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Inside Retail & Kirk Group

Revolution in print management– Kirk Group launches new digital platform

Commercial printing is a mature and complex industry, perhaps more so than most consumers would imagine. While it would likely surprise many buyers to learn just how many steps it takes for corporate artwork to pass through from concept to printed packaging, within the industry it’s widely recognised that its convoluted processes partly lie in its painfully slow crawl to join the modern world.

It should be a source of pride that Australia and New Zealand tend to be seen globally as leaders in print capability and results – and according to Kirk Group GM John Kapiniaris, whose firm has been servicing the print and packaging industry here for almost 50 years, some of that reputation is built on the modern flexographic plate technologies it introduced to the local market around 10 years ago.

“It took a while for the industry and the market to embrace it,” says Kapiniaris, “but over the years, we were able to validate the technology we brought to this part of the world, which has really helped printers to get superior print results.”

The minor revolution that Kirk Group helped spark in the industry emerges from the ability of the latest generation flexographic plate approach to closely meet – and at times exceed – the globally recognised benchmark in the printing industry known as gravure print.

“The gravure printing process is very expensive and has limitations in the ever-changing ANZ market,” explains Kapiniaris. “By using this flexographic technology, we have been able to work with local printers, assist them in achieving gravure-type results, and at the same time become significantly more cost efficient. That has allowed the industry to further invest in flexography and trust the results, rather than endure the costs of production under more expensive processes.

“Typically in the past, this led brands to source packaging from overseas because it was seemingly cheaper; the new technology allowed the market to offer a higher level of print quality and retain a lot of the packaging locally at a more competitive price point.”

Not inclined to rest on its laurels, the firm has spent the past decade collaborating with the printing industry to simplify processes and upgrade local knowledge associated with printers – developing a system that delivers consistent print results locally on a daily basis. Just four years ago, Kirk launched a new subdivision dubbed Task, formalising and extending its design execution services in answer to the somewhat disconnected existing processes responsible for delays (and expensive errors) within the industry.

“We launched Task to bring together a controlled process,” says Kapiniaris. “When brands engage with Task, they’re dealing with one business, one contact point, one process, so really what we’ve done is removed many of the manual touch points and handoffs between vendors, removing the requirement for people to manage each of those handoffs between multiple suppliers, and brought it under one banner and one system.”

Kirk Group’s greatest leap forward, however, is launching right now – a digital platform called Flite that the firm has been developing in recent years, and which is now ready to hit the market as an e-commerce platform and print management system.

“It’s been our internal system that drives automation across artwork management and image carrier production,” describes Kapiniaris. “It’s a very intuitive system that controls each step of the process. During the last two years we’ve revamped our UI/UX interface, we’ve had great success in onboarding our customers onto our system and putting them in the driver’s seat to manage their daily production requirements. The result is a job management system that’s streamlined and connected, a controllable process that offers our customers real time information. It’s accessible anytime, and it really manages the whole process from start to finish.”

Flite is most likely the first e-commerce offering in the region that offers a self-service model for the industry that can deliver flexographic plates online. The service is expected to be well-suited to a business environment in which many people will be working from home for the long term, with the resultant drop-off in face-to-face meetings and a new demand from customers to have the freedom to manage their businesses from anywhere in the world.

“We believe the working environment has changed and won’t go back to the way the way it was pre-Covid,” says Kapiniaris. “So we think that we can help our customers become more productive with their time – and to a certain degree, change the way that they work and our industry works to be a lot more streamlined, productive and efficient.”

For more information about Kirk Group and its range of services, click through to the company website.