Starting from plain shipping cartons in 1926, to highly customized graphic packaging solutions today, Carton Service Inc. is a folding carton converter that is dedicated to serving the image-sensitive and quality-oriented marketplaces through customization and creative package design.
As a privately held corporation, Carton Service has been led for more than 40 years by the Lederer family: Jacob, Bob and Reid Lederer. Currently, Bob is ceo and Reid is president. It is based in Shelby, Ohio.
Carton Service's sales grew initially from southwestern Ohio to the industrial hubs of Pennsylvania and Chicago. In the mid-1990s, they added two new facilities in Ohio and Tennessee to house its growing pharmaceutical contract packaging services.
Mark Zarnstorff, who is responsible for digital prepress, creates new packaging at a design workstation.
The company uses Heidelberg, Mitsubishi, and Harris 40- to 60-in sheetfed offset presses, with inline UV coating. Carton Services also has a Comco 16-in narrow web flexo press with high-definition printing and inline UV coating. Capabilities also include embossing and foil board converting, windowing, inline label applications, foil stamping, and anti-counterfeiting applications.
With advances in production and image technology, the company's capabilities expanded from basic folding cartons to software packaging, gourmet food packaging, and expanded materials applications such as miniflute and MeadWestvaco's Forte™ board, a corrugated replacement.
Matt Taylor, left, and Terry Wenninger look at materials cut from Carton Service's Kongsberg table.
For the past 25 years, Carton Service has continued investing in processes that enable it to provide the highest quality products and services for its customers.
Now that the company has fulfilled its objective of becoming fully digital, regarding prepress and artwork services, it is able to enjoy significant process and throughput efficiencies.
Building Structure for the Job
Carton Service's structural design group has been a mainstay at the company. It provides precision cut samples, unique packaging solutions and creative carton design. The company has grown with ArtiosCAD, which they originally purchased in 1990.
"ArtiosCAD helps us create innovative designs. Its standard library is great. We can select designs from a basic library or ideas we've created in the past, and easily resize them," says Terry Wenninger, manager of structural design. "As you can imagine, every designer has different ideas of how to do things. ArtiosCAD provides that flexibility. Designers customize their computers with their own 'fast keys', so each work area is individualized and productive."
Carton Service uses ArtiosCAD's 3D Designer to create three-dimensional, virtual models for presentations to major corporations.
"They're always very impressed," Vice President Mike Robinette says. "In fact, we've used 3D Designer virtual images at trade shows, displaying them on a large screen. We always get quite a crowd of people to stop and look at them."
Although the company still focuses on the "steak" — its ability to design and produce innovative packaging — it still sees merit in the three-dimensional "sizzle."
"Our customers use them to present ideas to mass merchandisers, showing what packaging will look like on a shelf," Robinette says. "When we use it, it generates quite a stir."
In 1999, Carton Service purchased a Kongsberg samplemaking table. Almost immediately, they experienced newfound efficiencies. The company was able to make two older tables obsolete, and still produces more output than the older tables combined — in fact, more than 50,000 samples a year.
"We found that the Kongsberg table was a workhorse," Robinette says. "We operate the table 18 hours a day, five days a week. We cut more than 1,000 samples per week. Our team is challenged to produce new and innovative structural ideas all the time, creating physical samples to show clients. With the one Kongsberg table using just-in-time manufacturing, we're able to provide everything we need with a one- to two-day turnaround."
"We went from hand cutting 20 samples a day to creating 300 a day on the Kongsberg table," Wenninger says.
The efficiencies of the Kongsberg table are even present in production, where Carton Service uses them to cut coating blankets for knockouts. It has helped reduce makeready times by about 15 to 20 minutes, because there are no cutting blankets required on the press. The counters they produce via the Kongsberg tables also help.
Adding Digital Graphics
Recognizing the importance of retail packaging, the company added an in-house graphics team in 1978 to provide true turnkey service, otherwise known as "concept-to-production" services.
The graphic design group uses diverse graphic applications, such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and QuarkXpress, to provide award-winning graphic designs for cartons, labels and wrappers, corrugated and P-O-P displays. They even get involved with developing product brands. They print proofs, prepare carton mock-ups, and email 3D virtual rendered mock-ups to customer marketing teams for review.
The last step in Carton Service's digitization process occurred two and a half years ago, when they migrated from analog plates to CTP. At that time, they knew they needed a new workflow that could handle greater speed and workload. The company decided that the Nexus™ workflow and ArtPro editor for the pre-production of labels and packaging were perfect as parts of their building process.
The ArtPro workstation software, with dedicated functions and tools to prepare the graphics for packaging production had more flexibility than other systems, able to work in a complete digital environment. The Nexus workflow solution increases productivity in pre-production through automation of human-intensive front-end and RIP-based tasks.
"Although our workflow had served us well, it was getting a little long in the tooth," says Mark Zarnstorff, who is responsible for digital prepress. "We needed an integrated system that could speed up the process, particularly with RIPing and trapping — something that could work fast with 30- by 40-in artwork and four to six colors. ArtPro has been great with a wide range of functional tools, from trapping to color management to step and repeat. The Nexus workflow's RIP was a very good fit for our new CTP system."
ArtPro and Nexus were in tune with Carton Service's digital strategy. The systems helped them complete a fully digital graphic and structural workflow from start to finish.
It didn't hurt that Carton Service invested in a new server to accelerate both Nexus and ArtPro. Today, the company is able to produce large cartons two to three times faster than before. On press, for the most part, Carton Service sticks with 150-lpi work. Yet, they have been experimenting with hybrid screens, combining both traditional screens with stochastic printing.
"ArtPro does give us the capability of creating different screens, and I wouldn't be surprised if we do more of it, based upon the tremendous feedback we've received from customers and pressmen," Zarnstorff says. "They like the hybrid dot structure."
Putting it All Together
Carton Services uses ArtiosCAD to design its cartons, delivering ideas as ARC files directly from the company's network to the Kongsberg table, where they cut samples — typically six or seven, if the project is enormous — and send them quickly to the customer.
"ArtiosCAD is very efficient for structural designers, but it goes beyond that," Zarnstorff says. "It's a collaborative effort, because their designs can be sent to others in the group where samples can be cut or manufacturing tools created from the approved design. Using the same corporate intranet umbrella in the same building, it's easy to hook up and run. A lot of work is done simultaneously."
Carton Service uses CFF2 files for step and repeat operations. They drop their ArtiosCAD one-up layouts to the server and pull them into a Mac-based ArtPro, to start a file and prepare it for the production line. ArtPro integrates the structure file with the graphics and automates the entire prepress operation through the Nexus workflow from design to computer to plate.
At times they reverse the process if a customer has unusual knockouts and they are cutting coating blankets for the press. They feed the digital files between the design, prepress and structural departments, to cut a blanket on Kongsberg.
Working for Customers
A major supplier of video games and movies required one of their new titles to be released to market in as little time as possible, to take advantage of a spike in demand.
Carton Service responded by developing a new structure, creating art, producing the finished cartons, and delivering product within six working days from the initial phone call. The customer was able to respond to a sudden change in their marketplace within two weeks and meet the requirements of its mass merchandiser customers.
Carton Service demonstrates that an exceptional production system is made from the sum of its parts. By melding structural design, graphic design and prepress systems, along with CTP and sample-making hardware, the company is able to rely on a complete, efficient digital process.