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FLEXO Magazine : October 2013
INDUSTRY INDICATORS Packaging Workflow Automation Improve Consistency, Minimize Error, Reduce Human Input By Michael Bialko Inanymanufacturingprocess,flexographyincluded,auto- mation is key to maintaining quality, increasing efficiency and reducing expenses. Printers today are constantly pursuing innovative new tools to make their operations more profitable. From job submission and preparation, to plate pro- duction and printing, automation can streamline each step of the process. Historically, flexography was considered an art, but in recent years it has become more of a scientific process. As in every form of printing, margins are shrinking and the pres- sure to reduce costs while improving quality continues to rise. Professionals must change the way they approach the process and an obvious area to do that is workflow. Imple- menting an automation solution can be a bit daunting, but with the right tools and the right strategy, the payoff can be tremendous. WorKFLoW iMPLeMentAtion The good news is that there are a number of solutions on the market, each offering different levels of automation and varied combinations of features. But there is no off-the-shelf solution that fits every environment—each automated work- flow must be tailored to the needs of the user and to the types of output that will be delivered. In order to be successful, workflow automation needs to bring about a simplification, system integration and the ability to predict results by applying data that has been gathered through past processes. Previously, automation occurred primarily as a result of things like hot folders, but new, more robust workflow solu- tions are using a rules-based approach to help the system learn and respond automatically to variables in the process. The result is a workflow that adapts to the job and is capable of intelligently changing from job to job as requirements and elements change. Operator intervention is greatly reduced and more jobs are pushed through with fewer touch points. Kodak’s Prinergy Workflow 6, which helps automate job production for package, commercial and digital printers, is an example of this type of intelligent workflow solution. By utilizing systems that can manage workflows and adapt to events on the fly, jobs are able to flow seamlessly with minimal human intervention. Workflow systems are instrumental in removing layout cre- ation time, reducing cycle time, eliminating human errors and maximizing efficiency. And two-way communication provides SPEED MEETS EFFICIENCY: AUTOMATED WORKFLOW • Streamline aspects of print process • Predict future outcomes based on data gathered in previous jobs • Reduce dependency on operator input • Accelerate each aspect of a print job • Continually improve efficiencies as orders are repeated customer service reps with job status information and keeps operators alert to device status at all times. With this informa- tion, operators can keep jobs flowing and anticipate or avoid any maintenance problems. Today ’s workflow solutions bring automation upstream to the customer ’s order, whether it’s received via a prepress portal, management information system, online storefront or manual entry from a sales rep. It uses the full description of the finished job, including the breakdown of its component parts, to automate its planning, processing and production. It also understands the manufacturing capabilities of the shop—its resources, equipment and materials—and uses those capabilities to plan and route various parts of the job to specific equipment. Based on the known capabilities of the equipment in that specific production environment—sheet size, substrates, color characteristics and so on—the job is created and layouts are generated and color-adjusted automatically. deLivering vALue The more a system learns about a client’s preferences and recurring jobs, the more it is able to make adjustments on the fly and handle small variations from instance to instance. That intelligence is what adds value to automation and enables us- ers to move more jobs through production with higher quality results and better repeatability. Ultimately, service providers benefit from the increased efficiency and are able to minimize expenses while maximizing equipment and expertise. There is no doubt that the flexo market today is highly com- petitive, with trade shops and printers looking for any advan- tage that can reduce costs and boost productivity. Workflow automation certainly provides an opportunity to accomplish these goals, but not all systems are the same. There are many good options from which to choose, so it’s important a printer does its homework and understand the capabilities of the various options. The more a printer automates and the smarter it makes that automation, the better its chances for making clients happy and keeping a business profitable. Workflow manage- ment is not a new concept, but the levels of automation that are available have taken it to the next level. Get educated, talk to suppliers and be sure to choose a solution that is open and scalable so it will grow as the business grows. n About the Author: As a key member of the Kodak Worldwide Product Development team, Michael Bialko is a product specialist for the industry leading Unified Workflow Solutions print software portfolio. Michael’s particular expertise in the packaging industry covers a broad range of flexographic and offset customer support and competitive workflows. Michael is a key workflow representative at global industry tradeshows and customer training events to share his wealth of knowledge in the prepress and packaging fields. He brings more than 25 years of experience and expertise from the prepress, print and packaging industries. 90 FLeXo OCTOBER 2013 www.flexography.org www.flexography.org OCTOBER 2013 FLeXo 91 Web-to-Print Storefronts A Kodak InSite Creative Wor kflow Kodak InSite Prepress Portal MIS WORKFLOW SYSTEMS Kodak Prine rgy Powerpack Workflow Packaging Layout Automation Software New Job Finished Job Proofing Offset or Flexo Printing Digital Printing extending automation bi-directional communication /automation Kodak ColorFlow Software Kodak Preps Imposition Software Kodak Pandora Step-and-Repeat Software Kodak Spotless Software Packaging Workflow Solutions Kodak Prinergy Powerpack Workflow offers an op en infrastructure to support offset, flexographic and digital packaging production—or any combination. Featuring best-in -class , customizable automation, and exceptional color capabilities, Kodak’s Packaging Workflow Solutions can help you increase efficiencies and reduce costs at every phase of production — from package de sign through to the final printed package. 4th Annual Plate/ Platemaking/Sleeve Selection Guide