"It is," says managing director Simon Smith, "58% faster than other Xeikon presses (CS Labels is the largest reel-fed Xeikon house in Europe with five machines)." Therein lay the issue however.
"While we were putting the press in, we also had to consider what we were doing in terms of streamlining studio processes to get the work through more efficiently. We were using a preflighting system but it wasn’t giving us the savings we were hoping for", he told Digital Printer
The company had met MyPressXpert sales director Kevin Caughtry at an EasyFairs event in February, and then spoke to Niall Coady from the colour calibration firm shortly afterwards at a Xeikon Café. In talking, it was recognized that there could be ways to simplify and improve the workflow at CS Labels and reduce errors in prepress.
Initially, Mr Coady worked on developing a customised, simplified report for the CS Labels sales team that showed the ink consumption required for a file received, allowing them to quote accurately on the job. It would also preflight the file and report on any fixes that needed to be made, allowing this to be done by the customer before it took up studio time.
Following this, MyPressXpert has undertaken further bespoke project work for CS Labels, creating a brand new job management system for the Xeikon workflow from scratch, which interrogates an Excel (.xlsx) file from the client and automatically creates and databases all the label barcodes based on sites and quantities. It has also put in a colour management software system – ColorLogic’s ZePrA colour management server and ReProfiler Digital colour engine – which is helping to improve CS Labels’ management of process control and calibration of the Xeikon engines, providing detailed reporting on the stability of the presses so that maintenance schedules can be optimised. This has been effective to such a degree that in September the label producer stopped using the colour control system that comes with the Xeikon presses.
"All digital presses face the challenge of colour consistency from print run to print run, and we also need to ensure that our presses are optimised to achieve Pantone colours", said Mr Smith. "Invariably we are given a label to match by printing CMYK. We need to get as close as possible to achieving the Pantones consistently and measure how close in Delta E we are. This system has helped us to do that. We are of the opinion that it actually takes it to a different level."
The impact of these implementations of automated preflighting and colour management within the company is that CS Labels is able to cope with higher volumes of work while utilising the same level of human resources. "We are also shortening lead times to get work on press and we are getting far fewer mistakes where files have to go back to the studio", Mr Smith continued. "It has streamlined the whole process for us and allows the studio to move away from more mundane tasks such as putting the bleed on a hundred files – those things are automated now. The system also automates the artwork and sends a proof back to the customer."
"The ideal is that we get a PDF from our customer and it goes straight on press without a human touching it. That’s what we are looking for, and we are making fairly substantial progress."
All progress in this direction is welcome, because in December a second Cheetah press will arrive, and further efficiencies will need to be found.
"This has been a steep learning curve but a very worthwhile process", Mr Smith concluded. "The biggest benefit is that we have been able to make this system bespoke to our unique requirements, rather than buying one off the shelf."