Author: Simona Vazio, Head of Packaging Digital Solutions @ Ferrero

Talking about Digital Transformation is easy. It’s two words. Translating them into practice, something concrete and winning is much less so. It’s the challenge.

Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation. Two strong, powerful words communicating a challenging and disruptive idea. Nevertheless, these two words remain meaningless when not supported by vision and competence. Leaving the comfort zone is the challenging change.

Vision & Risks

Combining digital with the core business of a Company is hard.

A strategic vision of opportunities that recognizes the risks associated with something that no one – or few – has done before is imperative. “something that no one has done before”, paraphrasing a famous Star Trek aphorism that I love for its positive approach to the search for new challenges, new limits to reach, is exciting but at the same time frustrating. It means climbing the Himalayas from a base camp… located in the Mariana Trench.

To minimize the risk of investing in solutions that will have no future, knowledge of technology is an essential condition. The introduction of solutions that may not be standard today, but (almost) certainly tomorrow is crucial. Keeping up to date is the mantra.

Digital transformation in packaging is a puzzle where disparate skills need to be integrated.

Knowledge is a must : processes & actors

The knowledge of traditional processes and its tools, those that are still used by the supply chain of partners to support the requests coming from the Marketing, is fundamental for a correct strategic vision. A vision that offers the opportunity to insert in a winning way an articulated proposal, maybe futuristic but at the same time concrete and factual.

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You must understand the traditional way of working. This means that you must know the process of realization of the Technical Drawing and the Artwork connected to it. You must also know the internal and external actors involved in the process: Creative Agencies, Graphic Agencies, Repros, Printers.

Knowledge is a must : instruments

It is necessary to know the tools, how they are used at their best. The tools used for Structural Drawing, first of all: from cardboards (using the Swiss Army knife Autocad or specialized products like ArtiosCad by Esko) to 3D shapes realized through engineering software such as Solidworks or more creative tools like Blender and Cinema 4D. It is impossible not to know the classic tools for the realization of Artworks such as the timeless Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, and then something more modern that manages finishes and three-dimensional effects such as, for example, Adobe Dimension, Esko Studio, again Blender.

Knowledge is a must : business needs

Understanding the needs of business functions is crucial.

Digital Marketing and eCommerce are looking today for a set of JPG (often PSD) images and tomorrow, when members of Khronos Group such as Amazon and Alibaba will be ready, a 3D representation of the SKU.

Trade Marketing people want a solution that allows them to share with their partners the positioning of products and displays within a Virtual Store that is realistic but above all offers the KPIs and simulations that are a significant part of their activities.

Insights want animations, simulations, videos that help them in their activities with consumer panels to evaluate in the most subjectively objective way the effectiveness of a new proposal.

Brand Marketing, which is responsible for the style guides of the brands, evaluates – today – the range of creative proposals in a classic way: flat prints, tons of physical mockups, small samples of the product considered winning that are placed on the point of sale or a shelf in the showroom. Taking photos that help managers to decide.

(Post) Covid Era

In these months of Pandemia, the traditional approach is showing its limits. There’s the awareness that nothing will be as before, that there are new opportunities to work better than before. Previously the decision-makers would join together in a room and share the mockups, passing them from hand to hand. Today this is not possible or requires duplication in the material and certainly a waste of time. In peace with the reduction of Time To Market.

A virtuous approach

A virtuous process based on the virtual can help. Previously it was only an opportunity, today it is perhaps a requirement.

Virtual Mockup can support decisions based on visual observation, not those where touch helps to evaluate texture changes. Its positioning in a photorealistic virtual store allows evaluating the new shape, the new graphics in a three-dimensional space, and in a context (theatralisation) that is close to the market in which it will be positioned. It is possible to evaluate a new product for the Indian market without moving from one’s position in the NYC office or from one’s home in Singapore. Perhaps in meetings where each participant wears a VR helmet and observes the product together with colleagues while one of them picks it up at the Indian point of sale.

Tech skills

The theme of 3D is as challenging as that of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.

Since its introduction JPEG has been the most widely used image compression standard in the world and has effectively replaced formats such as TIFF, GIF, PNG. The term “JPEG” is the acronym of the Joint Photographic Experts Group, which created the standard in 1992. To date there is still no 3D standard, there is a multitude of proprietary formats. The Khronos Group is an open industry consortium of over 150 leading hardware and software companies that create standards for 3D graphics, Augmented and Virtual Reality, vision, and machine learning.

The glTF format will be and indeed is the 3D standard. The one to be adopted, along with other specifications, so that what has been realized can be used in the most disparate areas: eCommerce sites, web pages, Virtual Stores, animations, videos, PowerPoint presentations, shared in Microsoft Teams.

Once the format has been identified, a process should be adopted that integrates with the AS-IS to support decision making in the evaluation of new artworks or SKUs. The 3D models should be integrated with existing metadata into the DAM (Digital Asset Management). And possibly also include the set of automatically generated images according to the GS1 Product Image Specification Standard.

Products must be included in the DAM in different languages, and for a multinational company, this is already a challenge. Theoretically, because the number doesn’t allow to have everything done by hand for time and cost reasons. In this case, automatisms will help and, thanks to mechanisms based on Artificial Intelligence, the level of quality will be more and more similar to what is now handmade by a 3D and graphic artist.

Republished with permission from the author. Originally published on December 4, 2020.

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