Looking to further increase efficiency, improve turnaround time, and boost quality, Mark/Trèce Inc, a leading prepress packaging supplier with locations in the United States and the Caribbean, has installed EskoArtwork's Automation Engine and an additional CDI 5080. Headquartered just outside of Baltimore, Mark/Trèce provides customers with complete flexographic and corrugated platemaking and prepress services, digital printing, and steel rule dies.
Mark/Trèce installed its first CDI 5080 in 2005, embracing the move from analog platemaking to digital, which helped streamline the prepress process with filmless plate production, while allowing the company to output higher-quality flexographic plates. Originally, because of the raw materials thickness, "corrugated wasn't on the radar," explained Lee Grantham, vice-president and general manager, Mark/Trèce, but by 2007 material issues were resolved and the company was using the CDI 5080 for imaging digital plates for both flexographic and corrugated.
Fast-forward to 2011: The original CDI is still going strong, and features EskoArtwork's HD Flexo, installed in January 2010 and allowing Mark/Trèce to offer customers advanced screening options for sharper and more accurate imaging. Automation Engine and the additional CDI 5080, installed in October 2010, are continuing the momentum in enhancing prepress operations.
When Mark/Trèce looked to ramp up its workflow, EskoArtwork technology was first on the list. "Initially–when we bought the first CDI–we did a little research, but we have mainly been an Esko user–we have a long history with that side of the business," said Grantham. "If you're happy with something, there is no need to change. Esko continues to improve its offerings–the company stays on top of industry technology."
"Linked together, the CDIs and Automation Engine offer one complete prepress package, from concept to final printing plate," said Grantham. "They help us maintain a lean manufacturing process–streamlining the workflow, increasing productivity, and eliminating obstacles to getting the job out the door."
The additional CDI ensures that Mark/Trèce can always meet its customers' quick turnaround times. "The two CDIs are set up to mirror one another," said Cindy Ashton, plant manager, Mark/Trèce "I can run part of a job on one CDI, and if there is problem, easily switch it over."
Automation Engine is a workhorse of a production tool. It lets prepress easily handle large data files with high-end graphics. It automates preflighting and trapping, and changes and edits are made instantaneously.
With its installation, Ashton noted: "We were looking to move files through the workflow faster. As we deal with more national accounts, we wanted everyone working on the same platform. It's streamlining production, increasing workflow productivity overall by 15 percent. There's no more waiting around for things to happen and changes to be made."
Grantham added: "We don't have four or five days to get a job out anymore; now we have hours. We are always looking for any time you can cut from production to get the job out the door faster. Everything is on demand."
Currently, about one-third of Mark/Trèce's jobs are pushed through the server-based Automation Engine workflow, based on the size and type of work. The company still uses an EskoArtwork Nexus RIP for its less complex jobs, while lower-end corrugated jobs are sent straight to an imagesetter.
"That number will increase–we are targeting higher-end business which will require the use of Automation Engine," said Grantham.
"With Automation Engine, we are working with the native files," noted Ashton. "It is a vector-based RIP, which helps keep the file sizes smaller, plus there is a lot less data going back and forth. We're not RIPping the file and then bringing it back in to work on it. We work with the native files; we don't have to RIP it first. This impacts time and quality–when you are handling things less and not pulling files across the serve, there is less room for error."
EskoArtwork's DeskPack lets operators continue to work in Adobe Illustrator–a big plus for Mark/Trèce. DeskPack turns Illustrator into a packaging prepress application, allowing changes and edits to be made easily and efficiently. It finds errors early on in the workflow, reducing costs.
Currently around 80 percent of Mark/Trèce's prepress workflow is digital, with digital flexographic plate production up to 90 percent and corrugated up to 40 percent–and growing, as customers realize the benefits of a filmless process.
"Within three-to-five years we believe our workflow will be totally digital," said Grantham. "The film costs are through the roof, plus you get the higher value graphics. It's a natural fit. In fact, I would not rule out another CDI joining our roster in the very immediate future."