How to Ensure Print Quality of Packaging & Displays from China
Since China has become a global hub for manufacturing, both retail packaging and point of purchase (POP) displays, have followed suit. As quality and defect rates on products produced in China is often an issue, so is the color consistency, quality, and design of packaging and POP/POS displays. Based on our 12 years of experience working in China, here is your guide to ensuring that your packaging and displays are produced with the quality level you need from your Chinese partners.
Packaging & POP Design
When you have your packaging or displays designed overseas, it can be inefficient and take 3x longer than if you have a domestic partner. In addition to dealing with time zones, language issues and cultural differences, it can also be hard to tell by the images they send if the design and die cut are right and will meet retailer requirements.
Instead, we recommend that you have a design sample physically made in the US so that you can test them and know how it will work, then send data files over to China so they make the exact same cutting dies. In this way, there is no freight of sending back and forth (just do the sampling here, not the printing), and you'll ensure the design will work on the board grade you specify.
Quote Displays & Packaging Separately
When quoting out production in China, quote your product, packaging and POP/POS displays separately. We often see misrepresentations on pricing: you'll see one price for the product and one for the packaging/displays, where the packaging and display pricing is often made to look really cheap when this is not actually the case. This will help you compare apples to apples when determining your best display printing option in China, otherwise you're comparing apples and oranges and could select a low quality provider.
Before starting production, you will want to request print tests and ink samples for your packaging and POP/POS displays. Simply have your Chinese partner physically print sample packaging and displays from their press and have them send you the proofs so that you can evaluate the level of quality and avoid it being an unpleasant surprise on the back-end. If they don't hit the proof, have them do it until they do.
You'll also want to test to ISTA 3B or E standards so the packaging and/or displays will ship well on trucks and containers, and stack well in warehouses. For packaging, you'll want to do rub testing so that, when packages come in contact with each other that the ink doesn't rub off. If your packaging includes high gloss, your packaging may require a layer of polyurethane between each package.
Lastly, you may also want to be present, or have your packaging/display designer present during production to ensure that there is no variation from your approved proof and the final product.
As part of the proofing process, you will want to ensure that your Chinese partner prints on the right quality of material. While Chinese paper mills have improved over the last decade, always request sample materials to evaluate whiteness, brightness and stiffness. Also have them provide compression, burst and edge crush tests for corrugated displays and packaging.
A Horror Story
A giftware company was having a new ceramic figurine product manufactured by multiple partners in China. They had various factories handle the supply of packaging printing. As a result, the packaging received were all different colors and this was not realized until the shipments were received in the US. Fortunately for them, their products are displayed by retailers outside of their boxes so it didn't kill the launch of their new product but it caused a lot of extra work to get it right – though we helped streamline this process and get them on the right track. Small problems in China can quickly become large, complex and very expensive problems in the USA. Missed launches, unhappy retailer partners, poor sell-through, and chargebacks can have catastrophic results on a brand.
The Real Magic
The real "magic" of top quality packaging and POP/POS display print quality is that you see and approve samples that are printed on the same press in China on which all will be printed. You want to avoid outsourcing printing quality control by relying on your product manufacturer to do all of this – especially if you use multiple product manufacturers. As a result, you will ensure that your packaging and displays will look great and all look the same. Let us know if we can help.