“Significans Automation Creates Fully Automated E-commerce Platform for Boxes Inc.”
Boxes Inc., a full-service corrugated packaging company, had decided to create an e-commerce division to diversify and enhance its revenue base. Tim Korte, Chief Information Officer, explains the company knew that fulfilling online corrugated box orders would not be a viable business unless the process was automated. “We had the right software installed, but we didn’t have the level of customized programming expertise we needed, so we turned to Significans Automation,” says Korte. “Basically, we asked the Significans team to take us from customer order to the production floor with as little human interference as possible.” Xceed, the new e-commerce platform, features an automated workflow that spans from order intake to shipping, requires little operator intervention, enhances production efficiencies, and reduces time for job preparation from 8 hours to 5 minutes.
Significans creates automated workflow for profitable online platform
For Boxes Inc., Significans delivered results that offer a clear path to a profitable business. “Without automation this would not be worth doing. If you go the manual route, the costs associated with it wouldn’t even put you in the same market as everyone else that’s doing it.”
– Tim Korte Chief Communication Officer, Boxes Inc.
Boxes Inc., based in St. Louis, Missouri, is a large, multi-line organization that produces printed and litho-laminated corrugated products, including industrial shipping and packagingproducts. It supplies large retailers directly or through third party distributors, and counts well-known brands such Walmart, Walgreens, Sams, and Cosco as clients.
In 2018, it decided to launch an e-commerce platform offering custom packaging, beverage container, POP displays and signage products. “We spoke to other e-commerce operators and we understood that in order to make this venture work we had to automate it as much as possible,” says Tim Korte, Chief Information Officer. “We wanted to go from order intake to the press without anyone touching the job. We didn’t want someone to manually lay out artwork on the board or verify that it was correct.”
Korte says they also needed an order-tracking system that told managers where each job was in the production process, created an expected shipping date, and showed a tracking number.
Boxes Inc. had the required software in Esko Web- Center and Automation Engine to create a platform. It turned to Significans Automation for the enhanced level of expertise and programming skills required to customize those products to their specific needs. Significans created an automated workflow for Xceed that handles more than 30 skus or product styles and encompasses all the stages from order submission to shipping.
At 4 am each day orders that have been logged during the previous 24 hours are collected and processed for gang runs on sheet sizes that
maximize the equipment on the floor. The gangs are then split, based on their production requirements and streamed to presses. “The files go to our digital press, for example, and the operators know what they need to print: the number of orders, the number of gang runs, quantities for each file, and substrates needed to complete each job. There is an interface for all the printing processes, including digital, flexo, litho lamination, and inkjet.
“We are taking an 8-hour process and creating it in 5 minutes. We will also reduce waste because we’re using the sheets more efficiently.”
– Tim Korte, Chief Communication Officer, Boxes Inc.
From printing, the files travel to finishing and cutting in similar fashion. Sheets are embedded with QR codes that transmit all the
information the CAD-enabled cutting table needs. “We could have a stack of 100 sheets that are printed differently and have different boxes on each sheet, and, because of the QR code, the cutting table knows exactly which box to cut and which file to use for that cut,” explains Korte. “Basically, the operator is there to make sure the table is cutting correctly, the knife doesn’t break, or something doesn’t go wrong with the machine.”
At the shipping stage, order information is automatically sent to the shipper who calculates costs and creates a shipping label. Employees only have to enter four data fields, instead of 30 as in a manual workflow.
To track the orders as they proceed through production and shipping, Significans created dashboards that show managers the progress of each job, as well as the overall status of all the jobs in the queue. Managers can look at the entire overall process and see where all the orders are, and whether the schedule needs to be adjusted or updated.
Additionally, customers receive three automated emails informing them when their order has been received, when it’s in production, and when it has shipped.
Reduced production time and staff needs expands potential for success
In today’s highly competitive and hyper-quick commercial world, an e-commerce platform is simply not feasible without a high level of automation. Work needs to be processed quickly and orders need to be delivered at a lighting pace.
For Boxes Inc., Significans delivered results that offer a clear path to a profitable business. “Without automation this would not be worth
doing. If you go the manual route, the costs associated with it wouldn’t even put you in the same market as everyone else that’s doing it,” says Korte.
Instead of taking hours for an operator to create and check a layout on a sheet, it can now be done in 5 minutes. “We are taking an 8-hour process and creating it in 5 minutes. We will also reduce waste because we’re using the sheets more efficiently,” says Korte.
If Significans had not been part of this picture, I don’t know who would be capable of doing it. They have the expertise in WebCenter and Automation Engine, but they also think outside the box. When we come to them with suggestions for how we think something should work, they broaden our horizons to add more to the process and to give us even more than what we’ve asked for.”
– Tim Korte Chief Communication Officer, Boxes Inc.
Reduced staffing is another benefit, says Korte. Without this level of automation, Boxes Inc. would almost have to double or triple staff in order to do the same process. The only staff who will monitor the Xceed process is the workflow solutions architect who makes sure that files are processed correctly.
Another big benefit, says Korte, is the potential this has opened up for the entire organization. “Because we automated the Xceed platform, it’s
become clear how we can expand the automation to other divisions. This is a stepping stone to what can be done, and the potential we can unleash,” says Korte.
“If Significans had not been part of this picture, I don’t know who would be capable of doing it. They have the expertise in WebCenter and Automation Engine, but they also think outside the box. When we come to them with suggestions for how we think something should work, they broaden our horizons to add more to the process and give us even more than what we’ve asked for,” concludes Korte.