It’s no secret in the retail and packaging industries that the number of stock-keeping units (SKUs) provided by brands is growing rapidly. SKU proliferation has been a topic of discussion in just about every industry for at least a decade. Food and beverage, apparel and garment, consumer goods – all of these industries have had to cope with the logistical challenges of managing hundreds, or thousands, of SKUs.
In a recent flash poll of FTA printer members, 81% of respondents pointed to SKU proliferation as a factor influencing their production.
SKU Proliferation is the process in which a retailer or distributor increases the number of products (SKUs) that it offers to customers. It’s a natural part of business, and something that every operation will go through as it learns more about its customers wants and tailors its offerings to meet those desires.
While SKU proliferation is a normal, and even essential part of most businesses, it can also bring with it a number of challenges and costs for printers.
There are several ways printers can adapt to the increasing challenges related to SKU proliferation. For greater flexibility, many printers are investing in both central impression and inline press designs, allowing them to better diversify their product mix. Print products using board, label stock, shrink and other specialty films are now being pursued as compliments to the typical film production of the past.
Printers need to meet the challenges of shorter runs and at the same time be able to run at high speeds to handle longer runs profitably. Technologies that are imperative to solving these challenges are: zero speed initial impression and registration setting, ink color and viscosity management, automatic ink/deck washup, central impression drum cleaning, energy-efficient and responsive drying, and closed-loop camera-based impression and registration. By combining higher printing speeds with the ability to better maintain control of the print process, it is possible to meet the demands of the changing needs of the packaging supply chain.
PCMC’s ELS-Max is a fast changeover inline press that can help printers save up to 50-75% in both waste and setup time by having the capability to store and recall virtually every setting on the press. Stored jobs can also be shared between multiple presses with just a touch of a button. Customized configurations allow printers to incorporate slitting, die cutting, inline lamination, and other finishing – reducing time and multiple processes.
PCMC’s Fusion C was developed to meet the demands of short-length runs that require more efficient changeovers and setups with high repeatability and maximum uptime. Features such as TruePrint, a camera-based impression and registration system, and SteadyPrint anti-bounce technology, further enhance the Fusion’s ability to produce high-quality output through a wide speed range.
The proliferation of SKUs is a fact of life and a natural part of most businesses, and something that is especially common as operations mature in today’s business environment where the customer is king and where variety is expected. It is important to keep in mind that SKU proliferation is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can lead to increased revenue and higher customer satisfaction. New technology and features are helping printers tackle SKU proliferation head on.