A revolutionary approach to judging awards: Flexo Innovation Awards

–Interview with Pier Luigi Sassanelli, lead judge for the KODAK Flexo Innovation Awards.

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It’s ten years since Kodak launched the award-winning KODAK FLEXCEL NX System and transformed flexo print production. To mark the anniversary the company has established an awards programme with a difference, the Global Flexo Innovation Awards. Here, chairman of the judging panel, Pier Luigi Sassanelli, shares more about the aims of the programme.

Pier Luigi Sassanelli brings over thirty years’ worth of experience in the Graphic Arts and Flexo Industry in both consolidated and emerging economies. Here, he shares more about the Global Flexo Innovation Awards. Excerpts.

How do the KODAK Global Flexo Innovation Awards differ from other flexo award programmes?

Pier Luigi Sassanelli
Pier Luigi Sassanelli

Sassanelli: In my opinion, these are the first awards to look beyond the package, as it were, and evaluate how it impacts on the entire value chain. Other programmes begin and end with how a piece of flexo print is produced, but Kodak recognised that there’s more to it than simply the technical specification. This is why we are judging submissions against four distinct criteria: how they use creative design — for shelf impact, for example, or to create an innovative user experience; whether they represent conversion to flexo from other processes — gravure, offset or digital; how efficient the production workflow is; and the strength of their sustainability credentials.

By asking these questions, we hope to discover what the genuine innovations are, the ones with real strategic substance. And the answers will also tell us more than who the winners are: they will give the flexo industry as a whole unrivalled insights into what is happening now, and what might happen in the future. Taking everything into account, I think it’s a revolutionary approach.

How did you set about finding judges with expertise in the different areas — from design to print production to sustainability?

Sassanelli: As well as covering all the links in the value chain, we wanted a panel with a genuine “global” flavour — the “best of the best” to judge an exciting new awards programme. I worked with Kodak to draw up a “wish list” of ideal candidates to approach with an explanation of what we wanted to achieve with the programme, and the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. In total, we have nine experts from South America, the US, Australia and Europe, who bring to the table considerable experience in disciplines such as branding, design and sustainability, as well as past experience in judging awards. Their CVs include major names such as Proctor & Gamble, Nestle and Kimberley Clark. The full list is available on the awards website: https://www.transformationalflexo.com/judges.

How do you feel about chairing such a distinguished panel?

Sassanelli: As anyone who knows me will testify, for the last 30 years, flexo has been my passion. In fact, early in my career I learned that to keep my team motivated and engaged I have to love what I am doing. So, for me it’s a real honour to be invited to participate in — and help to shape — something that matches my passion, which is what the Global Flexo Innovation Awards do. I also feel energised to be working with a panel of professionals with such specialist knowledge — I am, after all, more of a generalist!

You said earlier that the awards will tell us something of the shape of flexo in the future. Are there any trends that you expect to be revealed?

Sassanelli: Flexo print production today is unrecognisable from the flexo of yesterday. Because flexo quality is on par with gravure and digital, decisions about which process to use are based on economic grounds. As a result, there is one major trend that I expect the awards to confirm, and that is flexo’s encroachment into the territory of both digital — because short runs are economic now — and gravure — because plates such as FLEXCEL NX are more robust. And as excellent as flexo printing now is, there’s still room for improvement. The next few years will see major advances coming out of work being done by companies like Kodak, and it’s an exciting prospect.

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