Autumn Graphics has extended AG Virtual Proof, their Esko WebCenter-based service, with the WebCenter Lifecycle Management Module to offer full tracking, monitoring and review/approval services throughout the packaging supply chain.
Founded in 1982 and based in London, Ontario, Autumn Graphics is an independent, privately owned company providing prepress, plate production and graphics management services to consumer product companies, converters, printers, and ad agencies. Autumn Graphics has been an innovator for many years. It was one of the first in Canada to install a drum scanner, an early adopter of computer to film for both litho and flexo, and the first Canadian installation of Artwork Systems' (then known as PCC) PackFlow software. Autumn Graphics was also a beta testing partner and early adopter of flattop plate technology. "Our team focus pretty much all of our work in packaging--mostly for consumer products and pharmaceuticals, and the converter suppliers to those industries," says Ben Abray, President, Autumn Graphics.
Four years ago, Autumn Graphics transitioned to Esko WebCenter’s basic approval and workflow tools. They started with a few customers, adding more customers while building more elaborate workflows and a supporting asset management system. Called the AG Virtual Proof system, it provides convenient, secure, and cost-effective, internet-based communication for graphics revision and approval cycles. Inside a user-friendly workspace, independent projects can be created, populated, monitored and discussed by team members. Using a standard Internet browser, team members can view projects, make annotations, request revisions, compare versions, and approve or reject items or entire projects.
“We wanted to take more advantage of WebCenter, and thought that the WebCenter Lifecycle Management Module could enhance our working relationships with our customers,” remembers Abray. The WebCenter Lifecycle Management Module lets users streamline and control the complexities of the packaging development lifecycle. Users can design dynamic request forms and process flows to manage the project lifecycle from the briefing stage through to product delivery.
“We wanted to offer not only file and job submission and prepress, but also provide more visibility to job scheduling, extending the breadth of job management. We saw ourselves drilling deeper up and down into the supply chain for each project,” recalls Abray. “We could also see ourselves offering customers visibility and access to assets after the job was done. Building those features into the workflow meant that ultimately we’d have less work to do on a project basis, customers would have instant retrieval of information and files, and they wouldn’t be beholden to the availability of an Autumn Graphics CSR.”
“The WebCenter Lifecycle Management Module is pretty easy to use, once the correct job data and file inflow, workflow, and user roles are defined. We’ve been using it successfully for several months, and there’s still much more we can do with it,” comments Abray. “As we look at a job’s lifecycle, we now build and track our own work to when the customer receives our plates and they mounted on cylinder.”
Every market and every customer is different based upon the level of commitment and interest to track and enter data. Because Autumn Graphics can link responsibilities until other tasks are completed, it allows a broken workflow to stay on track. “When we are measuring the workflow, we can chart our own performance against predetermined timelines,” says Abray. “It was very difficult to measure timelines before, unless we were creating a spreadsheet. Automated approvals are received with more clarity with each person’s next steps, so jobs keep on track.
A substantial portion of Autumn Graphics’ work is directed by brand owners. They follow premedia and roles are assigned to other suppliers. Brand owners can look at the system and refer to a list of projects, getting a good snapshot of where they are, along with access to their files. For printer customers, WebCenter provides all the information they want along with the ability to communicate job specs and attach documents automatically, so they become metadata in the database.
“We have just opened a new operation, Autumn Graphics US Inc. Located in northwest Arkansas. WebCenter has been configured to monitor production in the organizations in both Canada and the US,” Abray concludes. “Because WebCenter and its WebCenter Lifecycle Management Module offers visibility and accountability to everyone involved in the workflow, everyone has ownership of roles in a project workflow.”