Leading digital finishing equipment manufacturer, A B Graphic International (ABG), has worked with award-winning self-adhesive labels specialist, Mercian Labels, to take a revolutionary leap forward in print and finishing automation and integration. The achievement, which aims to substantially unlock production efficiencies, comes on the back of 5 years of complex workflow evolution that includes the involvement of software solutions specialist, CERM.
With a combination of flexo, screen, and both inkjet and toner digital label printing technologies, Mercian Labels’ vision is to be a world-class manufacturer of self-adhesive labels. They operate in the food and beverage, chemicals, vape, medical, security, and long-run variable barcode labels, and ship many millions of labels every week to more than 7,000 customers worldwide. In recognising that in an increasingly competitive marketplace, the ability to deliver print and finishing faster was becoming critical to business success, ABG and Mercian Labels discussed the possibility of creating a 100% automated, or ‘lights out’ manufacturing process. The expected benefits would include increased workflow efficiencies, less energy consumption, reduced waste and improved production costs.
To achieve increased workflow automation, ABG and Mercian Labels had to find a way of connecting all stages of the print and finishing process as one. This part of the project was complex and time-consuming and required CERM to help create the required interface between all components. In essence, the process involves taking a job definition format (JDF) out of an enterprise resources planning (ERP) system, as is the case with Mercian Labels, and converting that into a job messaging format (JMF) that can actually drive all the individual components as a one-stop process. Instructions for each job are provided by QR codes, which are acted on by the software.
“With this project we have achieved the goal of automatically setting up multiple components of a converting machine purely based on the JDF, being flexo units, die-cutting, back-slitting, knife-slitting, PDF inspection and turretting of complicated multi-SKU digital jobs. This is a revolution in automated digital finishing,” said Mercian Label’s MD, Dr Adrian Steele.
“I've been delighted with the commitment that ABG has shown to this project. They see and share the vision that automation is the future, and their commitment to write the software integrations and machine configurations to get this project to work has been absolutely second to none,” he added.
Matt Burton, ABG’s global sales director, said: “This was a complex project, which represented a long-term ambition for ourselves and Mercian. I firmly believe that what we have created collectively is streets ahead for workflow and automation, and makes our machines with the integrated software a more attractive option for converters requiring increased production efficiencies.”