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  • 09 Mar 2012

Narrow investments balance wider portfolio

Wide format specialist, Flower City, invests in flexography and digital, expanding its business platform for efficiency and service needs writes Danielle Jerschefske

Flower City Printing in Rochester, New York got its start in 1970 as a commercial printer in the offset world servicing the consumer-facing manufacturing firms in the upstate New York area. As the business grew and evolved to meet the various needs of the company’s broad customer base, a decision was eventually made to invest in a wide format 55in KBA Planeta to print cut and stack labels. This investment effectively guided a successful path forward in the larger display and POP markets.
 
Today Flower City continues to print a wide variety of work in the food and beverage markets, for national retail chains and consumer product companies, holding strong to its niche capacity to produce displays, labels, folding cartons, kit-packing & fulfillment, POP materials and garment tags.
 
President Bill Oliveri explains: ‘In this way our customers deal with one point rather than multiple allowing them the flexibility to easily obtain efficient and speedy production no matter what volume, type and size of product they require.’
 
In reaction to the market evolution demanding shorter runs of printed materials more frequently, the converter has strategically adopted the use of new and narrower technology to maintain a profitable business model. It has also invested in a complex internally developed software system that streamlines the scheduling and production of these various materials.
 

'The Caslon supports effective production of lower quantities while keeping cost down, and we don’t have to compromise with the quality'

Narrow web expansion
Flower City first invested in flexography a couple years ago with the addition of an eight-color 13in Nilpeter FB press. Since then the converter has experienced significant growth within its flexographic business in two key ways.
 
Firstly by pulling offset work from the wider sheet fed presses for efficiency in production. ‘A lot of our existing work fits flexo better,’ explains Oliveri. ‘We are also expanding and capturing new business with more work suited to flexo from our current customer base.’
 

The converter’s management including Kirk Ellsworth, general manager of the Lee Road facility housing the flexographic and kit-packing and fulfillment departments, understood the need to expand the company’s flexo capability and to seriously review digital printing options because of the lower volume label work being more frequently requested.
 
Ellsworth says: ‘Our offset production numbers showed more waste in shorter runs and multiple make-ready situations than we knew would be the case for a flexo press. And enough work was small enough to necessitate the ultra-short-run capability that only digital printing can handle.’
 
Flower City selected the Nilpeter Caslon hybrid solution with in-line FA-4 flexographic printing because of the inherent flexibility in the machine’s design and integration of two strong printing processes. With four flexo stations, and two die stations surrounding the Caslon system based on Xaar 1001 DoD UV inkjet heads acting as a CMYK module, printing is produced with quality compatible to offset.
 
The 16in Caslon hybrid was installed in May 2011, followed quickly with the installation of a stand-alone 12-color all UV 16in FA-4 in July 2011. The addition of these narrow web investments complements Flower City’s core portfolio. Rising all the wiser out of the economic recession, the converter is poised for continued growth and set to endure any market changes as it continues to modernize.
 
Ellsworth says: ‘The Caslon supports effective production of lower quantities while keeping cost down, and we don’t have to compromise with the quality.’
 
While many materials may require corona treating before printing, Flower City’s management likes that multiple stocks can be used on any of its flexographic presses, helping hold consistency in print while maintaining ultimate flexibility in scheduling.
 
Several people within Flower City have been trained to run the Caslon. The main operator is a successful homegrown employee who has a digital background. The company gave him flexo experience with training on its existing Nilpeter FB press prior to the hybrid installation. Now operators have the ability to tag team work using their skills and experience operating a multitude of printing processes.
 
‘This technology has surpassed our expectations as far as quality and capabilities,’ says Oliveri.
 
The converter produces a lot of sheeted labels within its flexo division, as well as tags and narrow web work on card stock, and is producing some PS and supported film materials. There are sheeters on all of the flexo machines. All digital plates are manufactured in-house for both the offset and flexo sides of the business.
 
Many of the labels produced at Flower City are still produced using its wide format offset machinery because of the nature of the work. These same machines are used to produce the larger POP, retail display signage and carton packaging work.
 
It has a full range of offset equipment to give the business the most flexibility in producing any sort of job required most efficiently with nine presses from 40in to 73in; two to eight colors and in-line UV capabilities.

Details
Flower City operates with over 300 employees at three locations within Rochester. One plant is dedicated to converting rolls to sheets for offset production; another houses the offset presses, main offices and complex finishing department; the third plant is where flexographic and digital labels and tags are produced, and where kit-packing and fulfillment takes place along with warehousing.
 
The converter’s e-scheduling system is outstanding. It orchestrates the complex production process of the various streams of business within this unique printing operation. A handful of associates collaborated to write the code for this visually friendly system. In the scheduling department located in the main offset building, there are 14 monitors that give detailed snapshots of orders to the minute, which can be pulled up on any internal computer.
 
The various run speeds of the presses, average make-ready times, average time required to complete repeat orders and more production details like shift hours, three shifts Monday through Saturday, have been programmed behind the code.
 
The system organizes and can recall real data from order placement through fulfillment. All machines with their respective responsibilities and processes are linked together.
 
This system is critical to the company’s success, particularly when it comes to kit-packing, which refers to the printing, finishing and organizing of in-store displays and shelf promotions. Customer work is often delivered to multiple locations so production and fulfillment have to be in constant communication to ensure on-time delivery without any pieces of the kit missing upon delivery.
 
One kit-packing customer can have as many as 150 items such as signs, banners, danglers, shelf talkers, and labels that must be packed into one kit and delivered to hundreds or even thousands of retail outlets. To ensure customer satisfaction and repeat orders, Flower City navigates within this custom management software to schedule accordingly.
 
Flower City’s finishing department is filled with state of the art equipment to turn its printed pieces into products for customers to use, and has an extensive die database so that operators and assistants are able to find the required tooling quickly.
 
There’s a machine for adhering materials together, two new folder gluers recently added to two older systems for a total of four, straight guillotine cutters, saddle stitchers and embossing equipment. If a customer is looking for a particular look or feel for their print communication, Flower City can make it happen.
 
The company has full-time structural designers on-board who use CAD systems to create virtual folding cartons and POP signs. It will also produce prototypes for customers to experience an idea more fully.
 
Flower City has made the shrewd decision to incorporate narrow web roll-fed flexo and digital technology within its business to enhance its offerings and continue to service clients as effectively as always. This new flexibility will no doubt help the company quickly experience the benefits of this type of business model.