Lauterbach Group’s Tony Tyler
Mike Agness, HYBRID Software Executive Vice President, Americas. While we all talk about and explore the ways technology allows us to be better businesses and converters, we can lose too much human interaction. When that happens, some of the improvements we’ve explored may be counter-productive. The Lauterbach Group strongly believes that speaking person to person – backed with a robust technology system – is the most effective way to operate.
Headquartered in Sussex, WI, USA, the Lauterbach Group manufactures high-quality product labels and converting for a wide range of customer uses, from food/beverage to product security and authentication.
Through its OmniMark Management System, the Lauterbach Group strives to alleviate touch points. It does that by providing digital asset warehousing, product art and design, project management, and quality control systems. This makes clients’ jobs easier, more efficient, and helps bring products to market quicker.
“We are very focused on our employees, whom we call group members,” emphasizes Shane Lauterbach, president. “We try to create an environment to generate value for our group members so they can create value for themselves. In doing so, they generate value for our clients.”
Making person-to-person more efficient than email-to-email
Lauterbach wants to make it easy for people to do business with them, using an operating model that’s built on standardization of materials, process, and specifications. It’s built on speed, quality, differentiation, and decoration – the excellent value they can provide, with all their embellishments.
The Lauterbach Group believes that a complete, effective automation process excluding manual transactional work provides more time to connect to people, getting jobs done quicker. “We want to use technology to work with people on a solutions level. The world needs to be more connected personally,” says Lauterbach. “Rather than using solely email back and forth to communicate, we’ve got to pick up the phone and say, ‘How can I help you?’ I just think our industry has to make the process easier for clients. By talking to them online or on the phone, we help them improve their businesses, providing new products that could generate value for them.
“We need to perform at a very high tactical level to generate a result in the future,” adds Lauterbach. “We’re not big KPI people from a goal perspective, but at the activity level. We look at a goal as ‘What’s next?’ Rather than a multi-year plan, we develop a one-year operating plan. That allows us to pivot, react, and adapt faster.”
High-quality proofing is still a significant part of the process, but Lauterbach wants to remove the time-wasting back and forth process. “Think about how many times via email you discuss fonts, traps, or colors,” considers Lauterbach. “If we can discuss that together personally in 30 minutes, everybody’s better off.”
The customer still gets a reliable, physical proof, but it’s the final result. Lauterbach doesn’t want to add people to do just prepress or client service work. They want to take everyone’s talents and utilize them at the client level. One of the things they’re also trying to resolve is the work-from-home process for non-pressroom manufacturing people. The fundamental challenge is connectivity and learning. “How do you teach when you can’t walk out to the pressroom and show how something’s done?,” asks Lauterbach.
Technology still makes it all possible
Both flexo and digital are important to Lauterbach. “Digital technology has moved to a tipping point where we have to automate all of these workflows,” suggests Lauterbach. “We’re going to draw flexo with us, but the workflows are first being built around digital.”
Lauterbach operates two 20″ flexo presses and two 13″ presses that are nine and 10 colors. Originally, Lauterbach had problems connecting to its MIS software and communicating with customers. “HYBRID Software was the first cornerstone of our automated world. We want to automate all transactional workflows to assure that our group members can spend their time with our clients,” notes Lauterbach. “The HYBRID Software system is just more open and easier to integrate. Our first step was to bring in HP, Label Traxx, HYBRID Software and our own development team to re-imagine our concept. They looked at what we were doing and suggested ways to automate to deliver more dedicated time to converse with clients.”
Lauterbach has just finished the first step of commercialization. The Lauterbach Group calls its front-end system OmniMark, where they connect with clients, providing both sales generation and sales order processes. This also includes asset management where the converter houses clients’ art. The company has processes where it will integrate projects with clients online. When done, customers hit the OK button, and the job goes to press. HYBRID Software’s open architecture is aligned to Lauterbach’s HP Indigo presses: an 8000 press, 6K, and a new 25K. They also work with Label Traxx Siteline software as the CSR customer portal front-end system.
The result: ease and effective use by both staff and customers. Employees are excited about the speed and the ease in which Lauterbach can develop workflows.
“Customers also find our system easy. We’ve completed the implementation phase and are now into iterations, working with two core clients who are finding great value in the simplicity to get proofs or return approvals,” comments Lauterbach. “They can easily look at different SKUs – or even repeat orders with changes – and understand what was done. We’re literally eliminating time from their days so that they can focus on other things.”
These two clients have many SKUs with, typically, medium-run jobs, but Lauterbach will occasionally receive orders for as many as 20 products with a run length of 100,000 feet. “Trying to manage the SKUs and the art is fundamentally different with every order,” explains Lauterbach. “By setting them up so we see them properly – and the sequencing in our automated system – the number of issues have diminished tremendously. We’ve worked at this for a few weeks, but we’re already seeing massive increases in efficiency just because of the way the production workflow organizes the work and passes it on to the ERP system.”
Lauterbach had a job that was completely variable print utilizing the HP SmartStream Collage personalization process. “They’re challenging to set up, but with our new system, working with the digital press, the latest job printed with no issues at all,” remarks Lauterbach. “With more simplicity, you can go faster. The automation also delivers higher quality. Then we add our greatly differentiated embellishment, which becomes simpler, too.”
Looking to the future
In 2023 Lauterbach will be reimagining its entire online ordering process. To date, it has been created only for stock products, but the converter is going to integrate improvements into OmniMark for custom packaging, shrink, and label products.
“We’re working very hard at expanding our footprint, but in a way that all client interactions, ordering and selling is done in our main facility. It’s a hub and spoke approach where we are setting up microcells to deliver speed to the market, removing logistical challenges out of the process. These spokes could be geographic, or different types of business units. For example, we invested in the HP Indigo 25K so we can run both flexo and digital shrink at wider formats,” says Lauterbach. “Once the automated tool set eliminates transactional work, people can help people.”
Lauterbach’s system provides an open mind and open architecture; the willingness to find different ways to bring innovation. “In our world it’s speed, quality and embellishment,” summarizes Lauterbach. “It’s easy to use and develop value-added parts, whether that’s integration with other systems, training new people, or helping clients so they see how easy it is for them to save time and generate value.
“I’m a big believer that technology exists for us to connect. But I also think technology can be a barrier if you don’t let people help people,” concludes Lauterbach. “How you use technology and how it supports transactional work is extremely important. We need people talking to people just for basic humanity, development and support. Those are not small problems to get your arms around in a macro environment, but we believe in that concept very strongly.”