Asteria achieves complex label first with Esko

Asteria Group achieves world first automation of complex labels with integrated solution

Esko and CERM collaboration develops first integrated solution for automation of complex labels, simplifying processes and expanding product range offering.

With many years of experience, Belgium-based Accent – part of the Asteria Labels & Packaging Group – has developed into a state-of-the-art printing company specializing in self-adhesive labels. When the company was looking to improve workflow efficiency with its complex labels – everything from front and back printing, hybrid labels printed with multiple printing technologies to multi-layer labels such as duo and tri-labels – Esko and CERM were engaged to collaborate and develop new integrated functionality to simplify the process.

“We pride ourselves on having strong relationships with our customers and always listen to their needs, and we seek to meet the requirements of the market, even on niche products,” explained Ken Polspoel, Global Solutions Manager with Esko. “We work with them to help them develop and expand their own product portfolio. When Accent came to us with their challenge, we were only too happy to explore how our solutions could help overcome them, identifying possible solutions and beginning the pilot program. These discussions resulted in the development of a brand new innovation that enabled Accent to automate and streamline much of the production of complex labels,” he said. “The functionality enables the automation of high-end finishing of labels. Esko developed the integration capability which extends the range that can be automated.

Esko has partnered with CERM, the leading developer of MIS for labels and packaging converters, for more than 10 years. “The workflow enhancements were driven by the business logic from CERM, then fully automated in Automation Engine,” said Ken. “We were thrilled to be first to market with this new capability, and since our work with the Asteria Group it has already been deployed more than 10 times in businesses around the world, including Europe, Asia and the USA.”

Benefits of the new integration with Esko Automation Engine include the ability to automate workflows for complex jobs, everything from combination prints to front and back printing. Christophe Beke, Chief Technology Innovation Officer at the Asteria Group, who managed the project at Accent, said when the pilot project began the challenge was primarily to automate the various flavor and multi-label runs for one of their customers.

“Though this work only represented 5% of our total orders, the complexity of the print job meant that we had both an art specialist and prepress operator employed full time just to manage the project,” said Christophe. “Not having the ability to manage this with automated workflows meant that different files were needed for the various stages of the job. Now it’s fully automated, everything is streamlined removing any possibility for human error in loading the different files at the wrong time. The efficiency and productivity savings since introducing the new Automation Engine integration functionality have been huge.

“Being part of this as a test customer was the ideal way for us – together with CERM and Esko – to obtain a set-up that met all the practical needs inherent to our production methods. And this resulted in a practical solution,” he said. “If we do a peel-off label, where previously we would have had to spend around four hours in prepress, it can now be done in less than 30 minutes.”

Ken Polspoel explained that as businesses look to differentiate, and customer demands are becoming more challenging, innovations such as this can now help businesses deliver complex labels in fewer manual steps and significantly less time. “The need is largely dictated by market dynamics,” said Ken. “We’ve seen regulations and legislation forcing brands to include more information than ever before on labels, and so label converters are always looking to deliver new ways to achieve that without compromising on the brand’s artistic objectives.

“We’ve also seen a growth of so-called hybrid or combination printing, for example where combinations of digital and flexographic or silk screen printing are all used on the same product. Making such labels can be tricky but with Automation Engine and CERM MIS integration, we can combine the characteristics of each print method and, instead of splitting the print files, they can be done as one – and fully automated!”

“The success of the pilot scheme with the Asteria Group and subsequent rolling out of the integrated functionalities demonstrates the depth of our partnership with CERM, with whom we have worked for more than a decade and on more than 100 collaborations,” he said. “The integrated functionality really enables our customers to differentiate themselves amongst their competitors, and to deliver the greatest choice of products coupled with speed of service.”