This is how a flexo operator works in 2025
Production leaders in the label printing industry need qualified staff to enhance customer satisfaction in a highly competitive market, they can’t do it own their own. They are dependant on printing press operators to deliver the quality customers demand. But due to printing automation and standardization, the operators’ role is changing. In this blog I describe how a flexo press operator will work a couple of years from now — and why it’s important to embrace this change.
The label printing industry is evolving quickly
Before I dig deeper into the role of flexo press operators in 2025, I would like to address the transition that’s currently taking place in the label printing industry. The market demands short production runs of many different design variants to be supplied just in time at uncompromised and consistent print quality. To retain or obtain a competitive position in the market, a different printing process throughout the organisation is crucial.
To continue meeting the demand for low cost prices and short delivery times printing automation becomes highly important. This also affects the way your operators work because standardization becomes the standard.
The main changes in an operator’s day-to-day
Standardization is realised by integrating your printing presses and the Management Information System. Because of this integration, necessary data will be automatically fed into the press. This saves time in the pre-press stage and eliminates human error, which makes it easier to forecast results. Before every printing job, your operators know exactly which materials to use and in what place. In other words: production preparation is done automatically.
An operator no longer has to determine how to set up a particular printing job. They no longer have to think about mixing colours and choosing the right anilox rolls and printing plates. This data is all automatically fed into the printing press, and as a result, you ensure consistent print quality.
Therefore, you no longer need specialised operators with extensive knowledge about colour management, materials etc: you need people who can efficiently operate a printing press. As a result, the operator’s job becomes less complicated, because one needs to extract knowledge from the system.
In areas where it is becoming harder and harder to find and keep skilled operators, this is a positive change. As operators do not require extensive knowledge about the technical side of the printing process, a lower-skilled operator can do the job.
Over the coming years, the core activities of a flexo press operator will shift from preparation, material selection and printing press set-up to solely printing press operation.
We can’t predict the future and it’s only speculation, but if we fast forward to 2025 this is how we think life on the print shop floor will look like:
- Automation and robotization will be the standard, resulting in a non-stop printing process, 24/7. Most actions that are carried out manually nowadays will be taken over by robots, like ink management, changing printing plates and aniloxes, etc.
- Most printing presses will be hybrid; combining digital printing and a conventional printing technique, like flexo or offset.
- Very few people will be controlling production
To keep a competitive position, everything in your printing process must be aligned
With this in mind, taking the first steps to a fully automated printing process becomes a necessity to keep your competitive position. You have to stay one step ahead.
To do so, everything in your printing process should be aligned; ink management, preparation, printing press set up etc. And yes, this alignment requires investments. I understand that’s a big leap, but I want to urge you to at least start thinking about it. If you want to stay ahead of the pack, making your printing process future-proof is imperative.
If you’d like to receive an indication on the viability of your current printing process, we might have something interesting for you. We’ve developed a tool that contains 9 short questions that each involves a different topic that affects the viability of your printing process. It helps you find out to what extent you should consider implementing process optimisations, and in what areas.
Richard Meurs is Print Application Specialist since the foundation of MPS in 1996. He knows all about printing technology and gives his perspective from the operator’s side.