Me & my: Agfa Apogee Cloud workflow solution


In May, Prinovis UK hosted a VIP event to officially launch its new web offset printing capability. The Liverpool-based print company, which following Polestar’s collapse in 2016, became the UK’s only remaining publication gravure printer, took delivery of a highly specced Goss M600A 16pp web press earlier this year following the collapse of Manchester print firm G&H.

Prinovis had previously sub-contracted its cover printing work to G&H, so following the latter’s receivership it made sense for the gravure giant to snap up the press and bring some of the magazine covers and circa 1.5 billion inserts and onserts it produces per year for its periodical clients in-house, saving money and reducing lead times in the process. 

Speaking to the assembled throng of magazine industry VIPs at the launch, Niklas Darijtschuk, Bertelsmann Printing Group chief operating officer and chief executive of international print at the group, said the introduction of the offset press was an “historical moment” for the company.

“It’s a big opportunity for our clients to do more with us, and a big challenge for us to give a broader, more complex offering,” said Darijtschuk.

But to fully capitalise on the opportunity the company needed to invest in an offset workflow solution that would allow it to get the most out of the new machine. 

“The workflow solution we’d already got was for gravure so we needed a specialist system that could run the offset press and connect to the platesetter we’ve got,” explains Ian Betty, data operator on Prinovis’ offset systems.

What the company decided to plump for in March this year, to coincide with the installation of the new offset printing press, was Agfa’s Apogee Cloud, a cloud-based workflow solution.

Betty says that before taking the plunge the company reviewed various different workflow options on the market. “However, the Apogee system seemed a lot more intuitive and straightforward to use,” says Betty. “It also seemed to be a lot more flexible.”

As well as being impressed by Agfa’s cloud-based workflow solution, what also helped to seal the deal was the company’s overall attitude to doing business. 

“They were very good at demo-ing things for us before we bought it,” says Betty. “They came in and said ‘what have you got, what are you going to put through it and what do you expect to receive data wise?’ Then they did a lot of trial jobs and showed us what it could do that was specific to our requirements.”

Opting for the cloud-based workflow offered the company a number of other distinct advantages, according to Mark Worthington, pre-press and quality manager at Prinovis. 

“From an IT perspective, it provides an obvious cost saving in both the purchasing of new servers and maintenance of them too,” says Worthington. “It also makes any updates from Agfa seamless. Our IT team were impressed with the level of security Agfa offered and felt confident to go for a cloud solution. We had the obvious discussions about what happens if access to the internet from our end was impaired, but after much consideration it made more sense to make our workflow solution cloud-based.”

Betty says the installation of Apogee Cloud ran smoothly, thanks largely to the fact that the software was up and running about a fortnight before the press went live. “Agfa were with us for two solid weeks making sure we got up to speed on it,” he explains. “After installation we went through a week of training and getting to know the system. Then we sat down and said ‘we want it do this and that’. We tested it a few days before it went live and it was good to go.”

Betty says the Apogee Cloud workflow is easy to use. “It’s also very adaptable and there are a lot of different features. We’ve set it up and configured it the way we want it so we only use what we need. As a result, it’s very straightforward.”

This ease of use benefits both Prinovis and its customers, according to Betty. For instance, Apogee’s WebApproval function allows the printer to automatically email a secure link to clients so that they can upload artwork directly into a job. These files are then processed live and made available for approval without requiring any input or interaction from Prinovis’ prepress department. This helps to dramatically reduce turnaround times and eliminates the need for FTP or third-party file transfer systems. As Apogee Cloud uses the same hosting technology as other Agfa business units, the company says customer data is “100% secure”.

Since installation any initial reservations Prinovis might have had about using a cloud-based workflow solution have completely evaporated, with the workflow more than living up to its billing. Indeed, it’s proven so adaptable that it’s been able to tackle jobs that the printer has never dealt with before.

“The press was bought to do covers primarily, plus some of the inserts and stuff that for magazines that we have previously done by gravure, but we’ve had things come in like posters that folded to A4, that we’d never even thought about. However, we’ve been able to handle these jobs with a bit of help from Agfa,” says Betty.

Intuitive operation

Worthington has been similarly impressed, both by how the workflow solution has handled tricky jobs and how Agfa has dealt with any issues that have arisen.

“From a pre-press point of view, the Apogee software has been intuitive, the support in both installation and training has been spot on and we are all very pleased how quickly it has become an effective solution for everyone in the department,” he says.

Like Worthington, Betty is also keen to praise the package of support that Agfa has offered since installation. “We have had a couple of issues connecting to the cloud, but Agfa have always sorted this out quickly,” he says. “If we report something then usually within 15 to 20 mins they jump on the server so that they see what we are seeing. 

“They can change things, put it right and then show us what they’ve done.”

In addition to the ability to offer remote solutions to any problems Prinovis, Betty says the main thing he likes about Apogee Cloud is the flexibility of the system. “We can build different workflows and tailor a template workflow to each job,” he explains.

As for Worthington, he singles out the environmental benefits the company has enjoyed thanks to the “seamless integration” of InkTune within Apogee, which helps to reduce ink consumption. 

So far Betty hasn’t encountered any significant issues with Agfa’s cloud-based workflow solution and only has praise for how smoothly it’s allowed the company to make its initial foray into the offset arena. 

“I worked at a previous company that used offset and we had [what was then called] Heidelberg Prinergy and Apogee is hands down much better than that was.”

He’s been so impressed with the new solution that he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Agfa and its workflow product to other company’s looking to add offset print to their service offer.

“Right from when Agfa came in to do the demo all the way through to today, they have offered good levels of support and their communication is also very good. Everything they said it would do it has done. There haven’t been any surprises.”

Betty and Worthington will be hoping it stays that way as Prinovis looks to push ahead with this new chapter in the company’s history. 


SPECIFICATIONS

Price For an 8-up Apogee workflow including online upload and approval (WebApproval) software, the cost would be from £1,400 per month. This includes all software, hardware specification based on plate volume, all software and hardware upgrades and support during the contract period

Contact Agfa (UK) 020 8231 4983 www.agfagraphics.co.uk


Company profile 

In Prinovis’ most recent results the company, which is now the UK’s only gravure publication printer, racked up sales of just shy of £70m. At its 65,000m2 factory in Liverpool the company employs 480 staff and around 100 contractors (as part of its web offset expansion plans it took on a number of former G&H employees). Its client base consists of major publishers and newspaper groups including DMG Media, News UK and The Telegraph Group. The company also prints OK! and Hello! magazines. Its gravure facility runs 24/7 with the web press currently running 24/5.

Why it was bought...

Prinovis previously outsourced offset work, such as covers, to Manchester-based company G&H. However, last year the company collapsed so the gravure printer decided to snap up G&H’s Goss M600A web press and bring its offset requirements in-house. As a result it also needed to implement a new workflow. 

How has it performed...

As well as handling the company’s standard offset work like magazine covers, Apogee Cloud has also allowed Prinovis to take on jobs it had never even contemplated tackling, such posters. “It’s very easy to use and it’s done everything Agfa said it could do,” says Betty.

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