Fastlabels

Fastlabels replaced their existing workflow system with a more modernized and flexible one to provide their customers with even better and faster service.

Doncaster based Fastlabels specializes in label and sticker printing for commercial applications. This includes custom stickers for branding and merchandise, through to printed labels any size for products and packaging.

Already used to high volumes of jobs, Fastlabels had an operational workflow system in place when Four Pees started working with them. But with rapidly accelerating growth, they needed an upgrade to a new workflow system that benefitted from the latest advancements in workflow technology.

Full switch of custom workflow systems

In searching for a new workflow system, Fastlabels required improvements in speed, accuracy and quality control in their quest to give their customers the best quality labels with seamless service.

“Labels can have a surprisingly large impact on the profitability of product manufacturing” says Adele Holland, Operations Manager at Fastlabels. “It’s not just about cost efficiency, but also how the quality of the label can increase the perceived quality of the product to persuade more customers to buy it. Another factor is service, where rock-solid reliability is essential to avoid disruptions that can hit production logistics. By implementing a workflow upgrade that fine-tuned every area, it was another way we could better serve our customers to help them grow.”

"We felt it was a very worthwhile investment to modernize our workflow and become a more effective label printing partner for our customers" - Adele Holland, Operations Manager at Fastlabels

Seeking a suitable workflow alternative was also made more challenging due to their old system using some custom code for die line quality control. And of course, the replacement system would have to be smarter.

“Having experience with other customers who needed to replace their workflow system, it didn’t take us much time to diagnose what exactly was needed and create a proposal,” says Andy Banks, Sales UK & Ireland at Four Pees. “The fact that Fastlabels already had standardization in place across it’s existing system helped enormously, and is usually a prerequisite to good automation.”

The solution that was finally selected consisted of Enfocus Switch for the overall automation workflows and callas pdfToolbox for the quality control of the incoming PDF files, but also for various corrections that needed to be done on certain labels. Over the last couple of years, callas has implemented various sign & display and label-oriented features, and in this project, many of those were put to good use. The built-in imposition engine that was used for creating sheets of labels for print was additional value brought by pdfToolbox.

"The automated creation of the digital cutter files, for example, was a real win in terms of speed improvements so we could deliver even faster turnaround times" - Adele Holland, Operations Manager at Fastlabels

Smart die line quality control and imposition

Two big hurdles had to be taken to complete this project. The first was the replacement of the die line quality control. As Fastlabels uses Digilase digital cutting machines, the die lines had to be completely accurate. Luckily the preflight engine in pdfToolbox is very flexible and could be used to replace the custom quality control code that had been written for the old workflow system. This part of the project checks things like whether a die line is present, whether it’s the right type of object in the right colour space, and so on – all of which are key requirements in Fastlabels’ strict quality control procedures.

The second hurdle had again to do with the digital cutting machines. In order for imposed sheets of labels to be processed correctly by the cutting machines, a lot of preparation such as resizing, rotation etc needs to be done on this. On top of that, the cutting machines support only one input format, a specific flavor of SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics). Luckily pdfToolbox just gained a feature that allowed specific elements of a PDF file to be output as DXF, CF2 and SVG. This provided Fastlabels with the quite unique capability of feeding these cutting devices completely automatically.

Flexible, fully automated solution for the future

“Replacing an existing workflow system is never easy” comments Adele Holland, Operations Manager at Fastlabels. “However, we felt it was a very worthwhile investment to modernize our workflow and become a more effective label printing partner for our customers. The automated creation of the digital cutter files, for example, was a real win in terms of speed improvements so we could deliver even faster turnaround times. We’re now looking with Four Pees at additional steps in our process that could be automated. Fortunately, the base platform with Switch and pdfToolbox offers us a lot of flexibility extra capabilities that we can build on.”

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