It’s a Brave New World
“All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas/Layin’ in the sun,/Talkin’ ‘bout the things/They woulda coulda shoulda done….” The beloved Shel Silverstein poem is a cautionary tale for flexographic trade shops still on the fence about implementing a digital plate workflow. Said to eliminate many of the variables associated with its analog counterpart, digital flexographic platemaking has matured, and a growing number of trade shops and their customers are wondering why it took them so long to “come around.”
NPP Packaging Graphics Specialists is one such company. Although the $7 million, Indianapolis-based prepress house serving the corrugated, wide and narrow web, and tag and label markets has had digital proofing and digital front-end capability for a long time, it delayed bringing digital platemaking in house in favor of outsourcing to another firm. Recently, however, the company installed a Cyrel Digital Imager (CDI) Advance flexo platesetter, and the chickens, as they say, have come home to roost.
A flat forehead moment
“We wonder why we didn’t do it two or three years ago,” says Dave Norton, vice president. “We had been considering it for a period of time but, frankly, didn’t see the advantages that are apparent now that we have it in house.” The installation of the CDI imager brought some predictable efficiencies to NPP’s operation: leveraging technology to do more work with fewer people, and being able to meet customer demand for more accurate, high-quality work produced faster and less expensively.
However, “I’d say that the number one driver for us was competition,” Norton adds. “We had competitors that were offering digital solutions, and in order to hold our position with our customers, we needed to put it in. We just needed to be pushed over that edge.”
Now that its transition to a complete digital workflow system is underway, NPP reports that about 50 percent of its customers have jumped the analog ship and come on board. “The most difficult part of the transition is dealing with the existing film,” Norton says. “Some of that will stay—we have customers that supply us with films from which we manufacture the printing plates—but I’d say that within the next six months we’d be at 75 percent.”