Cober and Ultimate TechnoGraphics have together substantially increased production productivity over thousands of short run jobs. Cober is a 103-year-old, 4th generation, family owned business. Since 1916, Cober has grown to become one of the most highly regarded and versatile suppliers of print communications and web-based marketing.
Back in 2014, Cober’s business was so good than it was becoming a victim of its own success. ‘’Cober’s digital print business was growing rapidly.’’, says Erwin Driever, VP Technology at Cober.’’As a result, we faced a number of challenges with these new opportunities, particularly where the volume of short-run orders placed and produced was increasing dramatically. Using the more traditional finishing methods of a commercial printer to produce these orders became a major bottleneck in our finishing area, negatively affecting our production processes, delivery times and customer satisfaction.’’
The increase of the volume for short-runs order destabilized Cober’s entire operations, at a point where Cober had no other choice than automating as many of the post-press functionality as possible, such as cutting, to achieve even greater efficiencies.
FIRST PHASE OF AUTOMATION: ULTIMATE IMPOSTRIP®
Cober’s plan was to automate its workflow including functionality for ganging or batching orders by like attributes such as size, substrate and quantity and creating imposed layouts that would ultimately be printed as a collated stack and then finished by cutting on a traditional guillotine. This solution required an imposition application that would provide autonomous functionality.
At that time, Cober was closely working with Ultimate TechnoGraphics on a trial/test of Ultimate Impostrip® to automate the imposition and submission of batched order layouts to press. ‘’We did initial testing of the application integrated with our automation workflow and then did “live” order testing during a peak production period, of a limited number of SKUs.’’, confirms Erwin Driever. ‘’Ultimate Impostrip® worked spectacularly creating large imposition files of orders for cut and stack production. It provided us with a stable, efficient, predictable and autonomous tool for automating imposition layouts and files submitted for digital print production. Shortly after the trials we invested in Ultimate Impostrip® and use it for 80% of our automated impositions.’’
SECOND PHASE OF AUTOMATION: HORIZON’S SMARTSTACKER
Following the peak production period, Cober order volume continued to increase, however due to the great diversity of attributes for incoming orders, the timely batching, production and finishing of these orders was still adversely affected. Finishing became a larger bottleneck as Cober’s team struggled to cut many lifts/stacks of small order batches. They needed to find a solution that could handle the automated cutting of many small orders, and began to take a deeper look into Horizon’s SmartStacker product.
‘’We had been introduced to the SmartStacker and after some review testing, we were confident it could provide a game changing finishing solution for us. Our confidence was bolstered by our great experience with some other Horizon products. We were especially pleased to learn that Ultimate Impostrip® was an integral part of the solution.’’, add Erwin Driever. As they had been using Ultimate Impostrip®, it was a relatively easy transition to modify their existing imposition plans to create the required layouts and JDFs for the Indigo Presses and ultimately for SmartStacker.
Today, Cober remembers how Ultimate TechnoGraphics has been a great help in stressful times:‘’ Our overall user experience with Ultimate Impostrip® and Ultimate TechnoGraphics has been nothing but positive. Using Ultimate Impostrip® for imposition automation has been so successful for us that we continue to add new products and SKUs to our automation streams and inject more traditional orders using Hot Folder flows, eliminating the use of other “Prepress” imposition tools and manual interaction with orders. It has allowed us to grow our business, finishing hundreds of orders daily, that otherwise would not be possible. The Ultimate team has been great to work with and their support has been outstanding, for us.’’
From its three facilities Cober provides in-house design and marketing, lithographic production, large and small format digital production, grand format production, in-house bindery, mailing, warehousing and fulfillment and distribution. With the support of Ultimate, Horizon, Standard and HP Indigo [Direct-to-Finish powered by Ultimate Bindery®], Cober produce an average 1000-1200 orders a day, automated from receipt of order through to shipping.