The Art and Technology of Packaging

Printron
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Since 1963, Neenah, Wisconsin-based Printron has built a reputation as one of America’s best full-service integrated artwork and prepress agencies, delivering graphic services that are second to none to brand owners and printers.

Printron is known for its world-class quality—producing award-winning packaging on time, on budget, and doing it right from the start. Staying on top of new technologies has long been a part of the company’s recipe for success.

Culture of learning and leadership

“Printron has a culture of learning, which has led to a series of firsts in our industry,” says company President Steven Barry.

“From being the first site in North America to install Esko’s first large-format imagesetter in 1994, to recently adding an Esko CDI Crystal 5080 digital plating system, we continue to invest in research and development, and the capabilities we believe will help our clients succeed.”

The company is presently working with ManageArtworks to implement the “Copy Management” module, which manages the creation of copy, language translations, and copy approval, and then provides automation that populates approved copy into the client’s packaging artwork.

“The benefits of this type of automation are profound, as errors with copy are one of the largest contributors of delays getting to market and product recalls,” says Barry. “You can see how this type of industry leadership represents an attractive reason to consider a partner like Printron, and we plan to celebrate our 60th year by continuing our legacy of leadership and thanking our clients for trusting us along the way.”

Prior to joining Printron in 1989, Barry spent his early career in public accounting with one of the Big Four firms. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, he served on the board of the Flexographic Prepress Platemakers Association (FPPA) for many terms, as well as local non-profits.

Skill and craft

While at Printron, Barry led the company through the transition from a traditional ‘trade shop’ in the late 1980s, producing molded rubber plates, mechanical artwork, and film-based color separations, to the fully integrated, digital media operation the company is today.

Printron’s 110 full-time employees have an average of 16 years’ experience, and many have been with the company for over 30 years. Skill sets include project management, artwork, 3D/CGI, prepress, platemaking, plate mounting, and die making.

“Although there’ve been continued advancements in technology, we still regard our business as a craft,” says Michael Shannon, Chief Revenue Officer. “While it’s getting tougher to find schools that specialize in the graphic arts, we continue to maintain our relationships with the ones that do. We also sit on the board of directors at the Accrediting Counsel for Collegiate Graphic Communications (ACCGC) for this very reason. Whether it’s internal employee development or nurturing students who represent the future of our industry, people will always be our most valuable asset.”

A graduate of Illinois State University’s Graphic Communications program and an active alumnus, Shannon is also an ACCGC board member. Over his career, he has held executive management positions in global operations, technology and innovation, sales, and business development.

He also represents the type of determined, well-rounded, and loyal staff the company attracts. After spending much of his career at some larger global packaging graphic services companies, he joined Printron in April 2021 in what he refers to as a return to his roots.

“I was initially attracted to the company’s long-standing reputation for quality and service,” says Shannon. “Once I met the people, I knew there was a cultural fit. The spirit of curiosity and problem solving runs deep here, along with a resounding pride of ownership,” he says. 2022 marks the company’s celebratory 60th year of operation.

“While we recently expanded and added a few adjacent services which will augment our core business, the company is rightly staying in its lane—not moving too far from its historical domain of expertise. That’s a recipe for success in my experience, as I’ve seen many companies lose focus on their core and forget what business they’re actually in.”

Building expertise

In collaboration with their print partners, respected companies such as Nestlé, Bell’s Brewery, 3M, Hiram Walker & Sons, Abbott, Hostess Brands, Crayola, and others trust Printron for its many services, artwork, color management, prepress, and flexographic plating and mounting.

Able to meet all client requirements, “from primary packaging that holds precious products or the secondary packaging that carries brands home,” Printron brings packaging to life. And in a world where the industry is consolidating and companies become part of global organizations, it’s important for Printron to remain one of the few independent U.S.-based trade shops.

By investing in training and skills development opportunities, Printron continues putting its people first.

When the company needed to expand its 3D/CGI capabilities, Printron upgraded its technology and cross-trained their Desktop and Esko operators to learn a completely new software. “It’s exciting to see us launch a new level of service, but even more gratifying when you can do it with the hard-earned grit of our people,” says Shannon.

New capabilities, new websitewww.printron.com
In January, the company officially launched its bold, completely reimagined new website, www.printron.com. According to Shannon, the fresh site contains more current messaging, and has content speaking to a broader audience than ever before.

The company spent the better part of 2021 investing in some technology upgrades, and training to support the expansion of some vital services including artwork, 3D renders, artwork management and digital asset management software, and workflow consulting.

“With these expansions firmly in place, we needed to now market these capabilities, while at the same time amplifying our brand,” he says. “The new site is very modern and visual, which is important for a graphic services company to portray. When our current and future clients visit our website, we want them first to be impressed, second to be informed, and third, to be comfortable that they are in the right place to obtain everything they need.”

Already hard at work with the next round of enhancements to the Printron website, it was important to get the new site launched “with a foundational scope of information.” A good deal of the technical and educational content housed on the legacy site was tabled for the next update, targeted for the end of this summer. “Many of our site visitors have come to enjoy learning more about our deep technical prowess around color management and plating, so we are anxious to put a new spin on our traditional sharing of knowledge.”

More than a tagline

When Printron says “Helping you succeed,” it is more than mere words—in fact, it sums up the company’s entire value proposition. “We’re a small component of our client’s overall path to producing products and services,” says Barry. “So externally, unless we’re helping them to succeed at their end game, we really don’t matter much. Our products and services need to be a part of the solution, as opposed to being part of the problem.”

For Printron, this means internally checking and rechecking work, and being accountable for everything they do. And on those rare occasions when things don’t go as planned, Printron is the partner that steps in during a crisis to save clients.

“Packaging commercialization has a lot of moving parts. Opportunities for missing or out-of-date information are just the nature of the beast in our industry. That’s why our people are trained to question something when it may seem out of sorts or just doesn’t feel quite right. That’s the voice of experience whispering in your ear,” says Barry.

“The other important part of helping our clients succeed is providing products and services that just work. We’re not perfect, of course, but there’s something to be said for providing a sense of security. We’re taking care of the business at hand so our clients can focus on more pressing matters elsewhere.”

Sidebar:

Value-Added-Reseller Agreement with ManageArtworks
Last November, Printron entered into a value-added-reseller (VAR) agreement with ManageArtworks and looks forward to where this strategic partnership will lead.

The industry’s leading ‘software as a service’ (SaaS) based end-to-end packaging artwork and digital asset management software, ManageArtworks supports packaging commercialization for CPG and Pharma (regulated) industries around the world.

According to Printron, the software connects people and processes within cross-functional brand owner teams, agencies, graphic service partners, printers, and other supply chain partners to get products to the market faster, all while meeting regulatory compliance.

“ManageArtworks can become the central foundation for a brand owner’s packaging and artwork commercialization, delivering supply chain agility and efficiency,” says Printron’s Chief Revenue Officer Michael Shannon.

With its North American office based in Princeton, New Jersey, and development based in Chennai, India, ManageArtworks has global offices in Spain (Madrid), Brazil (Sao Paulo), Germany (Hamburg), France (Paris), and Australia (New South Wales). To date, the company has more than 90 employees, over 75 clients managing more than 4,000 brands, and over 50,000 users.

“Most of our competitors have chosen to get into the software business with an internally developed solution. Employing a handful of programmers sitting in some cubes at the back of the building, however, is essentially just another ‘department,’ and doesn’t rise to the level of being an enterprise software ‘company,’ such as ManageArtworks,” says Shannon. “Printron provides workflow consulting, software configuration, and implementation services (where we deliver value) which leverage our sixty years of experience in packaging, while ManageArtworks provides the software and support.”

This is another example of Printron’s strategy to “stay in our lane” by providing an integrated solution, but without getting into the costly, competitive, and highly support-intensive software business.

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