Kirk Group, one of the largest providers of graphic arts services and image carriers in Australia and New Zealand, has acquired Kodak Flexcel NX Central Software, a new automated plate layout technology from Miraclon, which has ‘transformed’ the company’s plate utilization efficiency.
Kirk Group was founded in 1972, initially to provide artwork services and gravure cylinder engraving. The company moved into flexo in the 1980s and 1990s and today has four manufacturing sites in Australia and New Zealand in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Auckland, and, since 2020, a presence in Mumbai, India.
Flexcel NX Central Software is Kirk’s third recent investment in Miraclon technology, following the November installation of a Kodak Flexcel NX Ultra Solution and investing in the Flexcel NX Print Suite for flexible packaging to access PureFlexo Printing Technology before that.
All investments align with the company’s systems and technology-driven innovation policy, which add enhanced capabilities to Kirk’s offering, such as more efficient plate utilization, sustainable plate processing, and press efficiency.
‘We aim to always be first to market,’ said John Kapiniaris, general manager at Kirk Group. ‘Rolling out a new technology involves working closely with a trusted network of suppliers and customers to really field test a solution. The company’s adoption of Flexcel NX Technology in 2010 is a good example of this combination of technological curiosity and close collaboration.’
Flexcel NX Central Software is the latest investment added by Kirk Group. Developed by Miraclon specifically to support customers in their drive for efficiency, waste reduction and labor savings, the software is tailored to the Flexcel NX System. It automates all plate production, including the automatic application of multiple advanced plate surface patterning features.
‘Flexcel NX Central Software has increased plate utilization by upwards of 5 percent, delivering more saleable plates and resulting in greater sustainable operations,’ added Kapiniaris. The biggest benefit of the platform is the ability to maintain a dynamic plate layout right up until the last minute, which is a real game-changer in the just-in-time packaging business. Flexcel NX Central Software essentially allows us to hold a live “bucket” of jobs until we’re ready to process the plates. Effectively, it gives us an extra six hours in which we can accept last-minute jobs, that are automatically added to the plate layouts, maximizing the plate utilization, and that’s a big boost to capacity and efficiency.’
Before the installation, Kirk Group operated a centralized system with one department preparing plate layouts before sending them out to each site. Now sites have their own ‘bucket’ into which it delivers files, which are automatically laid out and output when required.
‘It’s a local, more dynamic approach that lets us turn plates around faster,’ added Kapiniaris. ‘In an unexpected bonus, Flexcel NX Central Software is opening a new market for Kirk Group among narrow web label printers. Turnaround times in the sector are near-instant, and competition is fierce. Keeping plate layouts fluid, and utilization more predictable, it allows our business to become highly competitive in this market.’