Latran: Discount Labels Uses Prediction Digital Halftone Proofs
Press release from the issuing company
NEW ALBANY, IN, February 10, 2004 — Discount Labels in New Albany, Indiana is known as America's largest manufacturer of custom pressure-sensitive labels. The company has come a long way since its start in 1965 by W. Fred Conway, a fire chief who began the business by printing emergency information phone labels in the basement of his home. Today, Discount Labels, now a division of Mail-Well, prints approximately 3,000 orders a day for close to 50,000 wholesale dealers ranging from brokers to quick-print shops to mom-and-pop operations.
In its 200,000 square-foot facility housing a huge array of sophisticated, custom proprietary flexo presses, the company prints everything from a simple one-color labels to high-end 11-color labels, multiple foils, embossed, and front- and back-sided process color. Their color labels adorn many well-known consumer products including major name brands of shampoos, soaps, bottled water, juice drinks and wines, as well as a host of private brands. Their labels are also found in the stores of America's most prestigious upscale retailing organizations, and many of the best-known mass retailers.
Turnaround With Quality
The company has built an enviable reputation in the industry for producing quality labels with a remarkably fast turnaround. Most simple short-run labels leave the plant in 24 hours, while full-color process labels are turned around in 72 hours from proof sign-off.
Paul Harstrom, Composition Manager of Discount Labels, points out, "Because of our fast turnaround, we must have extremely reliable color proofs. When we output to a device, we, as well as our customers, have to be confident that a proof is a 95% match of what they are going to receive when the order comes off the press. It saves time for everybody in the process, and fast delivery of quality products is what our customers come to Discount Labels for."
Dissatisfied with the shortcomings of his other proofing systems in producing reliable proofs for flexo printing, Harstrom made the decision to install Latran Technologies' Prediction digital halftone proofing system in mid-2003. "For us in the flexo market, we found that other high-end proofing systems were just not providing proofs that were consistent enough to meet our expectations."
Harstrom looked at high-end proofing systems for three years before finalizing a decision on exactly the kind of system that Discount Labels wanted for its growing operations. "We were looking for technology that would enhance what we needed in our operation. We were looking for price points that that would fit into our channel. And we were looking for proofing media that was easy to work with."
Harstrom says that the Prediction system fit Discount Labels' criteria perfectly and was smoothly integrated into its workflow. "It's extremely accurate and is consistent from day to day. We calibrated the Prediction system last June when it was installed, and it has not deviated from that calibration setting. We haven't wasted a minute of time on calibration."
In making Prediction his choice, Harstrom didn't just select Prediction for its consistency. He says they looked for accuracy of color. They also wanted a system that was flexible and offered many different options and features that would support their expanding needs.
"It needed to be a proofer that was going to grow with us over the next 10 years. And the Prediction does that. It has the necessary things in place for us to grow this piece of equipment as our needs change,” Harstrom says. “I have the Prediction automated system now, but as we expand our lines into areas such as shrink wrap, for example, I might use a manual Prediction model. Then I will still be working with the same supplier, the same people, and the same technology."
The partnership with Latran is important to Harstrom. "Latran has had by far the most superior service that we've experienced with any vendor I've worked with in my 12 years here," he says. "I have vendors that we've spent 10 times more on than we spend with Latran, and I don't get even half the service level that Latran provides. They respect you and treat like you're their only customer."
"When you go through their service training, you also come to understand what an outstanding piece of technology the Prediction is," Harstrom says. "It's so well built. There's nothing that can't be worked on, replaced or modified. It's a beautiful piece of equipment that was designed for a printer to buy once and have it grow with them."
The Prediction system has had an important impact in the Discount Labels pressroom. "Our operators believe 100% in Prediction digital halftone proofs," Harstrom says. "The proofs provide them with quality assurance, consistency and accuracy points. They can look at the proofs and say, that's what I should hit."
Discount Labels' R&D team has calibrated the company's Prediction system to match optimum press conditions agreed upon by the Press Department. The super sharp proofs are certainly something that the flexo industry is not used to, but Harstrom says the team has calibrated the system to provide all the dot gain and other printing characteristics that the Press Department has established as a consistent standard for their operation. Since each press uses the same inks, plates and paper, they were able to determine an average for the press floor and have developed just a single calibration curve that all presses match up to. He reports that the system has worked perfectly for their operations right from the outset.
"We've reduced setup time for our operators with Prediction proofs, and that equates to savings on waste and gains in press efficiencies," Harstrom says. "They don't have to guess what the colors should look like on press, so runs can be completed faster, giving us the ability to handle more orders on the presses."
Flexo Contract Proofs
Contract proofing for labels, Harstrom observes, is very new to the flexo market. "With our previous proofing systems, proofing was our number one customer complaint. The fast turnaround time and our customers' inexperience in working with analog contract proofs was problematic. With Prediction, we're now giving our customers a digital halftone contract proof that's accurate and consistent. That's what you need when you have customers out there every day, looking to you to help them satisfy their customers' requirements."
"Here at Discount Labels we have worked to advance flexo technologies, and have developed proprietary software and equipment that helps our small dealer customers compete more effectively with the quality of offset or gravure labels," he explains. "Our flexo printing capabilities produce products that are far superior to the average flexo type of label. Most people in the industry view flexo as minimum 3% printed dots. At Discount Labels, we have the ability to fade down to zero. Perhaps not quite as nicely as gravure, but we can do it, and we do it every day."
With that high level of flexo quality, Harstrom says that a small dealer with a customer who needs only 1,000 labels can order them and get quality reproduction normally associated with the longer runs, higher costs and more lengthy production times of gravure or offset processes. Instead of having a run minimum of 100,000 labels – the norm in the gravure world – Discount Labels can offer its customers runs as small as 500 labels with comparable quality and incomparable speed.
"Our philosophy is that we don't want to tie the hands of the creative minds in our business by locking them into long minimum runs for quality labels. We want to make it easy for customers to modify their labels as often as necessary to enable their products to capture shelf attention and produce better sales. They can cost-effectively buy several different versions of high-quality product labels with short runs that can be designed to appeal to consumers in specific regions of the country. Or they can order small runs of custom labels for special events highlighting sports teams on water bottles, or local restaurants on wine bottles, or personal events like weddings."
Harstrom says that his customers loved the Prediction proof when they first saw it. Proofs went from Discount Label's number one customer complaint to their top customer compliment. "It saves customers the time and money they might have to spend on getting a press proof to be sure of the final result. Now even a mom-and-pop dealer can walk into a high-end customer's office and impress them with the quality and accuracy of a Prediction digital halftone proof. It really helps us make the little guy look like the big guy in the label business."
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