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packWaterMark

ePS at drupa 2024

16 minute read

In an increasingly connected world, the rapid evolution of technology profoundly impacts business operations.

As industries globally shift toward more integrated, automated systems, innovative technological solutions are crucial in shaping the future of business.

Leading this transformation are Aleks Zlatic and Kevin Blakey of ePS Packaging, they recently discussed the significant developments they plan to reveal at the upcoming drupa event. 

 

Below is a summary of the conversation: 

Aleks Zlatic: I'm grateful for the opportunity to talk with Kevin Blakey, who's in charge of product management at ePS Packaging. I'm Aleks Zlatic, the head of product and market development at ePS Packaging. We will brief you about what we're doing at drupa and what you can expect to see when you get there.  

When considering our array of market-leading technologies, particularly the rapid doubling of data every 12 hours, what implications do you see? How will our upcoming releases at Drupa address these challenges for our customers? 

Kevin Blakey: Some of the things that come to my mind are how the world's changed since the last drupa. Being able to work from anywhere is important, so people need access to technology from home nowadays. A lot of the work we've been doing is around making it much easier for people to access the systems and data they need to do their everyday jobs. 

Aleks Zlatic: I totally agree with you and love what the team has done with Workbench. We started with Workbench about four or five years ago in earnest. These widgets allow you to customize the user's views and are persona-based. Now, we can automate information from those widgets and have activities that get launched, and we will be showing this at drupa. 

Kevin Blakey: Absolutely. We've got real-world examples. The technology is one thing, but the things our customers do with it amaze us. They can not only automate workflows but also capture excellent customer service and automate to give a consistent experience. 

Aleks Zlatic: Do you have an example of what we're going to see at drupa along those lines? 

Kevin Blakey: Yes, the automation comes from events in the system. In the past, it relied on conscientious Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) to provide personalized information to its customers. A great example is a CSR looking into the system for their orders. And as soon as that pick started in the warehouse, they were diligent enough to send a friendly email to the customer. With our automation technology, that's an event in the system, and you can automate that excellent customer service so it's consistent across the board. 

Aleks Zlatic: This would reduce friction and lead time and keep customers informed without additional work on the CSR's part. 

Kevin Blakey: Exactly, and automatically creates a better customer relationship. 

Aleks Zlatic: That's great. I was also impressed with some add-on technologies we're working on, like using large language models to automate searches into those widgets. If you're a CSR and want to quickly know which orders might be late today or running close to the promised date, you'll be able to chat that with natural language into those widgets, won't you? 

Kevin Blakey: Yes, and what you're hinting at is the big topic on everyone's mind around AI. The advantage is that we're already accumulating that data, so people can start making decisions from the system. We'll be able to show the reality of where we are in the industry and how we can use some of those tools in concert with what we're doing. 

I'm looking forward to showing people that and getting some feedback. 

Aleks Zlatic: Absolutely. And for people coming to drupa, you don't have to be a multinational company with an extensive IT department. We have tools that small and big customers can use to leverage this exciting new chat AI technology. 

Kevin Blakey: That's an important point. You don't need a giant IT department to take advantage of these things that will move your business forward. 

Aleks Zlatic: Absolutely. Hopefully, people coming to drupa will see real-world AI applications for packaging and boosting production using high-tech tools. Now, let's talk about digital. Everything is digital. I don't recall now, but in one of the drupas I attended, something like 23 digital devices were launched. I'm sure this drupa will be no different.  

What are you coming out with that will help customers manage their digital production better, short runs, and figure out if they're making money on their digital jobs? 

Kevin Blakey: With the move towards short runs and more SKUs, every time you touch the system to process that, it's costing you money, cutting into your margins. From a digital print point of view, the big ticket item is our partnership with HP Indigo, which is dominant in the label market. We're automating the order capture and job creation and pushing that through into pre-press. And the thing that's different from last time is that it is all configurable to accommodate manufacturers moving to digital in all areas. With our technology, we'll be able to show that we've got a platform that's malleable enough to work in that environment. 

Aleks Zlatic: I was very impressed with our traceability from a roll of self-adhesive to the actual label without the operator needing to stop the machine. 

Kevin Blakey: By combining ePS systems and platforms like HP, HP can focus on ensuring excellent print quality and reliability. We wrap that around the requirements of the packaging industry around traceability, for example. Using our order count functionality, you can trace raw materials going in and printed materials coming out for full end-to-end traceability. I don't know anyone else doing that. 

Aleks Zlatic: I've not seen anyone else doing that. That's the kind of innovation you can expect at ePS Packaging's booth at drupa. But let's dive into that because traceability, tracking materials, and tracking costs help customers be more sustainable. 

Kevin Blakey: Absolutely. Part of that is managing waste and working efficiently. The other thing that's become a reality is the legislative infrastructure, particularly in Europe. What we've found is that working with that legislation, you've got to be light on your feet because these standards evolve to the last minute. With the plastic packaging tax and its variations, we're building a framework to be adaptive when it gets introduced.

Some states are close to introducing similar tariffs and tax systems in the US, and we can provide the necessary data for compliance. 

Aleks Zlatic: The new generation of Auto-Count data collection software allows for traceability. If you're running an extruder and conversion in flexible packaging, knowing the exact amount of post-consumer recycled content in every meter of film is critical for traceability reports and tax audit certificates. We'll show that at drupa. 

Kevin Blakey: The key is data. We're collecting that data and working on many fronts, including legislative and carbon footprints. All rely on reliable data to feed into the system so that you can prove your sustainability credentials to the brands. 

Aleks Zlatic: Matt LaFleur (Product Manager Auto-Count® 4D (AC4D)) is releasing the ability to get a carbon footprint from shop floor data collection as a KPI. That's exciting. Sometimes, our software is considered industrial and boring, but we're making it fun. The new UI/UX, the new face of Radius ERP, and gamification are exciting developments. Creating a lively, fun environment between machine operators so they can score against themselves and one team scores against another. What are your thoughts about that? 

Kevin Blakey: It's a great way to create that friendly team competitiveness, however, with the new generation of press operators expecting more from systems and software, having a competitive element will drive productivity. 

Aleks Zlatic: I was at Cal Poly and was impressed with the new students coming into our business. They expect more from systems and software, wanting better experiences and more data. The younger generation has higher expectations. 

Kevin Blakey: We're just jealous. 

Aleks Zlatic: We're just jealous, that's right. Really exciting. I can't wait for drupa. Anything else you want to add? 

Kevin Blakey: I look forward to presenting all the good stuff we've been doing and getting some good feedback. 

Aleks Zlatic: To summarize, it's all about data, user experience, making our software fun, connecting, and integrating. One thing to mention is what we've done with eFlow and our enterprise service BUS orchestration layer. Everything we've been talking about with Automator, widgets, and chat enablement comes from the eFlow platform. What can we expect to see at drupa about that? 

Kevin Blakey: Our customers want to use our products wherever possible. The underlying eFlow bus allows us to be good citizens in the ecosystem. For example, if they acquire a plant with an incumbent system, they can start taking advantage of PrintFlow 4D, advanced scheduling, and AC4D data collection and plug that into their systems using eFlow. This allows them to implement Radius at an appropriate time, getting benefits as early as possible. 

Aleks Zlatic: I was very impressed with the aggregation, using the Automator to concatenate some messages and reduce hundreds of integration points to a dozen. We'll show that too. 

Kevin Blakey: We continually simplify the process while giving an enterprise view of the whole organization. 

Aleks Zlatic: Fantastic. Excited to be here on the road to drupa. 

Kevin Blakey: Indeed. 

Aleks Zlatic: See you there! 

Conclusion

Don't miss the opportunity to experience the future of packaging technology firsthand! Join us in Hall 07A, booth 7AE03 at Drupa, to explore how our latest innovations can transform your operations and drive your business forward. We look forward to welcoming you and sharing our exciting advancements.

 

 

 

In an increasingly connected world, the rapid evolution of technology profoundly impacts business operations. As industries globally shift toward more integrated, automated systems, innovative...

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