Home' FLEXO Magazine : February 2015 Contents system that combines all systems and processes to optimize a business
and drive it more e ciently.
is is true whether these businesses are printing exo, o set, digital
or a combination of all three; whether their plate making is digital or
analog, sheet or liquid, and whether their business systems are state of
the art or traditional. No matter how we do business today, it's always
possible to increase e ciency by eliminating duplicate data entry
and reducing human touchpoints. We can take this one step further:
When reducing touchpoints, this process reduces or repositions labor
For proof of this idea, you don't have to look any further than your
local commercial printer. Although they are fewer in number than
in the past, the commercial printers that remain are highly integrat-
ed and e cient: Digital store fronts are alive on the Web and online
ordering systems are now commonplace. Many of these e ciencies
are linked into the printer's MIS/ERP system, so that a customer order
via the Web automatically creates a work order for printing or ful ll-
ment---what we refer to as the job ticket. eir imposition systems are
automated and linked tightly with work ow and plate making. We are
deploying RFID to track plates and rolls that report back to the DFE.
Presses are networked to report runtime statistics back to the MIS/
ERP system for cost analysis. Shipments are scheduled automatically
a er nishing is done and invoices are generated quickly when jobs
are completed. With Web store fronts there are no aged receivables, as
credit cards are debited prior to print.
Does this sound like the future? Well, yes, for us it does to some
extent, only because the press manufacturers we are shopping are not
solution providers. is in itself is a great thing. We are expanding
our portfolio of products and now integration or solution providers
get added to the tag line. In fact, once we get out of our own way
of accepting the norm to actively seek solutions/partners, there are
fantastic things going on that we all bene t from. Sure, it's possible to
do these things manually; many printers do and many will continue
doing the same, but the division will narrow year over year as we seek
better pro tability.
ese DFEs are modular. For instance, Hybrid So ware uses the ter-
minology "connectors" and it's very appropriate, as we can connect an
MIS system to a work ow to a Web store front to a shipping portal. It's
a robust database that allows these connectors to speak to each other
in both directions when possible. As some customers are discovering,
there are some databases that are less elastic than others and we have
connectors for those complications as well.
ink how these connectors can automate manufacturing, especially
in packaging, wide format and other markets outside of the dog eat
dog commercial realm.
When we are discovering ways to be more pro table, we do more with
less, deadlines grow tighter, pressruns get shorter and pro t margins
become slimmer. e exo industry must turn to the same types of
automation that have been proven in commercial printers, namely:
• Online ordering systems will become widespread. Customers
already use them for business forms, marketing literature and
other types of printing, so why not order their packaging the
• Online orders will ow more easily into MIS systems, triggering
a work order faster than before
• Estimating systems will continue to improve and will become
more accurate for di erent types of printing
• Prepress work ow systems are already highly automated them-
selves, but through emerging new technologies, they will be able
to connect more readily to MIS systems
• Production will be scheduled more e ciently, with jobs auto-
matically grouped based on common inks, identical substrates,
etc. to reduce the makeready time between jobs
• Prepress functions like stepping, trapping and versioning will be
automated directly from the print MIS system
• Further specialization is possible in di erent segments (corrugat-
ed plates, liquid plates, standup pouches, etc.)
e similarity to the DFE used by a digital press should be apparent
by now, but this is much bigger: it's more like a Digital Front O ce,
linking all the pieces of your business together more e ciently.
How is this done? ere are many ways to achieve automation.
Standards like the Job De nition Format (JDF) or its broader parent
Extensible Markup Language (XML) have been around for years and
have been widely adopted by many vendors of work ows, MIS sys-
tems and presses. ey're not "plug and play" but they are a big step
in that direction. Other systems o er access at the database level using
Structured Query Language (SQL), or have special Application Pro-
gramming Interfaces (APIs) to allow developers to make connections.
Unless a printer or trade shop has a strong IT department, it may not
be possible to fully integrate systems from di erent vendors on its
own. But the vendors who create these systems are o en helpful and
cooperative with each other. ere are also companies like Anderson
& Vreeland or Hybrid So ware who have relationships with the major
industry players and the technical teams to deliver these integrations.
Remember, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step and this
is also true when integrating your systems into your own DFE. Start
small, win fast and then use that experience to tackle the deeper levels
of integration. e sky's the limit!
About the Author: Lee Zerfass is digital
business manager for Anderson & Vreeland,
Inc. He manages digital hardware and so ware
solutions o ered by A&V and fosters the expan-
sion of digital products and services. Lee has
more than 20 years of technical sales experience
across various printing industries with a focus
on digital products.
24 FLEXO | FEBRUARY 2015
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