto uncoated surfaces using flexo and offset presses. The challenge, Lee explains, was finding a way to build sufficient thicknesses of conductive ink, at production speed, on presses clearly not designed for that purpose. (They experimented with rotary screen as well, which addressed the ink deposit but introduced new issues in getting a sufficient cure.) 


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