Zurich receives us with rain. The navigation system keeps getting muddled up because of the construction site chaos in town. However, a determined u-turn puts us back on the right track. We arrive very late. “No problem“, chimes well-tempered Victor Götsch, Managing Director at BG-PACK. These are words we will hear several times today. And there is something else that we learn right at the beginning of our talk: Even if the casual elegance of the company’s premises exudes a cosy and comfortable atmosphere and the team works together in an informal way, one thing is certain: there is great concentration at work. Because quality is the name of the game.
Flexographic printing matures
High standards of quality were also the force behind Bruno Götsch when he laid the foundations for BG-PACK with another employee 15 years ago. Victor Götsch’s father is today considered to be the grand seigneur of flexographic printing, his goal being to combine the benefits of the process with the perfection, which was only possible with offset and gravure printing processes at that time.
The then relatively young technology was principally used for packaging printing as this high pressure process could be used to print practically all materials. However, the name flexographic printing does not come from the variability of printing materials, it comes from the fact that the printing plates consist of flexible materials such as rubber, elastomer or photopolymer – reasonably-priced alternatives to plates and cylinders made of metal alloys for the offset or gravure print.
These printing plates are produced using data prepared by BG-PACK and at the same time, the printer receives important information, for example, which colours should be used in which colour mixtures. “The repro service plays a decisive role in the quality of the packaging – something, which considerably influences the buying decision of a consumer“, acknowledges Bruno Götsch. “It is in the prepress stage that a decision can be made as to whether a packaging design can be realised to a high standard.“ The fact that one has to be a professional nowadays to see whether the data prepared by BG-PACK has been realised using flexographic printing, is something Bruno Götsch is proud of: ”We have been working hard on this over the last few years.“
Software as a quality driver
For Victor Götsch, who has since taken over the company, the question of quality is inextricably linked to the expertise of his team. But not exclusively: “We have automated numerous processes using suitable software tools in such a way that we can eliminate certain sources of error“, says Victor Götsch. “Using this software, we are posed with the task today of increasing the quality bar five to ten percent higher – something, which is needed in flexographic printing”.
This is less about replacing the expert knowledge and manual abilities of his workforce – on the contrary. In the area of packaging print there are operations, for example, retouching, which cannot be automated. “We have to optimise the trapping around this, so that we are able to concentrate on the work at hand, which puts the finishing touch to the completed product“, Götsch adds thereby getting to the heart of his requirements of DALIM SOFTWARE and the online approval platform ES.
The first step to Perfection: Communication
When BG-PACK puts the digital proof online, all the parties involved can work on the same design simultaneously. All the comments made are documented; it is clear who has approved what and who still has to have the final say. This saves a huge amount of time compared to sending a physical proof by post or coordinating the process via email with PDF-files. And there is a further benefit: BG-PACK can be assured that all the decision-makers have cast their vote based on the same colour-true design and no-one has been overlooked. “That is the problem with sending PDF-files – everyone has a different print out and everyone has perhaps made changes which the next person is not aware of. ES ensures that what can be seen on the screen, will be printed exactly like that“, Götsch explains.
The online-proofing does not replace the contract-proof on paper, film or aluminium, which serves as a sample for the printer. However, the commitment and the acceleration of the coordination process, in particular, against the backdrop of increasing time and cost pressures, are of vital importance. As the lifecycle of consumer products has been reduced considerably over the last few years, the production of packaging has to speed up. Conventionally made proofs can result in high costs margins.
The second step to Perfection: Customer loyalty
BG-PACK’s customers are printers who outsource all their prepress work to the repro specialists in Zurich. Innovations in this area, which contribute to further improvements in quality, have to come from him and his colleagues – of this Götsch is sure, simply because the printer does not have the capacity for this. The introduction of innovative systems and the extension of customer services, which is, for example, illustrated by the investment in the online approval system, is seen by the dynamic Swiss professional as an important means to ensure customer loyalty.
Particularly helpful to the area of customer support, is the fact that BG-PACK knows its customers very well. This is not only restricted to the close contact to the staff, who, at the end of the day, produces the printed matter; the characteristics and specialities of the machines are important crash barriers for an operator’s work at BG-PACK. Because if the same project were to be realised at another printer’s, the data would have to be prepared in a different way, and the colour mixture for the same product would have to be a different one. Stipulating in-house standards for each of these printers in their own profile has already been achieved in the artwork process. The next phase has to deal with showing the packaging on screen and how it would look if were produced by another printer. “But this will happen, as such it’s no problem“, Götsch says winking at DALIM SOFTWARE.
The online platform with its ability to link agencies, manufacturers, brands, dealers and printers opens up new possibilities for BG-PACK to stay on track with quality assurance. As they are thus nearer to the agency producing the design, the repro team can point out possible difficulties in the early stages of a project, which could produce bleeding during the print stage. This increases the quality of data in the end. “We consider ES to be a toolbox from which we can construct various tools, which add value to us and our customers“,Götsch summarises.
The third step to Perfection: Convergence
It is important that the software tool works so well that the job takes less time, that a process does not have to be created from scratch, only optimised. “This may sound trivial but when we are talking about an extra few minutes compared to before, or if the tool cannot be understood immediately by the staff, then we’ll have no chance in introducing it.“ This lack of understanding begins with the staff and ends with the various participants in the coordination process. ”For this reason I had certain requirements of DALIM SOFTWARE“, he adds. ”I have to be able to take a job and put it into the online system with a click of a button – this has to be done automatically and without any complications. This we have managed to achieve.“
The “we“ here can be taken at face value. Götsch, originally a computer specialist, is not simply a user. Since DALIM SOFTWARE’s CCO Christopher Graf made ES attractive to the packaging industry, they renewed their old acquaintance and began an intensive working relationship. The two business man use every opportunity think about additional features. Even during the lunch break when the whole BG-PACK team gets together casually, they engage in small talk for a few minutes and then delve into their own world of ideas to further develop the system.
Götsch highly values DALIM SOFTWARE’s deep understanding of his field as well as their willingness to develop and act on new ideas for the extension and modification of the software tool. “If you play in the top league technically as we do, then not only does each member of the team need to understand all the processes of a workflow, the software manufacturer does as well“, Götsch assures us. Short paths are needed and the developer has to know the business well because one solution is not suitable for everyone.
Götsch is an important provider of input for Christopher Graf. And not only because his experience as a software developer makes him perfectly aware of what is needed of the manufacturer. His requirements make ES more prominent on the packaging market. “There are numerous proprietary systems for the administration of data“, says Graf. “Before deciding on an online system, the most important question to ask is what is the most efficient way of connecting our administration and production environment to it?“
For BG-PACK the interaction of ES with various available systems by EskoArtwork and GMG was a task that had to be solved urgently. One of the preconditions for this was the connection of ES into JDF format. This guarantees that all the information about a printing job is compiled in one place and passed onto the areas where it is needed. That a project is created immediately and automatically by using the same template was ensured by Götsch (“no problem”) on a train journey, which gave time to write a suitable program.
It is handled at BG-PACK thus: all the orders are recorded in a FilemakerPro database. By the click of a button, the environment for production is created. With the next click, ArtPro-Files are saved in a workflow system which automatically provides a PDF-file and files it in the correct place. From here onwards, the construction of a project runs automatically in ES: This entails the allocation to the customer, the assignment to those responsible for the approval phase in the suitable constellations. Who is to receive an email as to when to take control of the data is determined by a member of the BG-PACK team. “It is of great advantage that we can retain coordination of this and not, for example, have to inform all five participants in the approval process at the same time“, Götsch comments.
Control is better
At the end of the day, we are taken to the offices where numerous designs are being brought to precision on many computers at the same time. The logos on the printed packaging samples piled up on the desks read like a ”Who is Who?“ of renowned brand names. Even the largest snack food manufacturer in Switzerland, Zweifel, is present here. BG-PACK is at present undertaking a project on the introduction of ES.
Many customers from the area of print are already connected, internally all jobs run via the online platform. This primarily serves validation and controlling purposes. In this way, in ES single sheets are visually compared to the original PDF-files sent by the graphic designer and given the rubber stamp by the editor. “This ensures that we have a ’three eyes’ principle“, Götsch laughs. He is convinced that using ES has contributed to mastering the peaks that occurred in the first two annual quarters without any sacrifices in quality.
Upon departure, Götsch gives us a few ideas to mull over on our way home. A checklist would be great as it would make the incoming data inspections via ES more comfortable. An instructions sheet for his customer which also illustrates the coordination process would not do any harm either. Thanks to his instructions, we find ourselves on a direct course out of Zurich: If you continue driving in the direction of Chur and then get onto the motorway at the right time – no problem.