Atlanta, GA-based retail design company, Miller Zell, Inc.’s customers are seeking increasingly shorter runs, lower inventory quantities, and the ability to provide more regionalized offerings. With two six-color in-line screen presses, one six-color carousel, three single-color offset presses, as well as several wide-format offset presses, Miller Zell decided it was time to invest in increased production throughput to meet its clients’ short-run, quick turnaround projects. In other words, it was time to go digital.
“Our original target was to convert up to 25% of our regionalized and variable screen runs to digital output, but we have exceeded that; now, 35% of our total revenue comes from digital production,” says Ford Bowers, General Manager of Miller Zell’s print division.
Adding digital was not as simple as placing a new press on the floor. Miller Zell also needed to address a number of workflow challenges.
Miller Zell chose the EFI (Booth 2000) VUTEk GS3200 flatbed and roll-to-roll UV superwide digital printer. “Due to our product mix and the surprising demand for digital capabilities, including a great deal of digital white, as well as production on both roll-to-roll and rigid substrates in excess of 10', our need for a second digital machine was inevitable, and we have been running two GS3200 presses since September 2010 with an average production schedule of 120-plus hours per week,” says Bowers.
“EFI offered us a solution to our current print management information systems as well,” Bowers continues. “EFI’s Pace print MIS handles all of the workflow for our screen, offset, and digital technology, and ties into our legacy system through its API—achieving a seamless system that allows bi-directional data transfer. This system affords us tremendous efficiencies in all three disciplines.”
EFI’s Pace MIS was a big cultural change for the company. “It changed the nature of how we do business. Now we can see what we are good at or not so good at and have a much better picture of where we are, continuing to refine our processes for increased efficiency. We are more much competitive due to our ability to access and act upon real-time business and production data from the Pace system,” says Bowers. “Part of our decision to purchase EFI’s VUTEk GS3200 and the Pace print MIS solution was based on our partnership with our supplier, Nazdar. Nazdar thoroughly understood our challenges relative to quality and workflow. It has been a very smooth implementation and its suite of services addresses our core capabilities.”
Miller Zell has been able to convert a substantial portion of its screen work to digital. “At the time we developed our ROI modeling, we were concerned we might be overlooking details that would undermine our projected profitability due to our inexperience in digital production,” says Bowers. “However, in practice, digital conversion of analog print has exceeded our expectations. At our current rate of conversion, it won’t be long before we describe Miller Zell not only as a screen printer with digital capabilities, but also as a digital printer with screen capabilities. While screen will never completely disappear, there is no doubt that the most profound change in our industry over the past generation has been the move to digital print. We are excited to be in the midst of that transformation.”
Miller Zell also created a bi-directional data integration between EFI Pace and JD Edwards, their back-end financial and accounting software. Costs, purchase orders, labor, inventory receipts, and material pulls all flow seamlessly to keep the systems in synch.
Bowers admits that there is one area that is likely to remain an ongoing challenge faced by digital printers: the reproduction of PMS colors within the constraints of a CMYK build. He says, “With EFI’s VUTEk GS3200 and its Fiery XF RIP, we have a solid foundation to address the challenges of PMS color matching. It is unusual for us to not be able to come close enough to satisfy even very demanding clients with this configuration.”