Jun 1, 2018

By Jacob Fisher  –  Intern, Cincinnati Business Courier

One of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors of paper products, packaging, chemicals and building supplies has invested $25 million into downtown Cincinnati to bring a new digital print service to the market.

Georgia-Pacific LLC, an Atlanta-based Koch Industries subsidiary, recently launched Hummingbird – a digital pre-print service for corrugated package printing – in the Queen City. The operation has already created 35 new jobs in Cincinnati’s urban core and could hire up to six more employees within the next 18 months.

Sergio Morales, general manager at Hummingbird, said the company has already begun engaging in projects with several Cincinnati-based firms, including Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG).

“It’s an independent operation,” Morales told me. “Our goal is to help our customers move from analog printing to digital printing.”

For consumer packaged goods companies like P&G, the prospects of digital printing are promising. Corrugated materials like cardboard are traditionally considered difficult to work with, as they tend to warp during the digital printing process. Rather than using standard commercial inkjet presses, Hummingbird relies on a relatively new line of specialized printers produced by Hewlett-Packard Inc. (NYSE: HPQ).

In 2015, Georgia-Pacific invested in the HP PageWide T400S Press, HP’s first commercial printer model dedicated to corrugated liner media. One year later, HP announced that Georgia-Pacific would be the first U.S.-based company to install the HP PageWide T1100S Press, a commercial corrugate printer model capable of printing up to 51,206 square meters per hour with 110-inch wide web capability.

“There’s no question the future of corrugated packaging is digital,” Morales said in a news release. “Hummingbird’s digital inkjet printing enables even the largest brands to deliver consistent and timely marketing messages across all platforms, including their physical packaging.”

Georgia-Pacific says the speed of Hummingbird’s digital pre-print technology can bring products to market up to 80 percent faster over traditional packaging methods. Traditional analog printing methods can take up to 20 weeks between the art approval date and final receipt of packaging. By contrast, digital corrugate printing takes as little as 14 calendar days, Morales said.

“You are able to order what you need, when you need it,” Morales said.

Faster print-to-market speeds could mean inventory reduction and better seasonal and short-term packaging management. Additionally, Georgia-Pacific says that packaging for most product varieties can be produced and shipped together, which could potentially reduce transportation costs and improve logistics.

“The possibilities are nearly limitless,” said Morales. “We can print half a million of the same design as quickly and easily as half a million variations.”

The company has two Greater Cincinnati locations:

  • The Georgia-Pacific Hummingbird operating unit at 312 Plum St., downtown
  • A manufacturing facility at 9048 Port Union Rialto Road, West Chester Township.