Ghent (Belgium), March 16, 2016 – Esko has completely updated its software solutions and relaunched them under the umbrella brand name “Esko Software Platform”. It’s the next version of the well-known portfolio of integrated software solutions for design, prepress, workflow automation, color management and supply chain collaboration used for packaging, labels, displays and signs.
The Esko Software Platform is enhanced with new capabilities and delivers a unique user experience. The full range of innovations and integrations of Esko Software Platform will be demonstrated for the first time at the upcoming drupa 2016, scheduled for May 31 through June 10 in Düsseldorf.
Highlights of the drupa release of the Esko Software Platform include:
Today’s label, packaging, sign and display production has become increasingly complex. Brand owners want to sell more and better products and bring them to market faster. This leads to more variation within product families, which all need labels and packages, as well as a greater variety of point-of-purchase and other signage. These materials need to be produced in ever smaller production runs with ever shorter lead times, also taking into account the pressure caused by regulatory and brand compliance requirements.
For manufacturers of labels, packaging, signs and display graphics, this increased complexity leads to a more intensive use of a mix of printing technologies, more frequently including digital print. In addition, production companies are faced with an overall shortage of experienced prepress and print operators. “In conversations with our customers, we hear a cry for more operational flexibility with shorter learning curves, faster time to market and increased productivity,” says Bernard Zwaenepoel, Esko Senior VP Software. “With the release of Esko Software Platform, Esko demonstrates its commitment to its customers by making Packaging Simplified”.
“Transforming our software portfolio to an integrated platform is our response to the changing ways customers prefer to buy, use and manage software licenses, regardless of whether they are a large global corporation with many production locations or a small family-run shop,” Zwaenepoel explains. “Esko Software Platform makes it easier for customers to add capacity and functionality as their needs change. While customers focus on cost control and productivity optimization, Esko ensures an integrated end-to-end solution that protects their investments and helps them to grow.”
The Esko Software Platform can be deployed on premise or in the cloud and can be purchased with a traditional license or a flexible subscription model. Within its cloud offering, Esko has created a series of attractive Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions:
Zwaenepoel states, “With the SaaS model, Esko hosts and manages the services. Customers choose the solution they need and run their business without increasing IT overhead and without the potential complexities coming with software upgrades. When using Esko Software Subscriptions, customers can also benefit from more flexibility. For example: when demand spikes, subscriptions simplify adding additional software seats. Customers now can better manage cash flow and operational costs. With this level of flexibility, we truly offer Packaging Simplified.”
Esko is introducing Content Management as a new module for WebCenter. This module enables printers and converters to expand their offerings related to artwork services. The software includes a controlled and automated process for updating existing artwork and for creating multiple variants for a single product. All stakeholders use a common database for content, automatically pulling text statements and other regulatory content into the artwork to ensure compliance. This solution also complies with the GS1 global standard for packaging content communication. By automating the artwork creation process, companies benefit from a 50% faster time to market at a 30% lower cost while reducing the risk of claims due to inaccurate content. The new WebCenter 16, combined with the Dynamic Content tools in Adobe® Illustrator®, is a giant leap forward in automated creation of packaging artwork.
A growing number of digital assets are being produced within the packaging supply chain. These assets need to be shared with marketing departments, or need to be part of content or product information management. What’s more, rich media assets need to be included as well (video, for instance). MediaBeacon answers this need. Integrating Esko’s MediaBeacon DAM system with WebCenter makes assets available in the right version at the right time to the right stakeholders in the packaging workflow. This integration supports better design, helps protect brand integrity, ensures regulatory compliance and speeds up time to market. MediaBeacon’s full scope of capabilities and benefits will be demonstrated in Esko’s drupa stand.
WebCenter is the customer portal that streamlines activities from specification and design through production. Users share files with all stakeholders for approval and collaboration. In the new version, they are able to view 3D designs, including transparency and print finishing effects, using a standard web browser on a desktop computer or mobile device. WebCenter 16 is based on the latest web technologies for an improved user experience, mobile friendliness and noticeably faster search capabilities.
ArtiosCAD 16 makes design and preproduction of multi-part packaging and POP displays more simple, intelligent and productive, avoiding guesswork, waste and errors. Layout tools apply 3D clips and hooks used in retail environments. They also automatically nest production parts on the right substrates. For sign and display producers, ArtiosCAD 16 offers access to an extensive online library of proven parametric design templates. Sign and display converters use these designs to produce complex designs easy and fast, taking away the need for 3D design expertise.
Studio 16 now adds increased 3D functionality to the Adobe® Illustrator® packaging workflow. The software includes tools to select materials and apply print effects. It also combines different shapes into 3D compositions, including realistic lighting and shadow effects. Users now can share or export 3D designs to high resolution pack shots. Creating this artwork for presentations or campaigns takes away the need for separate packaging artwork creation in other software.
Store Visualizer 16 now integrates with planogram systems to create and populate visually stunning virtual 3D stores in minutes rather than days. The software is able to display barcodes; pricing and other metadata associated with each of the imported products, and is ideal for use in store planning and category management. Studio Store Visualizer, co-developed with VTales, makes it a lot easier for users to create and test package designs and ultimately reduces time to market.
“Esko has embedded technologies from our partner Global Vision and from our subsidiary Enfocus to eliminate time-consuming manual checks,” Zwaenepoel states. “Automated quality checking tools allow our customers to process more jobs with the same people and with fewer errors”. This innovation offers peace of mind and addresses the lack of skilled operators many companies are facing.”
Global Vision quality control tools are embedded in Automation Engine 16. Features now available from the automated workflow include a spell checker and automatic checking of barcodes and Braille against an approved profile. The quality check runs as a background process and results in an annotated and viewable design file for Automation Engine, WebCenter and in ArtPro+. This enables fast, systematic revision of all detected errors.
Esko Software Platform further introduces unique Packaging Preflight functionality, based on Enfocus technology. Preflight checks are applied to content inside of the die-line, ignoring any information outside of the die-line such (like legends or control strips). Technical and other non-print items like varnishing and embossing can also be excluded from the preflight operation. This ensures jobs are checked only where appropriate and eliminates all irrelevant feedback from the preflight report, leading to greater effectiveness in automated preflight and in the entire workflow.
Zwaenepoel focuses on two solutions Esko offers for editing and preparing graphic designs for production. First is DeskPack, the well-known family of plug-ins for Adobe® Illustrator® and Photoshop®, and the second is ArtPro+, an innovative editor that runs on both PC and Mac.
ArtPro+ is a brand new prepress editor featuring a state-of-the art 64-bit architecture and is 100% PDF native. ArtPro+ has a unique and intuitive user interface with a software tool selector wheel that provides the user instant access to the right tools wherever he happens to be working in the design. “It is so easy to use,” Zwaenepoel explains. “Information is displayed where you need it, when you need it.” This in-context user interface removes all clutter from the screen. The time savings on operator training alone is 28%. Users consistently report greater efficiency and faster job turnaround using the new editor. ArtPro+ is available to the entire installed base as an upgrade under maintenance contract for ArtPro and PackEdge.
DeskPack and ArtPro+ are designed for seamless integration with Automation Engine 16. The way forward in prepress today is to automate mundane, repetitive prepress tasks with Automation Engine and to limit the editor work with DeskPack or ArtPro+ to specific tasks and quality checks. Prepress operations working this way report that 40% more jobs can executed with the same headcount.
With Automation Engine’s new Device Manager module, Esko’s hardware product lines (Kongsberg tables and CDI flexo plate imagers) are connected to and integrated with the prepress workflow. Device Manager puts full operational control of these devices in the hands of the prepress operator.
Flexo converters are under pressure to print a growing number of short run jobs per shift. However, setting up a printing press for a new job takes a substantial amount of time, primarily for wash-up, and wastes ink and ink-on-substrate when getting back to color. A great deal of print capacity is locked up in press setup time. Many flexo presses only have 40% productive uptime.
The solution to unlock flexo press capacity and to keep the presses running is to completely avoid washing up the press between jobs. This is done by standardizing the printing press on a fixed set of inks -an extended ink set of 5, 6 or 7 colors- and printing jobs with this fixed ink palette. Equinox is Esko’s fixed color palette or Extended Gamut printing solution. Equinox is easy to deploy and is an integral part of Esko Software Platform.
Zwaenepoel comments, “Equinox helps achieve a 34% reduction in printed waste per job and a 25% ink saving in flexible packaging. Beyond that the benefits are even greater: flexo press changeover times are cut in half, production time gained that immediately goes to the bottom line. Yet another Packaging Simplified proof point.”
Zwaenepoel concludes, “Dozens of man years of software development have gone into Esko Software Platform, and we are proud to present this major new version at drupa. Its continuous improvement in functionality, interconnectivity and user experience has been designed and planned in order to address key challenges in the industries we serve, with the ultimate aim of maximizing production profitability for our customers.
We are looking forward to welcoming visitors to Esko at drupa. Our staff will be delighted to explain how the new Esko Software Platform will help them meet their business goals, today and into the future.”
Esko Software Platform will be launched and demonstrated at drupa 2016 and will be commercially released beginning June 2016. Thousands of Esko customers with a maintenance contract are entitled to receive the upgrades of the software they use. They will benefit of working with this major upgrade as the software is rolled out by the regional Esko software Service Teams. Online training and support tools like the Esko Knowledge Base will support installations and simplify this global rollout.