Production holographic
#Cash

Design thinking for banknote production

Interview
6 Mins.

Banknotes need to combine design with high-tech developments, making production particularly challenging. The “Design for Production” principle enables the symbiosis of design and production. We spoke to Dr. Stefan Bichlmeier, Head of Product Management, Papierfabrik Louisenthal, and Marc Mittelstaedt, Head of Design, Banknote Solutions, G+D Currency Technology

Dr. Bichlmeier, on the one hand one needs an aesthetically pleasing banknote design; on the other, one has to design for high-tech manufacturing processes. Can a production process also have a beautiful “design?”

Bichlmeier: That’s achieved when all processes and procedures blend seamlessly. When the manufacturing process works, the 5 million banknotes planned for Wednesday evening are stacked on the pallets by Wednesday evening. Then a production process is beautiful; it’s smooth and it’s productive.

Must efficient production demand an integrated risk management process?

Bichlmeier: Processing orders that aren’t technically challenging is not difficult for anyone, but complex projects are another matter.

G+D has the advantage of being very deeply involved in the value creation chain, which means we’re familiar with the whole spectrum of unpredictable factors that can arise when millions of sheets are being produced. We’ve been using data intelligence solutions to monitor and evaluate production quality for a long time.

It’s essential that we deploy highly professionalized risk management to process complex orders safely and reliably. To increase forecast and planning accuracy, we have the option of making various adjustments; from paper and individual security features, through the printing processes, down to the final quality check.

Each component is monitored throughout the process, but overall complexity increases as soon as the elements are combined.

And does “Design for Production” help with that?

Bichlmeier: The full official name is actually “Design for Production and Customer Satisfaction.” We don’t just want efficient production: first and foremost, we want to make our customers happy by taking their individual requirements into account.

And yes, a large part of Design for Production is proactive risk management, and that makes it possible for us to manage a high degree of complexity in the production process.

What kind of specific requirements do customers bring to you?

Bichlmeier: Every customer wants durable, robust banknotes that correspond with the population’s usage behavior, and which facilitate easy fitness checking and authentication at ATM level and banknote processing machines securely and efficiently.

At the same time, every customer needs a broad spectrum of security features – from watermarks, through security threads and windows, to foil elements and variable printed elements. Security that requires costly manufacturing processes but guarantees the optimal protection against counterfeiting.

Design a banknote pen hand
Customers appreciate creativity and flexibility but banknotes also need to be functional

How do you deal with conflicting requirements?

Bichlmeier: We act as an “integrator” for the banknote. We always think in terms of solutions. We combine design skills with feature integration, and production reliability with on-time delivery.

As a technology leader, our goal is to build trust. It’s important to us that our efficiency works to the benefit of our customers. We’re the right partner for banknote projects that are complicated, time critical or technically challenging.

It’s not enough for us simply to support increasingly complex production processes: we have to actively design them. We don’t reduce their complexity but we make them easier to plan and to monitor.

Mr. Mittelstaedt, how does graphical banknote design support this process?

Alongside paper and foil production, creating a banknote also involves a range of printing processes. Each sheet must be aligned as precisely as possible for each of the printing steps.

However, there are production-related tolerances in relation to the positioning of the printed images, and every now and then these tolerances give rise to aesthetically discernible, unsightly artifacts.

The designer’s role is to lay out these zones and areas in such a way that any overlap won’t lead to visible faults in the banknote’s appearance.

“That’s why our designers aren’t only artists, but also have the necessary technical expertise“
Marc Mittelstaedt
Head of Design, Banknote Solutions, G+D Currency Technology

That’s obvious, isn’t it?

Mittelstaedt: Yes, but it’s something that needs to be thought about as early as possible in the overall process. We have a technically demanding product that goes through many steps in the value chain.

Design for Production creates a connection between the individual steps so that the entire flow, from the first graphic design to the finished technical product, can be monitored and optimized.

Which comes first, design or manufacture?

Mittelstaedt: They work in parallel. A lot can be influenced by means of the design but a highly efficient production process has little to do with the aesthetics of a banknote at first glance.

What’s clear is that whatever we decide with our customers, we must always be able to go on and produce that later at an industrial scale. That’s why our designers aren’t only artists, but also have the necessary technical expertise to identify how a particular layout will affect the production process.

How does the Design for Production principle change the designer’s job?

Mittelstaedt: It means the designer has to think about what elements can productively be combined. As we know, “the devil is in the detail” when you bring things together. Some needs and requests, such as wide security threads and film windows, work brilliantly when you take them individually but need special treatment once they are combined.

This means that not only does a designer have to be able to create beautiful aesthetic objects, but they also have to design them in such a way that the production process doesn’t end up riddled with risks and unpredictable factors.

So at G+D Currency Technology you only design things that can be produced?

Mittelstaedt: Exactly. That might sound a bit mundane, but it isn’t. Independent designers often develop ideas and designs that look very attractive, but which then have to undergo significant amendment during “banknotizing” – implementation into a banknote production process.

Customers appreciate creativity and flexibility but obviously they want banknotes that are also functional. To help achieve that, we offer comprehensive consulting services via our Design for Production solution.

Here, our product marketing and management experts work with the customer to analyze processes, evaluating their technical risk level and managing them so that the production planning department can work with valid figures.

“Design for Production facilitates communication across the individual value streams and aligns technology and design“
Dr. Stefan Bichlmeier
Head of Product Management, Papierfabrik Louisenthal

Does this way of working require a new process structure and communications culture?

Bichlmeier: Our Design for Production approach makes communication easier across individual value streams and aligns technology and design. This way of thinking avoids potential risks by ensuring that they can be identified.

We have also introduced a higher supervisory role, a project manager, who is responsible for the whole process from film, through paper and printing, to the finished banknote. This allows for production chains that are robust and incorporate a certain level of tolerance so that tiny differences don’t create a production problem at the next step.

What does this mean for the customer?

Bichlmeier: It means maximum flexibility and stability, because we can commit to deadlines that may initially seem rather tight. We’re able to identify and evaluate risks and conflicts in good time using our Design for Production solution. We know exactly what the future holds, so we can make concrete commitments.

We are a single-service supplier with a detailed knowledge of all the production processes involved, from the substrate, through security features, to the printing process. Additionally, serving the entire banknote processing sector means that we take the requirements of an automated, digitalized cash cycle into account at the design stage as a matter of course.

This holistic approach is exactly what we mean when we talk about “Advanced Currency Management.”

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