As the old saying has taught us, big things can come in small packages. But what if the big thing is the package?

Our GITeC team is making technological waves with their recent developments in digital object printing. This process (known as DOP for short) is seeking to revolutionize traditional packaging runs by allowing for custom-printed small runs of cans and bottles to be released within a day’s notice — with environmental benefits to boot.

Danielle Miller, Global Director of Packaging Innovation, oversees a project that is aiming to change our approach to packaging. “We’re moving past analog technologies toward a specially designed, digital input, inkjet printing system that can make each image different than the one it printed before.” The result? Instant customization on the packaging line that allows for production of some of the most unique labels on the market.

“The first obvious advantage here is speed to market: If we have a reason to print something that we only need available for one day, it can happen in 24 hours. We don’t have to wait for printing plates or anything,” says Danielle.

Whether it’s releasing event-specific packaging, personalizing a label, or simply celebrating a major sports victory, “We can take an image of a winning goal and print it onto a can or bottle instantly,” she says. “Usual printing commitments are hundreds of thousands of units — with DOP, there is no minimum run requirement.” This innovation is what allows for an unprecedented level of consumer engagement and brand flexibility.

“We’re moving past analog technologies towards a specially designed, digital input, inkjet printing system that can make each image different than the one it printed before.”

So far, the technology has seen most of its development in targeted, event-focused runs, including Budweiser’s Tomorrowland music festival campaign. Thanks to the use of DOP, cans sporting the flags of participating nations were able to be printed and distributed to concertgoers at the Belgian electronic festival last summer, which was heralded as a massive success for the new technology.

Through campaigns such as Tomorrowland, GITeC has been progressing the technology at scale, aiming to revolutionize the packaging process from top to bottom. They plan to evolve DOP so that not only will it be the replacement for how labels are made today, but will also have the ability to provide unique labels for clients as a special service. “The very manual process that we use today will be replaced by a new scale of products. We’ve been doing a lot of learning with the technology and what it can do, and we feel we’ll reach a landmark this year,” she says.

And the good news doesn’t stop at efficiency: DOP has plenty of green technology benefits, as well. Compared to shrink sleeve or ceramic labels that use steam and heat, DOP saves 60% of carbon emissions compared to traditional printing methods, 85% less than screen printing, and requires no water.

At a time when unique experiences rank high in customer’s minds, our company’s innovative spirit is brought to the forefront through this technology. “We aim to lead the industry in DOP,” Danielle says. “No one has done this before and we’re really leading the way with successful results that are going to continue in 2018.”

This article was written by Danielle Miller, Global Director of Packaging Innovation at AB Inbev — Leuven, Belgium.