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Inside Retail & Kirk Group

Kirk Group’s Flite system accelerates packaging art to print

There are so many issues that can cause delays in the Race to the Shelf, especially where packaging is concerned. What’s particularly frustrating is that quite often the bottleneck isn’t anything to do with hold-ups in the design work or at the printing stage, but in the management of the process that gets the finished artwork ready for print.

Coordinating approvals from all stakeholders can inevitably give rise to overlapping requests for change – while mechanical steps specific to individual printer setup can easily go awry, leading to repeated work, revisions and further counterproductive stretches on time – placing undue pressures on expected projects being launched.

This is an area where Kirk Group, a major Australian firm providing solutions to the printing industry, has come out ahead of the curve. As businesses inch towards digital solutions in virtually every space, Kirk has unveiled a new online system to manage – and to a degree, automate – the post-finished artwork stage, eliminating the most common delays and allowing full transparency to all involved. Flite, which has been developed and used in-house by Kirk for over a decade, is now effortlessly coordinating brands, design agencies, art houses and printing firms to get products packaged and on shelves at top speed.

“Streamline it, manage it, and offer a transparent platform,” says Kirk Group GM John Kapiniaris as a concise overview of the Flite concept. “And that platform is not only open to the brand, it’s open to the designer to check progress, it’s open and available to the printer to request stepped files and image carriers while being able to track the process in real time – and that right there is really one of the key functions of Flite, in that it’s a collaborative tool bringing all these steps together in a controlled manner, for all the stakeholders to see exactly what’s going on. And what it achieves is, all those emails and phone calls and production planning headaches that we have to face every day, we can really leave all that noise behind.”

Kirk has been pursuing the Flite solution for many years, underpinned by a fundamental vision to automate all the manual processes and steps across the artwork supply chain to speed up the pace and remove potential for costly human error. The initial drive was to develop an internal print management platform that was highly automated, intuitive and accessible across the business. After noting significant benefits in the form of quicker and more accurate processing, easier access to information and customer assets, fewer manual touch points, fewer process mistakes and significant reduction in paperwork throughout operations, the platform was broadly adopted internally. The system continued to be improved through ongoing initiatives as the technology evolved and better integration became possible.

“About five years ago, we had a number of customers who were quite innovative as printers and willing to make significant internal process changes,” recalls Kapiniaris. “We started discussing how we can support them and their customers to get jobs to the printing press faster. We presented our intuitive in-house tool that was extremely efficient with proven consistent high quality results. We worked closely with them and they immediately started to see key benefits in getting their customers’ products to the shelf faster. Ultimately through years of innovative advancement we had developed an automated and streamlined system that resulted in a very powerful vehicle to deliver NPD for agile and market leading brands. We made the decision to change the UI/UX and rebranded it, and that’s how Flite was born.”

The Flite platform is now offering the industry an option to better manage their tasks on a day-to-day basis, moving away from slow and inefficient manual processes and into modernity with a highly efficient digital workstation that helps in making better-informed decisions in real time, delivering quicker, cost-effective and high-quality results in a reliable manner.

Additional to the workflow benefits, perhaps the ultimate underlying advantage of Flite lies in the potential for cost savings in sourcing new software and efficiently integrating and managing within a business. Industry-specific software presents a significant annual cost to printing businesses, along with ongoing license and maintenance fees. At the end of the day, Flite can be utilised as the most efficient print management platform and potentially do away with a good deal of those ongoing expenses.

“As the cost of doing business in this part of the world continues to increase, businesses are stuck with investing heavily in software to drive their pre-press and packaging requirements, and they’re going to keep paying those fees and even more year on year,” observes Kapiniaris. We’ve developed and updated Flite to offer the market opportunity to use our system to manage daily tasks in a controlled and connected process. They can actually divert that spend into their core business, such as printing, laminating or finishing equipment.

“We believe if they were to engage with us, they can save time and money and ultimately achieve a better outcome.”

For more information about Kirk Group and the Flite platform, click through to the company website www.flitebykirk.com.