img_customer_02Customer Success Story: Dynamic Transformation at Four Lakes Label

Transformation. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when you ask Ryan Nelson to explain how Fujifilm’s Flenex FW water-washable plates and the Flenex C-Touch 2530 Water-Wash Flexo Plate Processor has helped change the dynamic of his print shop.

Nelson, Imaging Manager at Four Lakes Label, says Fujifilm’s Flenex process has helped transform his business. Flenex has given Four Lakes the ability to enhance print capability, extend color gamut and eliminate prep-manipulation.

Flenex FW provides the highest flexo print quality at the fastest production times, while significantly lowering cost-in-use compared to thermal, solvent or other water-wash technology. “With Flenex, we are making plates in about 32 minutes, compared to over 45 minutes with our previous thermal technology,” Nelson says. “That’s 25 percent faster. And we now have consistency, reliability and assurance that we are going to get the exact same plate today, tomorrow and three months from now.”

This unmatched image quality has helped give Four Lakes Label a competitive advantage in producing food and medical labels across a range of 85 stocks, including reflective, metallic, semi-gloss, matte and film. The Sun Prairie, Wis.-based division of Western States Envelope & Label provides labels, tags and other printing products.

Sun Prairie is the central hub for the five other sites under Western States Envelope & Label, providing support in customer service, imaging, production and shipping. When operators voiced quality concerns over their previous supplier, management took action.

The previous technology only enabled Four Lakes Label to hold a tonal range between a seven percent dot, up to 90 percent. Anything outside of that range basically broke apart, Nelson says. It also experienced “scum-dots,” which gave the appearance of lint or dirt in the print, when running on-press.

“Extending our color range with Flenex helped us with highlights, and now we can hit finer dots, and have higher gradation, which was previously unattainable,” Nelson says. “The flat top-dot with Flenex allows high gradation, unlike a round top-dot with a thermal plate, which tends to provide poor gradation.”

Today, Four Lakes is experiencing enhanced print capability, with its Flenex plates consistently holding a .08 percent dot, up to a 95 percent dot linear, Nelson says. “This results in extended color gamut and additional detail in highlight and quarter-tone values, which all but eliminates prep-manipulation for minimum dot. With 175 lpi, one percent dot, and superb dot structure, Flenex delivers consistent ultra-high quality prints.”

The capability to hold down finer dots and better ink transfer is helping decrease ink costs for the Four Lakes team because it lays down less ink. “With the rubber-based Flenex plates, ink transfers better, and we are getting an increased print image, while using less ink. With Fujifilm inks, we are always hitting the target marks,” Nelson says.

One of the best qualities of the Flenex plates is its ability to eliminate the classic “back and forth” between press and pre-press. Shorter set-up times, less make ready, less material waste, and overall faster processing times all add up to a posi­tive impact on the bottom-line.

“With the Flenex solution, we can back expose, main expose, wash out, dry, post expose and de-tack all with one processing unit,” Nelson says. “We no longer have to go back and forth between an exposure unit and processor. Flenex is an easy and efficient all in one process. By using all UV inks for four color printing on press, we can hold better densities, have clearer, crisper printing and consistency between shifts. We also save time on press by not hav­ing to struggle with density and it allows for faster make-readies. Our projected annual cost-savings compared to our previous process is 50 percent.”

With such efficiencies, Four Lakes Label can conceivably cut-down their lead-time, allowing it to be even more competitive in the marketplace. And there’s more benefits, too. The water-wash process makes Flenex environmentally friendlier and safer. “With the Flenex water-wash processor, we are only using a mild detergent, the residual solution can go down the drain like com­mon wastewater; it’s a much greener solution,” Nelson says.

“The success at Four Lakes Label is a great example of Fujifilm’s customer-focused philosophy,” says Rob Swearingin, National Sales Manager, Packaging, FUJIFILM North America Corpora­tion, Graphic Systems Division. “We strive to understand our customer’s business goals, both short and long term, focus on their needs, and then provide the most innovative Fujifilm solu­tions that will add value to their business.”

In the end, it’s a partnership that continues to pay dividends. “Fujifilm has helped us by delivering market-leading technol­ogy, as well as sales and technical support to identify, address and implement key quality and cost saving programs,” Nelson says. “Flenex has vastly improved quality, allowing us better repeatability, and reduced cost in-use. Our faster turnarounds are absolutely attributed to Flenex.”