FTA Helps Brands With Consistency

Ronkonkoma, NY

General Mills, Minneapolis, MN, is America's fifth largest food manufacturing company, with more than 100 of the nation's most recognizable grocery brands. The company, which takes pride in the consistency and quality of its packaging, faces more than 3,000 packaging changes each year. Those changes are orchestrated by an eight-member Brand Design Prepress Organization led by Gail Wong, brand design prepress manager for US retail packaging.

The team was established to ensure that all package designs are printable and repeatable, and to meet that mission, it offers guidelines for designers, printers, and prepress partners based on the Flexographic Technical Assn.'s Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances (FIRST).

As a result of its dedication to, incorporation of, and endorsement of FIRST, General Mills' Brand Design Prepress Organization earned the prestigious 2008 FTA President's Award.

“I have been amazed,” said Wong. “We have some pretty sophisticated designs…. We work hard to make sure we have a good fingerprint on file from the printer and that we have discussed what plates they are running and that they are not going to change anything prior to putting this on press. When that sample comes back, we compare it to a duplicate proof here. It is exciting to see how close the print can match the proof!”

Wong admitted she and her team still struggle with reducing dot gain, better solid ink densities, and bringing down costs. “One of the things that drives cost up is the customization we have to do for each printer.” She asks if there will ever be a day when flexographic printers/converters will be certified as fully compliant with FIRST guidelines, allowing different shops in different states to produce virtually identical results using the same file, regardless of equipment and personnel.

The answer, says FTA, is yes. One part of FTA's vision through TEST (Technical Education Services Team) is a FIRST certification program. TEST's mission is to offer a certification of compliance with FIRST guidelines, and the tools necessary to get there, for educational institutions of all levels, as well as seminars, publications, and other resources. The program is under development and will use updated specs from FIRST 4.0.

For more information visit www.flexography.org.

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