Which printing method offers the fastest turnaround?

Jane Merchant
June 21, 2022
Which printing method offers the fastest turnaround?

As the packaging supply chain recovers from the effects of Covid-19, it faces rising costs and instability. 

It is predicted the average 3-4 week turnaround time for some forms of flexible packaging could increase to 20 weeks or longer. This is likely to affect coffee roasters, as many tend to choose flexible packaging because of its affordability, protective properties, and ease of transportation.

As coffee is a time sensitive product, any delays may impact the quality of the product. Furthermore, customers expect a fast turnaround time on their orders, and slow delivery times may cause them to take their business elsewhere. 

To avoid these challenges, roasters may choose to revisit packaging needs to determine if any changes need to be made. Adapting the printing method for packaging may be the most effective way to help eliminate delays and alleviate supply chain issues. 

For instance, advancements in digital printing have made it more accessible and affordable. This printing method can provide roasters with a superior print quality and faster turnaround times.

Read on to find out which printing method offers the fastest turnaround times for coffee roasters. 

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Image of Caucasian female holding seven unbleached multilayer kraft paper coffee bags.

How does packaging printing contribute to long lead times?

Long lead times for any business can reduce their competitiveness in the market.

For small businesses that offer perishable products such as coffee, long lead times can be detrimental. When delays along the supply chain begin to affect customers, roasters risk losing customers and suffering brand devaluation – even if the delay does not lie with the coffee. 

Printing is usually the final stage in preparing flexible packaging, and this is also experiencing considerable delays and price increases.

Notably, the raw materials needed to create vegetable oil and petrochemical-based printing inks are experiencing delays. 

Furthermore, UV curable, polyurethane, and acrylic resins and solvents are becoming more expensive – 82% more expensive on average for solvents, and 36% more expensive for resins and related material.

That said, larger coffee roasters may work around this by increasing their inventory. As they are able to order large minimum quantity packaging runs, they are less likely to feel the immediate impact of delays. 

On the other hand, smaller roasters tend to operate on a tiger budget and with less space. Most are already dealing with rising coffee prices due to recent weather events, container shortages, and rising shipment fees.

Additionally, small roasters are unlikely to stockpile large volumes of coffee, especially if it is packaged directly after roasting.

This may tempt some roasters to move back to cheaper plastic packaging alternatives. However, research shows customers are more likely to reject it, as it does not align with their environmental values.

Image of a fan of colour examples used in digital printing

What are the turnaround times of popular printing methods?

The most commonly used printing methods for flexible coffee packaging are flexographic, rotogravure and UV printing. 

Rotogravure and flexographic printing are similar in that they both involve printing sleeves, cylinders, and plates.

Rotogravure printing tends to cost more, but the cylinders do not have to be changed as often as those used in flexographic printing. This method is also limited in the number of ink variations, as more colours require additional plates – further increasing costs. Additionally, rotogravure printing tends to use solvent-based inks.

As rotogravure and flexographic printing are largely mechanical, minor issues can result in major errors and print delays. This includes inaccurate plate mounting and centring, as well as substrate surface tension.

Poor surface tension on the packaging material may cause the inks to be distributed and absorbed incorrectly. Furthermore, register shifts may cause any words, lettering, and designs to be misaligned or overlap.

Due to high operating costs and the fact they require set-up costs per colour, both rotogravure and flexographic printing usually require large minimum print runs.

For both printing methods, roasters can usually expect a turnaround time of between five to eight weeks – before accounting for any delays.  

Alternatively, UV printing uses a photochemical process and is faster than flexographic and rotogravure printing.

It uses UV curing instead to heat to dry ink, resulting in a quick printing method that is suited to many packaging materials and is less prone to error.

That said, UV printing is a costly option and may not be feasible for smaller print runs.

Image of the HP Indigo 25K Digital Press, the latest in green printing technology.

Why does digital printing offer the fastest turnaround time?

While there are several printing techniques to choose from, digital printing is the latest innovation.

It is also the method that is most likely to offer roasters the fastest turnaround time, as everything is done digitally. 

Using specialised production colour software, digital printing allows roasters to create an accurate rendering of their packaging with accurate colour consistency.

Additionally, digital printing allows for smaller print runs with a shorter turnaround time, as well as more customisation. This means roasters can reduce packaging waste by picking precise volumes for their needs.

More so, roasters are able to personalise different print runs without adding to packaging costs. This allows them to offer limited edition items and promotions.

The biggest benefits of this form of printing are its turnaround times and ability to cross borders, as it all takes place online. It means roasters can finalise packaging design remotely and have it sent off instantly. 

It is important to note that turnover times will differ depending on printing needs and who roasters have partnered with. However, some can look forward to a 40-hour turnaround and 24-hour shipping time with some packaging printers and suppliers.

What’s more, this method uses water-based inks that are less likely to experience supply chain delays and price hikes. Plus, they are much better for the planet as they can break down during recycling.

By switching to this form of printing, roasters may be able to avoid many of the supply chain delays that accompany other printing methods. Furthermore, they can look forward to lower costs and smaller minimum quantity orders. 

Image of customer with coffee in porcelain cup next to unbleached multilayer kraft paper coffee bag on wooden table.

Roasters can navigate through these delays by partnering with a single packaging supplier that can manage the process from start to finish.

AT MTPak Coffee, we can help roasters with packaging design and choosing the right packaging shape and material. We are able to custom design and digitally print coffee packaging with just a 40-hour turnaround and 24-hour shipping time.

We also offer a perfect solution for micro-roasters by providing low minimum order quantities (MOQ) on both recyclable and traditional options.

We can also ensure that packaging is completely recyclable or biodegradable, as we offer bags made from sustainable materials such as kraft and rice paper, as well as LDPE and PLA-lined bags.

For more details on how to improve print turnaround times on sustainable coffee bags, contact our team.

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