By Tony Curcio
For the past 15 years, HCL Labels of Santa Cruz, CA has specialized in developing chemical-resistant labels to inform and protect workers handling hazardous substances. Its vast selection spans over 800 ready-made, safety-compliant labels. In 2022, with sales approaching all-time highs, Ben Nell, VP, HCL, began researching solutions to boost workflow efficiency and reduce his weeks-long production lead times.
Like most printing companies, HCL typically dealt with increases in demand by adding staff or buying new equipment. But that resulted in a problem common to most print businesses. “Each time we increased our production capacity, our clients would respond by filling it—and our lead times would increase again. It was a bad cycle and required a production ‘revolution’,” shares Nell.
Enter Significans Automation, a workflow integration specialist that delivers next-generation, highly customized automation for the printing and packaging industries. “I don’t think it can be overstated how incredible our results have been. We can now produce much more with the same amount of equipment and staff. And it’s almost as if we have no lead times anymore,” attests Nell. Significans Automation was able to achieve unprecedented results for HCL by automating key components of its existing workflow.
Automation solutions from Significans Automation saved four to five hours of production time per day by automating cut lines and tabs. Another one to two hours per day was saved by automating the layout. Plus, lead times were reduced dramatically—from up to three weeks to one to two days—without adding any staff. HCL also estimates that it still has spare capacity and could, in fact, double its existing volumes without sacrificing turnaround times. Not surprisingly, the company also saw a huge reduction in human errors, leading to less material waste and happier customers.
Leveraging its years of experience and partnerships with the industry’s best workflow software providers, the Significans Automation team began by automating specific components of HCL’s existing workflow—including the print queue, proofing, and imposition. Plus, years ago, HCL developed a folded kiss-cut “peel-here” tab to make it easier for customers to apply labels while wearing rubber gloves. So Significans Automation custom-coded Switch software to automatically add the cut lines and tabs without the need for manual intervention by a staff member using Adobe. It also optimized the process within Tilia Labs’ imposition software to automate the layout and maximize the press sheets for these tabbed labels. The result was an almost immediate end to the month-long backlog of jobs in the finishing department—due to improved speeds, as well as a dramatic reduction in reprints due to human error.
ROI in Just One month
Nell adds that partnering with Significans Automation was one of the most important strategic moves in HCL’s history. “Now our team doesn’t have to worry about the tedious, manual work that used to be required, because it’s all done automatically—and the time savings are mind blowing. I’d say our production capacity has tripled based on improvements that Significans Automation made. Within a month, I could see that this investment was paying for itself. I’m just disappointed that we hadn’t done it sooner.”
The next step for HCL will be to deploy automation to drive a business-to-business ecommerce infrastructure for web to print. The company has already begun building the foundation by streamlining its massive library of product files, so that Significans Automation can begin connecting all the necessary ‘pieces’ and delivering more never-before-realized in-house efficiencies for HCL.
Call for a Personal Assessment
Significans Automation specializes in delivering next-generation automation to the printing and packaging industries. This includes programming and expertise in custom workflow development, communication and project management, color management, prepress training, and end-to-end business integration.
For a review of your specific workflow automation needs, contact Significans Automation by calling 877-463-4465 or visit significans.com.
Jul2023, DPS Magazine