Alternatives to Esko prepress system?

prepress labels

Well-known member
Hello!

We're a pressure-sensitive and cut-&-stack label printer using Esko's Imaging Engine and Automation Engine for our prepress, with Deskpack Tools in Illustrator. We've been on this system for over nine years. The maintenance contract comes up every year and is a bit of a sticking point with upper management, so we've been instructed to sniff out alternatives to our current prepress software. We have three prepress artists, a platemaker and a QA person who access AE.

We don't really have much experience with other workflow systems, but here's a list of the ones I've heard about:

Fuji XMF
RamPage (no longer made?)
Dalim Twist
Agfa Apogee
Hybrid Software
Prinergy
Heidelberg Metadimension

Does anyone have experience switching over from Esko to another prepress system, within a label printing or other packaging context? My initial thoughts are that we could migrate to another system, but most likely no other workflow would completely do everything Esko is doing for us.

We are somewhat low-automation on the front end (we're not using the Jobs module and haven't integrated prepress with our EFI Radius MIS), so maybe not a lot of pain to switch. We do primarily work in Adobe Illustrator using Deskpack Tools. On the cut-&-stack side, our items are saved as 1up Adobe .pdfs and are imposed in Metrix. On the PS side, our items are manually stepped up in Illustrator, then ripped into .len files (Esko's proprietary version of a .tif) to be stored for plating.

Any thoughts are much appreciated, and let me know if you need further info--thanks!
 

mthomas42

Member
We use Esko AE, PackEdge as well as Prinergy in my current job doing flexo narrow, wide web and cut&stack labels. I also have experience with Rampage and Apogee in former positions as well. Esko is purpose-built for packaging so it understands the quirks of label printing better than any system I have worked with. I understand your problem with upper management and the costs are high so it seems hard to justify without having something before to compare to. Not connecting your MIS with the jobs concept really holds back the power of AE. I'm not sure of the complexity of the work you process, we have very complex files that require PackEdge and not DeskPack. We also use the layout module for auto stepping flexo plate jobs. As far as cost it is both prohibitive and overly complicated to use AE depending on your volume and file complexity you handle a month. We process around 400 files a month for multiple facilities so AE streamlines our process flow better than any other system. We do not use it for stepping files anymore in cut and stack and process those through Prinergy. In flexo it's easy to use Plato or PackEdge to step the files quickly and with the layout module stepping can be done automatically adding smarmarks but like I said it depends on your volume per month.
 

prepress labels

Well-known member
We use Esko AE, PackEdge as well as Prinergy in my current job doing flexo narrow, wide web and cut&stack labels. I also have experience with Rampage and Apogee in former positions as well. Esko is purpose-built for packaging so it understands the quirks of label printing better than any system I have worked with. I understand your problem with upper management and the costs are high so it seems hard to justify without having something before to compare to. Not connecting your MIS with the jobs concept really holds back the power of AE. I'm not sure of the complexity of the work you process, we have very complex files that require PackEdge and not DeskPack. We also use the layout module for auto stepping flexo plate jobs. As far as cost it is both prohibitive and overly complicated to use AE depending on your volume and file complexity you handle a month. We process around 400 files a month for multiple facilities so AE streamlines our process flow better than any other system. We do not use it for stepping files anymore in cut and stack and process those through Prinergy. In flexo it's easy to use Plato or PackEdge to step the files quickly and with the layout module stepping can be done automatically adding smarmarks but like I said it depends on your volume per month.

So are you using two rips right now? We're an independent company (about 17M revenue/yr.) and most likely we couldn't afford to keep up two RIPs. Volume isn't as high as yours, and we're only processing files for our one facility (one 40" offset, four narrow web presses).
 

mjetzer

Member
Never understand management that doesn't understand the value of a service contract. Do they carry insurance for the plant? If prepress goes down the whole plant shuts down, much like if the plant burns to the ground and you don't have insurance. If Esko is working for you, I'd try to negotiate a different service contract, or evaluate your configuration first to make it the "right size" for your operation, before I'd go pecking for a different solution.
 

prepress labels

Well-known member
Never understand management that doesn't understand the value of a service contract. Do they carry insurance for the plant? If prepress goes down the whole plant shuts down, much like if the plant burns to the ground and you don't have insurance. If Esko is working for you, I'd try to negotiate a different service contract, or evaluate your configuration first to make it the "right size" for your operation, before I'd go pecking for a different solution.

I hear you. We've gone down this road before, but it's always been more cost effective to stick with Esko than to implement a totally new prepress system. I think the idea from management is to get an idea of Esko's competition in this space.

We don't put in that many service calls, but it's nice to have it when needed. We're also hearing that other customers have been displeased with the cost of the maintenance contract. I'm just not sure what there is out there that could effectively supplant most of what Esko does for us.
 

DuaneBryant

Well-known member
I've been a prepress manager since 1986. Used Esko a lot of those years. They are extremely expensive. But unfortunately, or fortunately, they are worth the expense. However, they will charge what they can get away with, so I agree that you should very aggressively negotiate your current pricing.

As a prepress manager, you know in your gut that what you are using and how you are using it is a great solution. You also know that there are tons of intangible expenses associated with changing to a new system, most of which are difficult if not impossible to quantify in dollar signs that management understands. That is the challenge.

On the surface, what I say next will sound underhanded, but hear me out please.

One of the wisest managers I ever had told me to manage my managers. Another of my managers said that some requirements in business are like going through fraternity initiation: it's a painful labor, but after you are done it's all golden. So, go through the motions of initiation.

Your managers are just doing their due diligence. They are just asking you to do your due diligence. Which you are doing, by participating in the expansive knowledge base on this forum.

Maybe get three or four proposals, but only show management the one or two that support your conclusions.

For example:
Since Artpro is made and sold by the same company, call your Esko salesman and see if they can work you up pricing for a new Artpro system, and ask them to submit it under the name Artpro. And ask them to be sure that it is priced to make the Esko system you already have look good.
 

bbertolani

Active member
Hello!

Some old customers of Esko are happy with PackZ, Dalim etc... after switch, but when we talk about Automation Engine is hard to compare with others automatic system. Esko is creating integration between software and devices that I not sure that can be reproduced by the others softwares. Look if your company have WebCenter + Automation Engine + CDI + Kongsberg is a combo of solution that only Esko can provide insight feedback, I think that another system or devices can be good or better than Esko softwares/device but only Esko solutions can be really integrated.
Maybe this companies have to join their solutions to keep competitive. Take Kodak for example, for a while they create good solution to flexo plates but now Esko can produce plates with same quality and you not necessary use only kodak plates, you can use differents plates in CDI with good results.
I mean is really hard to think in a big production where the managers have to delivery good results, with nice financial graphics without Esko Solutions. The last company that I saw doing this, had 6 programmers just to integrate the differents devices and softwares, coding in JDF, XML, SQL... And sometimes they are limited to what kind of information those device can offers.
 

PrepressDan

Well-known member
Prepress Labels, I sent you a PM. If you are looking to see what the alternative has to offer, please contact me and I will be happy to setup a demo of the Hybrid Software suite of products.

We will also be at Print 17 in Chicago next week (booth #645). Please feel free to stop by if you are attending.
 
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