Digital job tickets as the basis for print automation
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Press release from the issuing company
It may be commonplace to claim that it is unimportant where you work, but it is not unimportant to us. We have our roots in a region which, for many, is a holiday paradise. Innsbruck, Austria offers everything we need at the quality we need it. Our central location, where major European traffic corridors and different cultures intersect, offers a fantastic combination of urban life with a calming closeness to nature.
Browsing the Internet presence of Austrian printer Alpina Druck is as refreshing as touring their physical location. There are no empty promises demanding that you "Test our guarantee" and no ramblings about ultramodern machinery, on-time delivery, or high print quality. "After all, the customer should be able to expect these things," explains Alpina's assistant director Mario Moser. "You need more substantial ideas. If you want to offer your customers added value, you must first have all of your own processes under control."
Export ratio of 40%
"It's true that postcards remain as much a key product as they have always been, but we are also extremely active in the general commercial print market," Moser says. Elaborate calendars, illustrated books, posters and high-quality advertising materials are other focuses of day to day production. Postcards may appear to be relatively straightforward printed products at first sight, but a sheet-based production process, as Moser points out, demands a critical mass of orders and well-planned logistics. At Alpina Druck, the critical mass is achieved with the multitude of individual orders handled each day, while the supporting logistics also benefit all other types of orders and keeps production running smoothly. That is clearly appreciated by the customers -- 2009 was yet another successful year for the company, despite the economic decline.
Mario Moser, who has been the assistant director at Alpina Druck since the end of 2007, took on the responsibility of process and quality management, a task which included the optimization of all internal and external procedures and the implementation of a quality assurance system.
In connection with PSO implementation, the prepress department was also optimized and restructured. Among other measures, data creation and receipt were standardized with the introduction of PDF/X-ready and the Kodak CtP system was improved accordingly. At the same time, prepress activities were integrated more directly into the production sequence; prepress data is now used for process control on the presses. The workflow management system Prinergy is shortly to be upgraded to version 5.1. By establishing the prerequisites for fully integrated networking, this seems certain to lend an extra boost to the company's productivity.
Fully integrated database
One particular challenge was the broad product range offered by Alpina, with its endless scope of details. "The job tickets needed to cover all of the content which we had been handling to date," expressed Moser, "but in a more manageable form, as a prerequisite for greater automation and reliability in production." A number of special criteria had to be met by the new digital job tickets at Alpina Druck, among which were the requirement for special query functions alongside the usual job-specific data, as well as a complaints management section and an archive. The latter plays a major role for Alpina Druck, given its very unique job structure. Mario Moser cannot resist a smile when he adds: "We just about exhausted the available data fields in the HIFLEX system."
The decision in favor of the HIFLEX system was a result, firstly, of the flexibility to integrate other databases via an XML/SOAP interface, and secondly the ability to merge this access with a Web-based job ticket.
"It was important for us that the solution would not be a one-way street and that we would be able to implement a bi-directional exchange. The employees can enter feedback on the course of the production, and the information lands in the fully integrated database of the HIFLEX system, rather than just getting lost somewhere in the office." This feedback can take the form of comments on particular aspects of the individual job, for example whether the paper was difficult to print or handle under certain conditions, and all manner of similar information which is able to enhance process reliability for repeat orders. "Consequently, the digital job ticket has become a quality assurance and information management platform," Moser explains.
Enormous savings potential
Generally speaking, according to Moser, the savings potential in order processing is significantly greater than in the finishing department. Overall, the savings in terms of data input, physical setup and turnaround times amount to a good 15%. "The decisive point, however, is that the system keeps all the information permanently and reliably up-to-date, for use whenever and however we need," Moser continues. This is considered especially important, as there are almost always production-relevant changes between the issuing of a quotation and the actual realization of a job. "The fact that we can run status queries is a valuable aid for the production scheduling office."
Next step: Networking
The first phase began in this year with the networking of the Kodak prepress. One important task for the HIFLEX system will be the communication of the stripping parameters to the imposition software. In this way, certain elements of the imposition process can be shifted out to the production planning office and automated with the aid of the HIFLEX functionalities. Moser has no illusions: There are going to be quite a few organizational changes - not only in duty assignments, but also in connection with the associated competencies and responsibilities.
HIFLEX - A dynamic partner
"HIFLEX enabled the automatic creation and modification of job tickets and provides for fast and accurate order processing," Mario Moser concludes. There is no denying his appreciation for the software developers. "The implementation of our demands has shown that HIFLEX is a dynamic partner, and that is the kind of partner you need in these turbulent times. The time we have spent improving our workflow processes with HIFLEX has actually been very enjoyable."
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