The platemaking operation of Tennessee-based Interstate Packaging has increased throughput and gained significant cost savings using Esko’s Digital Flexo Suite with a Kongsberg XL24 digital finishing table. The system, with full connectivity to a CDI Spark 4835 imager, in operation at the company for nearly five years, has reduced plate waste, eliminated human error, and brought automated plate traceability to the company’s flexo plate operation.
Established in 1969, Interstate Packaging is a family-owned flexible packaging and label converter that produces packaging, labels, bags, and pouches for consumer good companies. Operating in a 115,000-sq-ft facility on 20 acres in rural White Bluff, TN, the company uses the most advanced production techniques for full-service digital prepress and platemaking and up to 10-color high-quality printing.
Plate waste reduced
Digital Flexo Suite automatically and simultaneously sends optimized plate files to the CDI Spark for imaging and cutting layout data the Kongsberg XL table for precision cutting. The CDI imaging file and the Kongsberg cutting file carry identical names and registration marks that are automatically marked on the flexo plate, for later identification, registration, and cutting.
This automated, cost-effective solution reduces plate cutting waste to an absolute minimum. For Interstate Graphics, that capability is essential. In full production at Interstate Graphics since January 2012, the initial push for Digital Flexo Suite’s implementation, says Jeff Cassell, Graphics Manager, was to reduce overhead. The increased throughput, he acknowledges, was a bonus. “Our highest costs, in order, are substrates, ink, and plate material,” explains Cassell. “We felt that with plate material, there were opportunities to reduce costs.”
Along with some other modifications to the platemaking process, such as barcoding plates, the use of Digital Flexo Suite with the Kongsberg table led to Interstate Graphics saving 30% on the amount of plate material used. The single precision cut around the plates allows them to be moved closer together, “saving us up to 7% in materials,” says Cassell. However, he continues, “the greater percentage of the savings is the result of the plate numbers etched onto the plate.”
The right plate, every time
Prior to the Digital Flexo Suite implementation, numbers were etched onto the plate by hand. The digital code has between five and six numbers, and human error can become a factor when writing it. Not wanting to chance that kind of error, and perhaps lose a customer’s confidence, makes Digital Flexo Suite even more of an asset to Interstate Packaging.
With multicolor jobs, one plate with incorrect labeling can be disastrous. “Now, driven by the Esko workflow and etched by the Kongsberg table, we can assure we are using the right plate for each run,” says Cassell. “We eliminate potential errors.” That’s key when you have families of items (like vitamins) that look similar. There can be 100-200 SKUs with similar look, but they are slightly different.
Another critical element in play, notes Cassell, is the traceability and accountability for each plate. “Each plate has a unique number; that number is logged into a database,” explains Cassell. “The etched number of the plate is placed on the back of the plate. We can go into the database and enter the plate number and find where the plate is in process. Interstate Packaging has over 8,000 active SKUs, averaging 8 colors per SKU. We are talking lots of plates. We now know where each plate should be at all times. Let’s say a plate is left out of an envelope. We can go to the database and see if the plate is active or belongs, conversely, in the recycle bin.”