Automation has never been faster and easier to implement
Ghent (Belgium), September 26, 2017 – On its Labelexpo Europe 2017 stand 3C50, Esko announced the official launch of two simplified turnkey workflow solutions, Automation Engine QuickStart for Labels and WebCenter QuickStart for Labels, helping label converters to instantly improve productivity and profitability. These pre-configured, easy-to-use workflow solutions address many challenges that constrict throughput and cause inefficiencies in label manufacturing.
“Given the challenges facing label printers, the idea of simplifying the production process was of considerable interest to Esko. Indeed, we have made a very strong effort to Simplify Packaging,” reports Udo Panenka, Esko’s President. “Esko recently announced our intent to offer turnkey workflow solutions that are fast and easy to set up and deploy. We believe we have a solid offering at an attractive price to offer label converters a ‘quick start’ approach to workflow automation and project management – systems that are fully comprehensive, yet can be even further enhanced as workflow needs expand over time.”
Tightly targeted brand extensions have changed the landscape of packaging. Brand owners need to remain relevant to today’s consumers, assuring their products appeal to well-identified consumer groups – even to individual consumers seeking a “me-experience” with a unique product. This has led to product diversification, with mass customization and designs changing more frequently – even personalizing the product in print runs of one. This has resulted in more jobs of lower quantities with shorter cycle times, even while the total volume growth of labels has remained nearly flat for many global brands. Meanwhile quality – especially consistent brand color reproduction – and regulatory compliance are non-negotiable.
Brands also continue to seek to minimize costs. Label inventories represent a considerable cost. If labels can be produced as nearly just-in-time as possible, the cost of inventory as well as the cost of obsolescent labels disappears.
Therefore, converters work with the complexity of producing many more, but smaller, production runs with very short lead times. This is why label converters were early adopters of digital printing technology. In fact, about 12% of all prime labels are now printed digitally. These digital presses still often run side-by-side with conventional presses, leading to a more complex, very diverse and mixed printing environment.
In light of these challenges, Esko introduced its QuickStart workflows, a range of powerful, turnkey packages that are pre-configured to meet the needs of specific applications. The key advantage of these tested, preconfigured workflows is their easy implementation and deployment. They are based on best practices gleaned from hundreds of label converters around the world over the last several years.
This is confirmed by early customer experiences, such as Melchior Bos, Managing Director of Nij-off BV (The Netherlands), who states, “Nij-off and Esko have been partners for a long time. The recent installation of Esko’s workflow took just a matter of days and caused no interruptions or hiccups in our production. We are confident that further deployment will run smoothly and will help us to process more jobs through our prepress faster.”
At Labelexpo Europe, Esko is demonstrating the first two of these pre-configured workflows for label converting:
Because the solutions come with pre-configured setups and onsite deployment including go-live assistance, installation can be achieved in less than one week.
With current label production demands, the quality of incoming data and the duplication of assets – as well as attaining timely customer approvals – is an ongoing challenge. With many manual touchpoints, this can lead to time lost in job preparation. Furthermore, locating existing printed and digital assets can be cumbersome and time-consuming – especially as the number of jobs per day continues to go up. With no audit trail available, customer service staff often spend up to 70% of their day answering customer questions on order status.
Automating this process saves time and removes the risk of errors. WebCenter QuickStart for Labels is an out-of-the-box solution, either cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) or deployed on premises, with pre-configured process flows. A built-in graphical viewer is coupled with collaborative approval tools for the review and approval of both 2D and 3D assets. The software manages a database of these centralized digital assets, allowing easy asset search and re-ordering of existing labels. It also comes with a dashboard and built-in operational reporting. Once installed, WebCenter Essentials for Labels drives a true paperless process, making it easy for both converters and their customers to always know exactly where jobs are in the process.
Performing label printing prepress work manually can create capacity and throughput problems, causing prepress to be a bottleneck, triggering delays that affect the entire plant. Automation Engine QuickStart for Labels makes it extremely easy to automate workflows, immediately increasing production capacity to deal with the growing number of smaller jobs without adding extra headcount.
It offers most of the essential label prepress tasks – including preflighting, adding and checking barcodes and content, trapping, step and repeat, and inserting marks and control strips – no matter what printing technology is used (digital, flexo, offset or gravure). Automation Engine QuickStart for Labels is also scalable. It can be upgraded with more functionality, such as automated quality control, color management and output device control, which deliver higher throughput and can be plugged into the customer’s existing business system as necessary. The software can be installed and put into action with full operator training in as little as three days.
Esko Automation Engine QuickStart for labels has been specifically designed to include digital label printers in a seamless workflow process, particularly HP Indigo label presses. Announced today is an extended cooperative effort between HP Indigo and Esko.
Esko’s color technology remains a crucial component “under the hood” of HP Indigo presses, assuring the highest brand color accuracy and consistency.
“As an extension of our successful ten-year relationship, HP and Esko have incorporated the Esko Color Engine into the new HP Production Pro for Labels & Packaging. It analyzes the artwork and determines the best color space and ink separations to print the job at the right quality, helping to get to color with fewer clicks,” said Alon Bar-Shany, general manager of HP’s Indigo Division. “We are also extending our relationship to focus on optimizing prepress, where HP will resell Automation Engine QuickStart for Labels, the turnkey solution that optimizes printing and allows converters to ramp up prepress productivity in a simple and cost-effective manner.”
The new DFE, HP Production Pro for Indigo Labels and Packaging, is being unveiled for the first time at Labelexpo Europe 2017, where HP Indigo customers can learn about its capabilities. It is being demonstrated in conjunction with Esko Automation Engine QuickStart for Labels, tightly integrated with a Cerm MIS to enable determination of the most cost effective way to print, including suitability for Enhanced Productivity Mode printing (CMY) on HP Indigo presses. Thus, the job pipeline to the HP Indigo always keeps the printer working. The digital print only version demonstrated on the HP stand features the first browser-based interface, which is very intuitive and easy to navigate.
“With Esko’s QuickStart solutions helping to guide production, label converters can improve their order-to-delivery process with increased productivity and visibility into bottlenecks that may arise. They will optimize speed and reduce costs by automating tasks and eliminating duplication of data,” comments Geert De Proost, Director Solutions Marketing at Esko. “Just as importantly, they will reduce the risk of rejects and rework, and improve compliance, capturing feedback into a single location from both internal and external stakeholders.
Automation Engine QuickStart for Labels and WebCenter QuickStart for Labels are commercially available globally today.