“Modernizing or Dying: The Case For Automation”
Significans Automation’s Highly Refined Custom Workflows Improve SuperGraphics’ Processing Times by 500 to 700%
Seattle large format printer SuperGraphics prides itself on its reputation of bringing innovation, technology, and environmental leadership to its local print market. However, its latest investment in prepress automation, led by Significans Automation, is proving to be its most important modernization effort yet, as the company positions itself for an increasingly competitive future.
Founded in 1990 to service the fleet, event, and architectural industries, SuperGraphics was acquired in 2018 by industry veteran Reid Baker and three partners after recognizing an opportunity with the “distressed but not failing” company. The team focused on building sales and began rapidly upgrading its equipment, making significant investments in digital presses and finishing equipment to help expand into the retail POP and POS signage market.
Fulfilling a lifelong passion of Baker’s, the company also launched a major environmental program to divert its customers’ plastic-based signage and its own plastic pressroom waste from landfill through a proprietary recycling process that creates raw materials for the construction industry. Now widely recognized as an innovator in recycling in Washington State, SuperGraphics routinely attracts new business from major, like-minded event clients and retail brands concerned for the future.
When SuperGraphics made automation a priority in 2021, the company was still recovering from the pains of Covid-19. With production volume at an unprecedented low, the time was ripe for rededicating underutilized staff and resources to identify inefficiencies and develop processes to improve the workflow.
“When we purchased the company, SuperGraphics was not at all participating in the automation revolution, and everything was very manual,” recalls Baker. “So we signed up with Significans Automation in the first quarter of 2021 and acquired Enfocus PitStop with Switch and an automated layout and nesting software from Tilia Labs and that’s our go-forward platform for prepress.”
– Reid Baker, CEO of SuperGraphics
For Reid and his management team, the main motivation driving this automation was the need to scale the business through technology rather than through future hiring. “Our prepress pros are great at what they do, but they’re better utilized when they bring higher value to clients instead of spending their timing doing preflighting and set-ups and other tasks that can be automated,” he explains. “As we deploy more and more automation solutions, our requirements to add people to the prepress department diminishes and we can be more selective.”
Quality was another major driver of SuperGraphics’ investment. Recognizing the frequency at which errors were creeping into manual work at the growing company, the next priority was to increase the quality of the print files generated for their clients through prepress automation.
Producing consistent production files to send to press, regardless of which operator worked on them, was critical. The system was built to recognize and streamline the way it managed things like multi-page PDF files, or how it verified that the correct cutting marks were used for finishing, or how multi-layer prints for white ink were created.
“This consistency that an automated file produces is really remarkable, and Significans Automation gave us the opportunity to drive that structure and discipline all the way through our business,” explains Baker.
According to Marc Raad, CEO of Significans Automation, the retail large format business is an ideal environment to demonstrate workflow and process efficiencies. “Retail printing is characterized by cycles that repeat fairly predictably season-to-season or year-to-year, so we have been working closely and diligently with SuperGraphics to identify and support the automation of repetitive tasks and cyclical processes to improve their competitive advantage.”
The results have been nothing short of incredible. “On our highly refined workflows, we are experiencing a 5x to 7x improvement in processing time via automation,” explains Baker.
These savings translate directly to fewer prepress hours, and lower operating costs. Baker is also encouraged by the feedback he’s getting from his prepress staff highlighting newly identified savings and efficiencies they’re achieving with the assistance of Significans Automation.
We have worked together with Significans Automation to develop & implement workflows that allow us to focus on delivering the same quality with higher precision and less waste”, adds Jacob Meier, Prepress / Automation Specialist at SuperGraphics. “The team understands our need and works tirelessly in tandem with ours to continue to increase a high level of productivity and accuracy.
“This consistency that an automated file produces is really remarkable, and Significans Automation gave us the opportunity to drive that structure and discipline all the way through our business,”
– Reid Baker, CEO of SuperGraphics
When asked about return-on-investment and breakeven points, Baker estimates that his six-figure spend on automation will be justified financially by the third quarter of 2023, though he admits that they were about a year behind schedule due to a rebound of growing business in 2022 that temporarily sidetracked the automation project.
Although he accepts that return is clearly important, Baker says he’s not as concerned about quantifying and measuring ROI as he is about building a modern printing company with scalable practices.
“To me, you’re either modernizing or dying,” Baker insists. “Now we can be more competitive with future RFPs and other pricing because we know our prepress time has been compressed to just minutes, and we’re no longer losing precious time due to manual errors.”
With an improved pricing structure, the company’s ability to land new clients also increases, as does the value they’re able to add to their clients’ businesses. Harnessing the system for future expansion, including creating a foundation for e-commerce, offers even more value and promise. And with more and more technologically savvy commercial printers entering the large format printing business each year, Reid anticipates growing competition and an even greater urgency for a lean, efficient operation.
According to Andrew Oswood, prepress workflow specialist with Significans Automation, “I am proud of the workflows we have developed to handle their diverse workload, but also feel like we are just scratching the surface of what we can create. I look forward to having a long relationship with SuperGraphics and Significans.
“Significans Automation laid out a great vision for us and have been a tremendous partner in our success,” concludes Baker. “As they help us build out more and more automated applications and processes, we can continue to scale up our prepress activities without adding personnel, and have our people work on higher value design and creative elements, while the prepress is handled by automation.”
About Significans Automation (www.significans.com)
Significans Automation Inc. specializes in delivering next-generation automation to the Printing and Packaging industry. The company offers programming and expertise in custom workflow development, communication and project management, color management, prepress training, and end-to-end business integration. The company is driven by the conviction that customized automation is the only path forward.
For more information, please contact:
Marc Raad at email@example.com or 1-877-463-4465.
About SuperGraphics (www.supergraphics.com)
SuperGraphics is a large format printer specializing in experiential graphics for environments, retail, event, and fleet. The company manages complex projects sustainably and believes in closed-loop recycling and clean second use. It is a trusted partner to many iconic brands who rely on its ability to execute local and nationwide programs from concept to completion with superior results.