Automated, single-touch data processes
fuel the future at Lewis Press
About the company
Lewis Press Ltd originated in 1949 when Mrs Ennua Pace and the late Mr. Emmanuel Pace (parents of existing management team) boldly bought a manually operated printing machine. Propelled by the commitment of the founders, the business slowly expanded. As was customary, families were large, and the eldest members of the current management team joined the business at a young age. Coupled with the recruitment of key hires still employed with the company, this solidified the business’s operational and organisational platform.
The 1970s to 2003 was a period of consolidation, during which the business expanded its customer base through a commitment to quality and excellent service. This growth necessitated expansion on two occasions. During this period, the company established itself as a leader in wine and beverage labels; annual reports and portfolios; brochures and magazines; and packaging materials for the textile and food industry.
The final relocation to the current factory at Hal-Far was completed in 2004, and was finalised in 2012. The factory has been fully refurbished to high standards. In the planning of the layout of production facilities and product workflow, consideration was given to the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) requirements of pharmaceutical packaging providers, outlined in the Institute of Quality Assurance standard PS9000:2011, covering both secondary packaging (cartons, leaflets & inserts) and primary packaging (aluminium foil printing).
“There were other systems which could have been more attractive in particular departments; however ePS’s core packaging processes offer an unrivaled degree of functionality and versatility.”
Quality Manager, Lewis Press LTD.
When Lewis Press began its pharmaceutical printing business in 2005, everything was done manually. The business had fewer than 20 employees, and the paperwork for jobs filled a single filing cabinet. As its reputation grew and its client list expanded, Lewis Press suddenly realised it had far more employees, and a line of filing cabinets.
One of the biggest issues Lewis Press faced was the time and effort required to input the information for every job. Staff members used filing cards in the prepress department to document the items sold and details about what was to be printed; and created specification sheets in the operations department.
Much of the data was duplicated between these departments, but due to differences, they couldn’t just be photocopied — someone had to hand-copy the pertinent information from one form to the next. This process was incredibly time consuming and left them vulnerable to more errors as they got busier.
“Even production data was captured in these massive spreadsheets, which, although they were wellconstructed with multiple validation tools to try and reduce errors, were still prone to issues,” noted Godwin Pace, Quality Manager, Lewis Press Ltd.
“We even had users occasionally highlight the wrong cells and delete critical data by accident! Plus, those spreadsheets were used to generate the job labels and the final release certificates that went to the clients as well. At each stage, someone had to manually go through and double-check every data point to validate that it was correct.”
“The fact that we never had any critical errors was only due to the sheer commitment of our people, and the exhaustive checking and rechecking of the data,” Godwin adds. “But we couldn’t sustain that kind of process long term.”
The problems went beyond just job tracking. The company tracked raw material storage the same way, with manual records that could often get confusing. Changes required entirely new records to be issued and attached to the jobs, and again, errors were a problem. Inventory in general was tracked in another spreadsheet, with no unique identification number for each item.
The only way to track materials allocated to a specific job — or a completed job that hadn’t yet been delivered — was by segregating it into distinct physical locations.
The delivery and invoicing process was also manual, requiring a note tobe created for each completed job. Once that was done, someone would enter the important details into an entirely separate invoicing system to generate the final bill.
“As the orders from our pharmaceutical customers grew, and with an increasing product portfolio, working with the manual system on a daily basis was becoming more time-consuming and risky,” says Godwin. “In the beginning, there was only one cabinet holding the item cards; with 10 cabinets you had to walk more and spend more time filing and retrieving documents. If you misfiled a document, you either had to search for it or retrieve the data from other source documents. The need for a centralised database was clear.”
“Prior to having the system, a simple call from the client asking for a job status or the status of a number of jobs would entail an exhaustive run around the factory floor to physically check the work in progress,” says Louis Pace, Director of Operations at Lewis Press. “This would have typically required between 20 and 40 minutes of running around. Nowadays, the scheduling tool instantly provides information with a clear view of the production flow, such that feedback to customers is instantaneous without any running about.”
Seeking a scalable solution
Lewis Press, which had grown to 50 employees, was reluctant to jump to another system that would only work for the short term, and then require them to upgrade again as their business grew.
Company executives wanted to partner with a company that could provide a system to serve their needs right now, as well as having the capacity and ability to grow.
Lewis Press started by evaluating operations from top to bottom, and then created a document outlining everything their ideal system would need to include. Teams in every department, including prepress, inventory, planning and production, detailed exactly what kinds of tools they needed to have. When they started to evaluate MIS/ERP systems, they were all compared with these internal documents to see how well they matched up.
Lewis Press evaluated solutions from seven different software providers, and decided on the ePS Radius software package - today’s core ePS component in ePS’s Packaging Suite. “I could immediately see and sense that this system was the most suitable for our needs, and in fact satisfied the highest number of the identified functional requirements through the standard system,” Godwin noted.
There were other systems that individually were more powerful in one specific department, but the ePS solution had the most versatile core. According to Godwin, “It had an unrivaled degree of functionality, making it the easiest to work with in the widest range of business processes. This addressed our immediate needs, as well as being able to adapt in line with our requirements as the business continues to grow.”
Full production floor visibility
The Packaging Suite was quickly implemented at the Lewis Press facilities over the course of five months. “One needs to keep in mind here that the implementation was from a fully manual system, requiring considerable data capture and establishing coding conventions,” Godwin points out. The company had no central database to draw from, no pre-established codes they could convert, nothing except hand-written documents and a few complex spreadsheets.
“In five years, Radius and the Packaging Suite from ePS have never failed us, and we can’t imagine running our business today without it.
Godwin Pace, Quality Manager
Lewis Press LTD.
Once it was up and running, the system completely transformed Lewis Press. The Packaging Suite led the company to create an automatic inventory system with procurement, job allocation and data for raw materials captured, and complete audit trails to comply with regulations. Each inventory item has its own unique identifier, and the printer automatically returns any excess into the buffer so the system always knows precisely what has been used, and how much was consumed in the production process.
“This process gives us a considerable degree of confidence that inventory level running balances are correct at any given moment a report is launched,” says Allen Galea, Operations Manager at the company. “Adjustments to system balances become necessary only because the pallet quantity declared by carton and paper suppliers is never 100% accurate. Through the Inventory Count module, it was easy for us to implement a continuous stock-taking system whereby system quantities are physically verified and adjusted if need be.”
Now, new orders are immediately input into the system, and customers receive acknowledgments at the same time, reducing the time needed to confirm details and get the final approvals. Plus, the system generates production documentation, using the same data that was input at the time of the job creation. The information is validated at that creation stage, so subsequent departments do not have to re-key existing information, or spend time re-validating it.
Today, everything that comes into or out of the company is tracked via the system, from the raw materials all the way through the delivery and invoicing of the final product.
“One shipping request automatically generates billing requirements for customer invoicing, and invoiced data is readily traceable back to the customer purchase order,” says Allen.
Streamlining these processes resulted in a reduction in administrative labour time needed to generate and manage jobs by 50%, in direct comparison to before the ERP system was implemented.
There is now full visibility as to what is happening on the production floor. Unique codes created to identify each stage of production make it easy to track any non-conformities or problems, and this allows management to carefully monitor the status of every job at any given time. With non- conformities being tracked by the system, it is also easy to generate quality control reports, and should it be required, link problems back to a specific aspect of a job if a customer is unhappy with the final results.
Closing out jobs, creating invoices and updating the financial ledgers is all now far more efficient and easy to track, so managers always know exactly where every customer and every job stands. As a result of the automated workflow, the company has increased on-time deliveries by 30%.
“We now fully depend on the Packaging Suite, and cannot imagine running the business without it,” Godwin says.
The system has also enabled the company to monitor the performance of processes. “The fact that the ePS Radius system tracks every task and process on the factory floor has provided us with the opportunity of developing a diversified set of key performance indicators also up to the personnel level,” says Kurt Zerafa, an industrial engineer working at Lewis Press.
“The ePS staff who helped get our ERP up and running were highly intelligent and experienced. They knew exactly what we needed, and they helped us go live in a very short period of time.”
Quality Manager, Lewis Press