Beyond eliminating monotonous tasks by utilizing production automation, a good workflow will also import MIS data to streamline production. With limited staff, Cyber Graphics' facility in Milwaukee has increased productivity and reduced errors with the help of Esko Automation Engine.
Established in 1994 in Memphis, TN, Cyber Graphics is a privately owned pre-media and media provider, currently employing over 110 people at four North American sites. They are experts at preparing packaging graphics to look their absolute best when they come off the press. Cyber Graphics believes in continuously developing its people, technologies and work systems to provide excellence and flexibility in responding to customers' challenges.
The Cyber Graphics facility in Milwaukee, WI offers flexo prepress and technical support. They recently moved from their facility in the suburb of Franklin into a newly remodeled office space in the heart of downtown Milwaukee.
Building a common workflow with Automation Engine
In the past, Cyber Graphics Milwaukee had worked with Esko tools to manually complete its projects. For example, they would manually create legends on proofs. Unfortunately, this resulted in a double entry of information. Customer service would enter customer and job information on the job ticket, and prepress operators would retype the information—including copy and color swatches—in Adobe Illustrator. They also had the same problem with step swatches. Every customer—a printer or converter—had its own preferred template for print marks and swatches. Prepress operators had to import them and manually adjust spot colors. It was time consuming, tedious and caused errors. "We are all human," notes Steven Parato, Operations Manager—Milwaukee, Cyber Graphics. "With one keystroke, the customer could be looking at a legend that was incorrect."
Cyber Graphics wanted to automate but did not want to be handed a specific workflow for the solution. They wanted the tools and flexibility to modify and form their own customized workflows. They also wanted to streamline their processes, eliminating many of the different workflows that were going in different directions—a common workflow with the same logic from beginning to end. However, they couldn’t overlook the unique requirements of each customer. They decided to invest in Esko Automation Engine and supporting Esko tools.
"At the time we started working with Automation Engine,” remembers Parato, “one of our largest customers represented a good portion our work. They would often submit artwork at 4pm, and required us to turn around the prepress work and plates the next day. We had to figure a way to get it done. We created a complete automated workflow just for them. That started us into automation."
Since they automated production, Cyber Graphics has condensed its processes into a few workflows and has been more productive. "We have removed many redundant tasks," comments Parato. "The user interface in Automation Engine also has been easy for me to use. Building a workflow is not complicated. We don't have to do any programming or manually enter tasks. Everything 'behind the scenes' is easy to use.
"We wanted the process to launch the workflow and pick a 1-up," says Parato. "Automation Engine automatically creates a file folder when a job is launched and builds the folder structure as the project progresses. Our artists still set traps and pullbacks with Esko DeskPack. Once the 1-up artwork is complete, Automation Engine sets up the step & repeat layouts and rasterizes all the PDFs for the platesetters. These tasks let our operators focus on more important work. We have not needed to bring on more resources. Instead, our small staff focuses on doing more with what we have. It saves time and eliminates monotony."
With Automation Engine, Esko offered a way of automating many of the tools. "Automation Engine allows us to pull business data from any field in our MIS," says Parato. "And, to help with customer printer marks, we use SmartMarks. It lets us take press characteristics and time data. We can automatically place other data or color bars into specific spots on the sheet. Operators used to take a good ten minutes to set a legend, colors and run sequence, for about five or six jobs a day. Now, they just hit a button and, because customer service reps have already entered all the job data, Automation Engine picks up all the information and the legend. The operator saves an hour a day, which represents the time to complete another full job."
Cyber Graphics has had fewer errors as a result of automation. And, they are always monitoring their errors to determine what they can do to build additional automated functionality. They are always trying to tweak or create new logic into their workflows. Lead times are also much better than where they were five years ago, when Cyber Graphics embarked on updating its workflow. "We enter a job one day, the next day it's in production, and then it's out. From order entry to delivery we're talking about two or three days instead of four days," comments Parato.
"We've had many good surprises. For example, we have used Automation Engine from our MIS data to run scripts that automatically send our plate files to the plate imaging facility. Automation Engine locates and pulls the PDF file and job ticket and uploads the plate files—and moves everything to the plate facility's FTP site.
Using Automation Engine for load balancing
"We are on the verge of moving from our current MIS and adopting the system that our Cleveland, OH facility uses. In doing so we want to become more synergistic. We have two facilities in two states, but those facilities have the same end goals. The next phase is to build common workflows to seamlessly share work between facilities," says Parato. "With Automation Engine, we think we're well on our way."
"There are a lot of big things going on," explains Ronald Javorsky, Prepress/Workflow Project Manager at Cyber Graphics in Cleveland. "We both have legacy workflows and different backgrounds. We intend to pair up with a common MIS and production automation workflow."
"We're migrating our separate workflows into common workflows from both facilities. We expect that we can use JDF from the MIS systems to import metadata into Automation Engine," adds Javorsky. "We intend that the hardcore MIS data will be able to drive conditional information to build dynamic workflows from a simple workflow. This will make the process simpler and easier to fix. Milwaukee will go live soon with a new MIS. In the meantime, we need to do more of the small, prep work, and automate some of the detail work, such as legends on print sheets.
"We probably have triple the workflow capacity and workload of Milwaukee, which enables us to help with some load balancing. However, we expect that the delivery of work will not be a one-way street, and Milwaukee will help us as well. As we become more automated and extract information from a common MIS, we will be able to increase capacity and reduce human error. Our longer-term objective is to automate our job queues and get our workflows and platesetters maxed out. We want tight scheduling and a system to allow Milwaukee to see job statuses. We're getting really close. This is the fun stuff, and the technology is always changing," concludes Javorsky.