Articles

VERSATILE SOLUTIONS TO A WIDE RANGE OF LABEL WORK


Illinois-based Graphic Solutions is a printing company offering a range of processes from manual screen printing to roll-to-roll and sheetfed presses.

Graphic Solutions, Inc., a Burr Ridge, Illinois, label converter, has repeatedly been honoured with national and international awards for printing excellence. So it’s just a bit ironic that founders Suzanne and Bob Zaccone established their company in 1985 with the initial intention of acting strictly as printbrokers.

‘That’s all we ever intended to do, there were a lot of quality printers in our area, so we thought we would just get the orders and farm out the actual production.’ Explains company president Suzanne Zaccone.

However, while Graphic Solutions could rely on outside printers to provide top quality, delivery times weren’t dependable. So, six months after its founding, the company purchased its first press, a Markem 375 hot stamp press, which is still operating today.

Graphic Solutions’ technical expertise soon expanded to include producing aluminium nameplates for the military. In 1989, when the Zaccones purchased a company originally founded by their father, they began producing flexographic and screen-printed labels.

Today, Graphic Solutions is a recognized leader in screen-print technology. (Approximately 40 per cent of the company’s annual sales are generated by the screen department.) The company has been awarded top honours in contests by the Tag &
Label Manufacturers Institute, Inc., (TLMI), as well as the World Label Association, which honours the best labels produced in North America, Europe and Japan.

Yet, Graphic Solutions is a versatile as it is skilled. The company can fulfil any size order using a number of screen printing technologies, from traditional manual screening to higher-speed production using Rolt and Lawson Seneca roll-to-roll and sheetfed presses. A wide variety of materials, from papers and films to metals, plastics and vinyls, can be screen-printed in-house. It is that ability to meet virtually any customer need that has fuelled Graphic Solutions’ continuous growth.

‘We can do small, medium and large volumes, and all of it can be running at the same time,’ explains Screen Manager Gary Gresko. ‘Our quantities vary from five pieces to 100,000 pieces, and our average order is probably between 500 and 1,000 parts. We still do a lot of manual screening based on the amount of sheets and colours. And anything that’s large enough in volume can be run in roll form.’

A four-station Rolt press is the workhorse of the company’s screen-printing operation. (The company’s Lawson Seneca press is a semi-automatic sheet-fed screen unit that handles mid-range volumes.) Purchased in 1995, the Rolt roll-to-roll press has superior registration that can allow jobs of more than four colours to be run through the press more than once without any loss of print quality.

‘We can run a job through this press ten times and still hold register,’ explains Gresko.

With the company’s recent move to a new 40,000-square-foot facility, more than double the size of its previous plant just a few blocks down the road, the screen and flexo printing departments are now afforded more space to breathe – and grow. All the presses, prepress equipment, screens, films and iks for each department are housed separately, which has increased efficiency and sped production. In fact, Graphic Solutions expects to achieve an efficiency increase of between 10 and 15 per cent solely because of the increased space.

Plus, adds Suzanne Zaccone, ‘When we need to purchase new equipment, now we know we have a place to put it.’

Although Graphic Solutions’ screen capabilities may attract more attention from awards judges, its flexo department houses an equally impressive array of equipment and technologies to satisfy its customers. That department operates six presses: four-and six-colour, 6.5 inch Wevtron 650s; a 7 inch, two-colour Mark Andy 820; a 7 inch, three-colour Mark Andy 2100, and a 13 inch, sic-colour Rotopress purchased in 1995. That press has a UV varnishstation, a video web inspection unit, dual product rewinds, dual laminating stations, and more. Each press can print on a wide variety of substrates, including papers, films, mylar and more.

‘We do a lot of different jobs because we are a specialty house, we do a lot of films and specialty constructions. We’re not like a paper house where one run will involve millions of labels. We do a lot of jobs where it’s 250 labels, 1,000 labels. That’s a lot of work for the art department’ notes Prepress scheduling manager Beverly Rogers.

Fortunately, the art department – like the rest of the production facility – is geared for small volumes and fast turnaround. (Each pressman typically runs six to nine jobs per shift.) The four-person department handles artwork generated in all types of formats, from computer disks to blueprints to old label samples. Macintosh computers are used to create or enhance digital artwork.

The company’s finishing department is another critical step in assuring product quality and customer satisfaction. Virtually every screen-printed job is fabricated in some way. Most of the items have adhesives or laminating added off-line, then go through multiple finishing stations, such as diecutting or hole punching, to tolerances of 5,000ths to 15,000ths of an inch.

‘If a specialty part is too large, even by width of a human hair, it can be rejected, that’s why this area is one of the most critical in most specialty jobs’ explains operations manager John Mazour.

Graphic Solutions attention to detail in the production facility is matched only by its emphasis on customer service. There are an estimated 3,000 self adhesive label converters across the country, yet Graphic Solutions serves customers throughout the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico. Zaccone says that being ‘small and flexible’ (with 65 employees) allows the company to quickly meet customer demand – a virtual requirement in these days of just-in-time delivery. ‘We don’t really have a set turnaround time, it’s really a matter of when the customer needs it. We do whatever we can to provide our customers with product labels, nameplates and panels when they need them’ says Zaccone.

The company is fortunate to have two major material suppliers, Fasson and FLEXcon, just a few hours away. This allows Graphic Solutions to maintain a minimum inventory while still being able to deliver product on demand.

Notes Mazour, ‘If we can’t meet delivery dates, all of the customers that come to us right now may go somewhere else.’

With the company’s growing reputation for quality and service, that’s one thing Graphic Solutions shouldn’t have to worry about.

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