Design Label Systems installs Esko Full HD Flexo and Automation Engine to take on control of platemaking workflow

Miamisburg, OH (USA), April 2016 Esko announces that Design Label Systems, a leading integrated label solutions provider based in Ontario, Canada, has installed an Esko CDI 2530 plate imager with Full HD Flexo, the first sold in Ontario. The company has also added workflow capabilities highlighted by Esko Automation Engine, which imports job information directly from Design Label's LabelTraxx MIS.

Founded 27 years ago, Design Label Systems provides label and packaging solutions to a wide range of industries from its 25,000-square-foot facility in Mississauga, Ontario – including food, household products, health & beauty, wine & spirits, pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and manufacturing. “We print and convert a variety of pressure sensitive labels, ranging from blanks to 10 colors using many types of print technologies,” says Imran Faruqui, Vice President.

A year ago, Design Label used an in-house analog plate system. Files were processed through Adobe® Illustrator®, and manually prepared for print. “We produced plates in-house with a film-based system for simple line art, but anything more complex—80% of our work—was farmed out,” explains Andrea Moore, Graphics Project Manager. In fact, as volumes grew, everything was sent out.

“Volumes were getting too high and we were at a critical point where it made sense to bring platemaking in-house,” notes Faruqui. Understanding that this also required a digital platemaking workflow to ensure a high level of quality and throughput, Faruqui and Moore researched the available options and best suppliers to satisfy their requirements. “We decided to invest in an Esko solution because they are an industry leader with a great reputation,” acknowledges Faruqui. “Esko also offers screening technology that works well and has been around for a long time. We knew their technology would deliver what we were looking for: a simplified platemaking and file processing workflow,” adds Moore.

The CDI 2530 with Full HD Flexo is part of Design Label’s new premedia workflow solution, engineered by Faruqui with Esko's support. They also invested in Esko DeskPack plug-ins for Adobe® Illustrator® to clean up artwork, and an Esko Automation Engine workflow server to automate and control imposition—as well as to import and integrate job information from their LabelTraxx MIS software.

Powered by Automation Engine, the CDI 2530 with Full HD Flexo allows Design Label to assume control over its prepress workflow, streamlining the platemaking process and slashing production times—while ensuring quality remains at the high level its customers expect. 

“The CDI installation was fairly seamless,” says Faruqui. “Any time we needed help, Esko was available on the phone—even in the evenings. Setting up the front end was a more involved. But Esko was there every step of the way. Their service people, tech guys, and trainers were incredible. We went live with Automation Engine during the first week of January 2016 and in full production by the end of January.”

The new workflow begins with DeskPack, where files are prepped and barcodes are added in Adobe® Illustrator®, a process previously handled manually. "Using DeskPack," says Moore, “saves a ton of time. Then, Automation Engine will automatically create a proof, generating an email notification to the customer. We wait for the customer approval, then send the approved imposition file with all the color marks and info to the CDI for plates."

Job data is entered through the Label Traxx MIS and then sent seamlessly to the Automation Engine production system, where the correct files are automatically pulled for plating. It uses the data to help imposition of labels and determine copy position—as well as adding descriptive information like part numbers—automatically onto the plates. Automation Engine reduces manual touch points.

Operator errors have been reduced and throughput is faster because information is imported directly from our LabelTraxx MIS. Adds Moore, “If we were off by a hairline, or did not have the correct name on the file, there could be problems. Small but dangerous mistakes do not exist anymore.”

A large part of Automation Engine’s appeal is the control it gives Design Label. “With Automation Engine you have basically all the tools you can possibly need—and can deal with any variables you may encounter,” Moore says. “With our company, everything is custom made. In order to support that, the workflow has to be fluid.”

Full HD Flexo also saves a lot of time, says Faruqui. “We can RIP and plate a job in 45 minutes, rather than waiting two days from outside suppliers.”

Design Label produces 150-200 lpi. work for its 10-unit flexo press, depending upon customer requirements. Full HD Flexo provides good image details and contrasts, including smooth vignettes  and highlights to zero. Full HD Flexo also delivers solid ink laydown along with the print stability of ‘flat top’ flexo plates. “I was initially nervous about printing the dot, but since the installation I have not looked back,” admits Faruqui. “Full HD Flexo was one of our best investments. Our plates are at least as good as what we were getting from subcontracting—and that's what they do for a living!”

The icing on the cake is that using the CDI with DuPont's thermal plates is an environmentally-friendly process, as it eliminates the use of solvents during the platemaking process, something that was important to Faruqui.

“Like any company, we have some customer issues every day, but the ability to streamline automation, increase turnaround time, improve quality, and produce thermal plates has helped,” says Faruqui. “We are often under the gun, but it is easier to manage everything every day. Before, we needed to think ahead to get a job done two days in advance, because that's how long we waited for plates."

For Design Label Systems, bringing platemaking in-house has been all positive. “Full HD Flexo and our Esko workflow are wonderful,” says Faruqui. “They fulfill all of the objectives that we had set and meets every single criterion that Esko said it would do, from the beginning to end. We are happy with our decision to invest in an Esko solution.”