UK reprographic and plate-making specialist VCG-Connect is enjoying greater operational visibility and smoother workflow following its implementation of Esko’s Device Manager for Flexo plate making.
VCG-Connect, Bury, is one of Europe’s leading providers of digital reprographics and photopolymer printing plates. With a well-respected history in the flexographic industry, it provides services to many of Europe’s largest printers and brand owners.
A long standing Esko customer, VGC-Connect was a beta site for Device Manager. Operations Director David Piercy explains, “We have been working with Esko for more than 20 years. We often share ideas, and Device Manager is the result of a discussion about creating good visibility and interaction between pre-press and our devices.”
Device Manager bridges the gap between the prepress department and the plate room. By pushing operational control upstream to the prepress department, the plateroom operations are better integrated with the prepress workflow. Device Manager allows the imaging devices to be utilized at maximum capacity and the possibility to balance workloads. It tracks jobs, monitors machine status, merges plate production, reports on utilization and planning and gives machine visibility on workload.
“We have three Esko CDIs and a Kongsberg cutting table, and we can see what is happening on them at any time,” Piercy adds. “Device Manager provides a real-time dashboard for production and creates an XML report that is fed back into our MIS. This helps our production planning process by enabling us to see what the production status is and to monitor our equipment utilization. If there are potential bottlenecks or the need to handle a rush job, we can see what the best options are immediately. We can easily get a very clear overview that streamlines our operation significantly.”
Device Manager allows VCG-Connect to have a clear indication of production workload to reduce cycle times and manage short production runs intelligently. Moving from a plate-based view to a job-based view reduces lost time when searching for jobs and separations, increasing efficiency. At the same time, improved visibility prevents long idle time in production and the ability to reassigning jobs among platesetters allows more plates per hour to be produced.
As a result, VCG-Connect can prepare quotes with reliable data, plan production from intuitive dashboards, reduce device idle time and maintain continuous production.
Piercy states, “By using the reports, we can understand how the CDIs are being used and if we have the correct shift patterns to fully utilize our CDIs. This helps us create a smoother workflow.”
“The user interface makes it simpler to submit a job,” he adds. “Production meetings are also smoother since Device Manager shows what time the plates will be imaged. We can then quickly understand if the job will be ready for the dispatching time. This saves both time and money. We will also work on integrating the XML into our online ordering tool to give our customers an even greater service.
VGC-Connect also uses Esko Automation Engine to automatically execute prepress functions in the background and, through integration with Device Manager, forward jobs directly to the platemaker. The company has further streamlined production with the addition of the Automated Flexo Platemaking Module to Automation Engine. This also automates repetitive tasks based on order data to reduce the amount of time spent on jobs, enabling greater flexibility, streamlining production and reducing the potential for error.
Piercy notes, “The way Esko has rolled this product out has been impressive. We have been involved right from the Alpha and Beta releases, and we continue to speak to them on a regular basis today. What they developed is better than the original idea. Esko has surpassed our expectations! We now have complete visibility into scheduling, planning and capacity.”
“Device Manager is the result of collaboration with customers from day one in order to ensure we have the right priorities for the right reasons,” states Robert Bruce, Esko Flexo Product Manager. “Having this open approach to product development allows us to create solutions that better address the production needs of customers today, staying ahead of market needs.
“For example, the instant visibility that Device Manager gives customers provides them with access to an up-to-the minute clear view of production. They can see if any action is required or how to better maximize their production. Fast turnaround jobs can easily be accommodated, allowing a more flexible approach to a demanding workload. Together, this functionality creates a much more efficient production environment, and our customers can be confident that they are as productive – and thus as profitable – as possible.”